Reducing risk in the materials handling industry


All over the world, in warehouses, factories, freight terminals and shipping yards and all other industrial sites, companies use forklifts to move, lift and stack loads.

According WITS (World Industrial Truck Statistics), 1,534,000 units were shipped in 2018 and the lift truck market has grown from 872,000 units in 2008 to 1,534,000 (estimated) units in 2018 at a CAGR of 5.4%.

However, this increased use comes with its challenges, in particular with regards to the safety aspect for forklift operators and those working in the vicinity.

RCT’s Industrial Senior Business Development Manager, Grahame Don talks about the importance of reducing the risks in forklift operations and the materials handling industry.

The safety and well-being of forklift operators around the world is of utmost importance. In developed economies like the US and Australia, the human and financial cost of forklift-related incidents for the employees, industry and community is substantial.

According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, forklifts caused 85 work-related deaths and 7,940 nonfatal injuries in 2018. Non-fatal injuries in 2018, were around 16% more than that in 2015.

However, there are precautions and initiatives companies can undertake to prevent these incidents from occurring.

Prevent unauthorised use

Around the world, Government safety bodies require personnel to obtain a forklift licence before they are authorised to operate lift trucks due to the high-risk nature associated with working with heavy equipment. Today, companies are required to keep a record of employee’s licences, making note of when they need to be renewed. It is however not easy to keep up-to-date with current and expired licences when this information is recorded manually. The use of an industrial fleet management system, like RCT’s SmarTrack® Global, can prevent unauthorised use of forklifts with workers needing a pin code or swipe card to access a machine. SmarTrack® Global can also keep a record of valid licences ensuring everyone operating the machines are legally authorised to do so.

Pre-operational forklift checklist

These include the simple task of a pre-operational forklift checklist. Ensure operators check the forklift is in safe, working order before you start. This checklist would typically comprise of checking the likes of tyres, fluids, seating, warning devices, seatbelt, controls and breaks. It is important a system be implemented that is both easy to manage and has longevity. Manual, paper checklists can often become quite tedious and people can become complacent about them. Due to these reasons, many companies are going digital by implementing fleet management solutions to address this safety compliance issue. Currently, SmarTrack® Global is one of the few fleet management systems with a multi-lingual checklist function to ensure operators can nominate their preferred language.

Ensure a seatbelt is worn at all times for compliance and safety

It might sound so simple, but wearing a seatbelt while operating a forklift is the most important safety precaution that operators can take. Seatbelts play a significant role in lessening the chance of serious injury and even death should a roll-over occur.

However, it is quite common for operators to overlook this simple task when operating a forklift for just a few minutes; for example, when they need to move a forklift a short distance to relocate it. These bad habits must be broken, and with a buckle monitoring system that alerts and reports when a seatbelt is not worn, can ensure compliance as they can reinforce safety policy and training at the site. These alert systems are a feature of fleet management systems like SmarTrack® Global.

Speed alerts

It is one thing to put in place a speed limit for forklift operators, but it is another to enforce that people abide by it to ensure safety. It is not 100 per cent reliable as there is human error/disobedience. Being able to alert drivers to exceeding the speed limit helps to prevent accidents occurring that are caused from speeding, such as driving into trucks and other equipment, or even rollovers. Speed alerts can create behavioural changes and can be executed with fleet management solutions such as SmarTrack® Global.

Forklift maintenance

A forklift maintenance program should be mandatory in any organisation operating these industrial trucks. Preventative maintenance and inspections should be performed according to the manufacture’s recommendations and relevant standards. This servicing schedule should also adhere to components added to the forklift. In addition, all servicing should be carried out by someone qualified or trained to do so. It is easy to let servicing slide or perhaps forget when it’s due entirely. The use of a service scheduler, via a fleet management solution ensures the person in charge receives a notification when a service is due, based on hours and the calendar year, is extremely beneficial to ensure this important task is not forgotten about and for companies to remain compliant. In addition to this, service personnel are alerted to any checklist maintenance issues promptly.

Reporting hazards

SmarTrack has the ability through it’s “Out Of Service” feature to enable units to be locked out in the event of an impact. The unit can only be re-activated by the appropriate Manager or Technician. To assist management with the identification of risks within the workplace, SmarTrack® Global includes an area for incident reports. This enables information to be stored electronically.

While the safety and well-being of employees are, the most important reason for ensuring all these rules are abided by at all times, compliance also weighs in heavily. Companies have a duty of care for their staff, especially those operating heavy machines such as forklifts. Digitising the process improves safety exponentially, and ultimately saves organisations money.

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