18.8% of forklift accidents occur when a forklift strikes a pedestrian
One in six of all workplace fatalities in this country are forklift related
According to OSHA, approximately 70% of all accidents reported could have been avoided with proper
safety (some of these statistics are courtesy Bircher America, Inc.)
Fork Lift operating environments include: pedestrians, blind spots, both indoor and outdoor use, narrow aisles, building columns, 24 hour per day operations, and can include tight turning radii. Pedestrians contribute to accidents since they sometimes don’t understand forklift stopping distances and try to “beat” forklifts. Many incidents involve limited driver field of view issues where driver controls are mostly designed to drive facing the forks forcing drivers to see through bars, chains and cables and at times their view can be completely blocked in the travel direction. Drivers are usually forced to sit facing forward towards the load, yet look backwards to drive. Researchers report that 75% of side tip-over’s occur when a forklift is empty, leading them to conclude that these incidents are due more to speeding than other causes. Losses that affect employers due to forklift accidents include damage to equipment and loss of productivity. Most lost work time reported in 2007 was due to fork truck accidents totaling over 11,040 which is: nearly two times higher than cases involving transportation and material moving, nearly 7 times more than production worker involvement, and over 8 times higher than office or administrative worker incidents.
Current Remedies to Improve Forklift Safety.
Methods used to reduce forklift accidents include: driver training, safety procedures, equipment maintenance, and restricted/designated areas of operation, facility design. While these strategies will always be elements of workplace safety programs, collision statistics clearly indicate that training, signage, and floor markings for traffic control are
not enough to assure a safe environment.
Real-time monitoring and control can improve both safety and efficiency.
There are a number of safety systems being researched or in use today. These safety systems are briefly mentioned here and are specifically named and discussed in [Ungerbeuhler]. Automatic barrier guards can be installed to prevent fork trucks from falling off a vacant receiving dock. These systems prevent forklifts from running off an open dock and can stop a 4500 kg (10,000 Lbs) forklift traveling at up to 0.8 m/s (4 mph). Warning lights can be installed at blind corners to warn of oncoming forklifts. Safety system designers now have new technologies to consider for hazard control, particularly for detecting collision and speeding hazards. For pedestrian detection, a prototype system employs a simple RF-tag placed in safety vests worn by warehouse workers. An RF receiver was installed on each truck alerting drivers to the presence of any workers within the detection radius of the receiver. The researchers found this wearable RF tag prototype to be a low cost solution that they recommend be used along with other safety measures. One company places the prototype RF transceiver on each vehicle. A similar battery- powered portable transceiver is clipped onto any pedestrian entering the warehouse.The transceiver creates a virtual protection zone around the vehicle or person. When the zones intersect, the transceivers energize a warning signal for both the pedestrian and the vehicle operator. This approach is a viable solution for workers and pedestrians.
Driven largely by the need for smart surveillance and security systems, image processing technology for detecting, identifying, and tracking people in video images is now used in commercial applications. One pedestrian tracking system tracks and analyzes the movement of customers in commercial buildings. Processing images from overhead cameras, the system determines the number of customers entering a store and the exact paths taken by customers shopping in the store. In retail and banking applications, the technology is used to track queues of customers and to signal when more check-out lanes need to be opened. While this technology has not yet been applied to collision- avoidance systems, it can be expected in the near future.
Presence detection sensors indicate that a vehicle is within the detection distance or zone of the sensor. In most cases, there is some ability to configure or engineer the detection distance. Inductive or capacitive proximity sensors and photoelectric sensors, all of which are familiar to automation engineers, fall into this category. An invisible, infrared light beacon mounted on the top of the vehicle is detected by a receiver up to 25 meters away and can trigger warning lights or audible alarms for pedestrians and other drivers. Microwave sensors work similarly and can shape the detection zone to match an area of interest. Some companies offer warehouse intersection warning products using microwave sensors. Four sensors and a warning light are hung above an intersection with microwave