Unfortunately, no matter where you go in the world, forklift-related workplace accidents are far too common, and these recent events from around the globe demonstrate this unsettling fact.
- In Singapore, 3 of 20 workplace fatalities so far this year have involved forklifts.
- In New Zealand, a reversing forklift caused severe injury after striking the leg of a new employee at a fruit processing facility.
- In Australia, a food wholesaler pleaded guilty to charges of failing to provide a safe working environment after a reversing forklift hit one of their employees, resulting in a
fractured leg and foot.
- In Canada, the Minister of Labour is investigating the death of a worker struck by a forklift at an Ontario steel company.
- In the United Kingdom, a reversing forklift at a goat milk producer struck and killed a woman, resulting in a £200,000 fine.
In the United Kingdom, forklifts account for more workplace accidents than any other machine, and 57% of all people injured by forklifts in the UK are pedestrians. In the United States, workplace forklift accidents killed 78 workers in 2020, with pedestrians making up 36% of the people killed. In that same period, another 7,299 people were injured badly enough by a forklift accident to require days away from work in the US.
The statistics are dark, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration estimates that if companies implement more stringent safety and training policies, it could reduce forklift accidents by 70%.
How to keep workers safe around mobile equipment
Forklifts are essential in many workplaces, especially in the warehousing and manufacturing industries. However, as typical as they may be, we can never let our guard down or forget the constant threat they present to worker safety. Thankfully, employers can minimize these threats if they follow some simple rules and ensure the proper training of forklift operators and pedestrian employees.
The following best practices are a significant first step toward creating a safer workplace:
- Do not drive a forklift unless you have received thorough training on safe operatingprocedures and site-specific safety considerations.
- Wear a seatbelt at all times while operating a forklift. If it does not have a seat belt, have one installed.
- Understand the operating limitations of the forklift and never exceed the rated load.
- Ensure there is enough clearance when raising and lowering materials.
- Maintain a safe distance from platform and ramp edges, and never turn around on sloped surfaces.
- Watch out for pedestrians. Create safe forklift operating paths and evaluate intersections and blind corners.
As the statistics and recent forklift accidents demonstrate, watching for pedestrians may be the most important on the list. Mobile equipment and its load can easily hit or crush nearby employees. Therefore, any workplace that requires pedestrians to work near mobile equipment, like forklifts, must take pedestrian safety seriously and implement protective measures to keep their workers safe.
How SEEN Safety can help
SEEN Safety has addressed the persistent global issue of pedestrian safety head-on with its world-class IRIS-860 safety sensor. Through cutting-edge technology, their sensors have improved workplace safety for countless pedestrian workers around the globe who spend their days near forklifts and other mobile equipment.
SEEN Safety IRIS 860 Pedestrian Detection Sensor
SEEN works with companies in various industries where there is close proximity between people and material handling machines - like distribution centers, manufacturing, and logistics warehouses. They make sensors designed to detect when an employee has entered a critical area around mobile equipment like forklifts or wheel loaders. For example, if a worker enters the area behind reversing equipment, the installed IRIS-860 sensor will audibly alert the driver to their presence. Think of it as a second set of eyes for your equipment operators.
One of the many things that position SEEN above the competition is how simple it is to use their products. With the IRIS-860 sensor, workers do not need to use a complicated battery-operated transponder. Instead, the sensor identifies workers by leveraging one of the most commonly used pieces of personal protective equipment, the high visibility vest. As a result, the sensors require no change to worker behavior, making them immediately effective and easier to implement than other options on the market.
In addition the sensors can be configured to meet the requirements of a specific worksite. A common characteristic of materials handling machines is that they move and turn quickly and frequently travel in reverse. Often, the operator is focused on their load which is usually in front of them creating a blind spot behind the machine. The closer a pedestrian is to the machine the higher the risk of accident or injury, particularly when the machine is reversing within the operator’s blind spot. This blind spot can be quite a small area, in the range of 2m (6ft) to 8m (25 feet) distance-wise, depending on the size & speed of the machine. SEEN’s sensors are designed to be configured to target that area precisely and reliably, focusing on the detections that really matter and minimizing nuisance alerts.
The hard work of detection is done by SEEN’s infrared sensors, which work well beyond what an optical camera can ‘see’ in the visible light spectrum. SEEN deliberately uses infrared for detection, rather than optical systems such as cameras, which are prone to poor performance when exposed to things like dust & dirt, weather and variable lighting - conditions commonly encountered in materials handling operating environments. Failure to detect reliably may be ok if people aren’t close to the machine when it’s operating. It’s crucially important, however, to detect reliably when a person enters the high risk zone behind a reversing machine.
The system is effortless to use, requires zero special knowledge to install or set up, and always offers reliable protection, regardless of conditions. Another advantage is that the sensors are significantly more cost-effective than other alternatives, making it possible to spread them across your entire mobile equipment fleet.
People make mistakes, and unfortunately, mistakes with large equipment like forklifts can have catastrophic results. SEEN Safety’s safety sensors give owners and operators the peace of mind to know that even if they make a mistake, there is always something there watching their back. To find out all the ways that Seen Safety and its sensors can help you create a safer work environment for your employees, go to seensafety.com and schedule a demo today.
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