Danny Maron, owner/trainer of Ideal Forklift Training in Canada's national capital, is an independent consultant, providing the education lift truck operators require, to businesses and government, to minimise the chance of incidents in the workplace. Before founding Ideal in 2000, Danny was a trainer at Canada's largest forklift dealer.
When I started off as an independent consultant almost 21 years ago, I sat down and developed the PowerPoint presentations, manuals and test copies for each and every class and subclass of lift truck out there. There are many forklift types and it was quite a task. I had also chosen to prepare a presentation on pedestrian awareness for those walking around powered industrial lift trucks. At the time, I thought it was a great idea to inform those non-operators of the dangers of these heavy pieces of machinery.
Interestingly, I have never received a request to provide pedestrian awareness in all these years. The films and PowerPoint were stagnant. And that does not surprise me because Canada - like many other countries around the world - does not mandate pedestrian safety. And, as long as it is not the law, businesses will not spend the money on it.
In March of this year, a large international corporation which is a client requested that I provide safety awareness training to their non-forklift staff. I was overwhelmed with the request as I had been itching to do so for many years. They wanted three classes per day for four days, each presentation 45 minutes in duration. I was so excited, I jumped at the opportunity.
The stale PowerPoint presentation was overhauled with cleaner graphics and more in-depth information and current statistics to make it more relevant. When time permitted, I threw in the video and had a question and answer period at the end. The seminars were a success as feedback from the participants was extremely positive.
Keep pedestrians away from equipment. PHOTO:FLTA
Opening pedestrians' eyes to the true weight of these forklifts is an experience. The trucks discussed were hand pallet trucks, electric lift trucks of various styles, stand-up electric counterbalance and reach trucks as well as sit-down propane forklifts. Most were surprised to learn that even a lowly pallet truck can weigh more than 6,000 lb. or 3 T with a maximum load. And when you get to the largest forklift, they learned that the forklift could weigh as much as 15,000 lbs. (6,800 kg), or the equivalent of five automobiles, although they never pick up that much weight. We also discussed the wide rear-end swing, visibility, or lack thereof, passengers (not), and minimum clearance area around raised forks/loads.
As discussed, safety in a working environment where powered industrial lift trucks and pedestrians are walking is a two-way street. Yes, the onus is on the operator to look out for pedestrians to ensure their safety, but the presentation focused on what a pedestrian should do to keep themselves safe. Can anyone trust every lift truck operator not to hit them? We hope so, but as I told them, I do not trust anyone but myself - and they should do the same as well.
Kudos to my client for taking the initiative. I strongly believe that every company should follow this example because we all know that a forklift-pedestrian incident is no fun and can be rather expensive, both in time lost and insurance claims. I doubt that governments will mandate pedestrian safety but, as an industry, we should do whatever we can to put a bit less pressure on the operators and have better-educated pedestrians.
Come on, businesses, get your pedestrians safety awareness-trained for the good of your staff and company, and enlighten them that when working in a manufacturing plant and/or warehouse, they should "walk, not run".