Forklifts are essential to many facilities, serving as the main means to transport materials in and out of a warehouse. However, forklifts can be hazardous if workers aren’t careful while using them or working near them.
Facility managers and employees should take extra precautions to ensure they make their work environment safe. Here are some ways to improve awareness around your warehouse:
The first thing forklift operators are expected to do when they start their shifts is conduct inspections of their lift trucks. Doing so alerts them to any new issues and ensures the forklift is safe to drive.
“Hearing protection devices can further reduce workers’ abilities to identify warning systems.”
In doing these daily inspections, operators need to pay attention to horns, lights and alarms. Each of these are important safety features intended to benefit the driver as well as any pedestrians in the area.
Not all forklifts have back-up beepers integrated into their design. Removing or disabling these systems is a workplace violation, according to a letter of interpretation from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration. There are back-up beepers that facility managers can purchase and add to any forklifts that don’t have these systems originally installed.
While back-up beepers can be helpful to alerting fellow employees to the actions a forklift takes, the loading dock can be full of movement and noise, which covers up the sounds of the alarm. With many different sounds occurring at once, it can be hard to identify and prioritize just one.
Additionally, in loud work environments, many workers wear hearing protection devices, which further reduce their ability to hear warning systems, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted in a study about mining workplace accidents. For these reasons, back-up alarms and horns, while helpful, should be paired with additional safety systems, such as lights and barriers.
Light communication systems
Light communication systems have some advantages over sound-based systems. Even when wearing hearing protection equipment like earplugs, workers can still see and interpret signals from light communication systems. Moreover, the clarity of common color systems, such as red for stop and green for go, transcend language barriers, which limits miscommunications in the workplace.
Light communication systems tell people around the loading dock, inside a trailer or alongside a truck exactly what is happening. A green light inside or near the entrance to the trailer can tell forklift operators that it’s safe to enter the trailer for loading or unloading, while a red light outside tells the truck driver to remain parked. When all the work is completed and it’s time for the truck to pull away from the dock, the lights switch; a red light says it’s not safe to approach the trailer, while a green one indicates the driver can safely move forward.
In other types of systems, a blue light might mean someone or something is moving inside the trailer, forewarning everyone involved to be cautious when approaching the trailer.
Barriers and markings
Implementing visual cues into your warehouse workflows can serve to improve forklift safety.
Painting the edge of the loading dock yellow, for example, gives a clear indication of how far away from danger the forklift is. Additionally, lane lines on the floor of your warehouse, similar to ones found on a city street, can clearly indicate where forklifts can drive and other employees can walk. Designated crosswalks and pedestrian lanes can further support warehouse safety.
Training operators and pedestrians
Integrating safety systems and devices into your workplace can improve awareness at your facility, but these should never take the place of proper training. Operators must be fully instructed on forklift best practices, including how to use the lights, horns and mirrors to identify any obstacles, pedestrians or materials nearby.
Pedestrians should also understand how to stay safe while working in an environment where forklifts are active. For example, forklifts have long stopping distances, so it’s best to stay out of a forklift’s path, no matter how far away the truck may seem.
If you’re a facility manager that wants to know whether your fleet of forklifts are functioning properly and helping you maintain a safe work environment for everyone, contact Miner for a free safety audit today.