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Why forklift safety should be at the top of your priority list

Posted by Phil Van Wormer on Jun 11, 2014 11:01:00 AM


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

Few pieces of equipment are involved in as many accidents as the forklift.

The reality of material handling is as we all know often treacherous by design, including blind spots, 24-hour operations, narrow aisles,  tight turning quarters, and crisscrossing pedestrians.  Without a solid safety strategy in place, drivers and pedestrians may be exposed to serious injury. The dire numbers speak for themselves:

  • 110,000 major forklift accidents occur every year.

  • More than 100 workers die as a result of forklift accidents and close to 32,000 are injured.

  • 1 in 6 workplace deaths are due to the forklift.

  • Nine out of 10 forklifts are at some point during their operating years involved in an accident.

Besides the obvious human suffering, the epidemic of accidents cost businesses $135,000,000 a year. The losses are counted in damages to the building, goods and equipment as well as reduced productivity. A few years ago, forklift-related accidents topped at 11,000 hours the list of reported lost work time, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Despite the bleak data, OSHA estimates as many as 70 percent of all accidents caused by forklifts are preventable by standardized training and safety procedures. But mounting evidence also suggests such conventional methods are not enough to make a significant dent in the collision statistics. NIST, for one, argues real-time monitoring and control needs to play a central role in improving both safety and efficiency.

Take the story of Golden Guernsey Dairy, a division of Foremost Farms USA and Wisconsin’s top milk producer, as an example. The company stressed the importance of driving carefully to its 100 operators, but lacked a formal system to prevent damage. Overwhelmed with forklift accidents and escalating maintenance costs, the company knew something had to change. It found the solution in ImpactManager ID.

This monitoring system, which also comes in two more versions - ImpactManager RF and ImpactManager SC - is designed to detect impacts, record detailed data about each event, as well as limit equipment access to certified operators. Guernsey Dairy equipped all 11 of its lifttrucks with the device and saw a jaw-dropping and immediate decrease in monthly impacts - from 1,036 to four.

Said the company’s plant engineer: “The system more than paid for itself within three months. We should’ve installed these years ago.”

As he alludes, many companies only decide to take a comprehensive look at their safety strategy when the number of accidents and close-calls has spiraled out of control.  But as the success of Golden Guernsey also proves, it may not take more than choosing and implementing the right type of technology to take charge of a seemingly hopeless situation.

Recent years have seen the introduction of a range of forklift safety solutions, each addressing a specific concern and each allowing customization to target individual issues. Few products cover such a wide range of issues as the EquipManager, a wireless fleet management system designed to  boost safety while reducing damage-related costs by ensuring OSHA compliance, controlling access, detecting impacts, and monitoring equipment operation.

The goal is always the same: improving safety to increase productivity and profit.

In upcoming posts, we’ll explore these solutions in greater detail.

Topics: Forklift safety