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Forklift safety: How to drive behavioral change

Posted by Phil Van Wormer on Jun 17, 2014 3:00:00 AM


This is the second post in a four-part series on forklift safety.

A large number of forklift accidents are due to human error. Put an untrained driver behind the wheel, factor in speed, fatigue, stress, blind spots, and a loud working environment, and any accident hardly comes as a surprise. As previously noted, the epidemic of forklift accidents costs businesses as much as $135 million a year in damages to facilities, goods, and equipment as well as lost work hours.

If your company is struggling to reduce forklift accidents or if you are simply exploring solutions to stay on top of safety issues in your warehouse or distribution center, consider the role of visibility and accountability in driving behavioral change. A driver who knows his every turn is being monitored is automatically much less likely to make or repeat any mistakes.

The importance of proper training cannot be understated, but even the best-trained drivers commit errors when left to their own devices. An impact monitoring system like EquipManager sends an e-mail to the administrator in real-time as soon as there is an impact above the predetermined G force. This allows managers to immediately enter the floor to speak to the operator involved rather than waiting until after the shift or even weeks later when the context of the incident is long forgotten. Not only is the approach key to fostering behavioral change, drivers also tend to appreciate there is no false blame.

 But without the means to properly monitor every vehicle, many minor impacts go undetected and the opportunity to make changes before it leads to a more serious event is lost.

 Any effective safety strategy should therefore include the following basic steps:


Step 1: Monitor your fleet

Knowing which drivers are involved in the most incidents and identifying which traffic areas are the most prone to impacts is essential to creating a safer working environment. A chemicals company with a manufacturing facility in Newark, DE, for example, faced costly and frequent repairs to its forklift trucks, stemming largely from unreported impacts. The company knew it needed to know exactly when accidents occurred and turned to the EquipManager and EquipCommand monitoring system.

 As noted, the EquipManager makes any attempt to hide an accident impossible as the system transmits detailed information about each incident, including the identity of the operator. An alarm also sounds to make the driver aware an impact has been registered, a feature that over time contributes to better driving habits.

The results were dramatic. In only six months, the company reduced impacts by 73 percent and cut maintenance costs by $32,000, covering the cost of the investment twice over.


Step 2: Enforce timely corrective action

Good visibility equals fewer accidents. The design of the workplace can itself be the root of many impacts with narrow aisles, poor lighting, and intersections of pedestrians and material handling equipment. However, some areas of low visibility are inevitably part of warehouses and distribution centers. Drivers whose vehicles are equipped with real-time monitoring systems are more likely to be able to navigate through the maze without getting into accidents since the technology is continuously telling them how to improve their skills.

 By fostering timely corrective action, safety systems such as EquipCommand and EquipManager reinforce safe operations and improved driving habits. In summary, drivers who know they will be held accountable make better and safer choices. 

Topics: Forklift safety, Equipmanager, Equipcommand