their forklift drivers to be able to quickly operate forklifts without costing users additional money or training. Small progressive steps towards a safe forklift solution are suggested rather than a leap forward solution.
The forklift industry is similar to the automotive industry, where the element not completely being controlled is the people around the vehicle. For example, how would a driver know where there is a pedestrian in a distribution facility when their view is blocked unless spotters are used? Also, how would the driver know what are pedestrian intentions in a facility? Some sensors to track people are really expensive. Should everyone wear a sensor like an RFID tag? If so, what happens when that person forgets their tag and then whose fault is it if there’s an accident? OSHA says it is the forklift driver’s fault. This points to the need for additional safety measures, such as removing pedestrians from the forklift environment or adding safety sensors or better driver field of view sensors to the forklift.
Industry comparison of AGVs versus forklifts, when considering their relative industry sizes, points to AGVs as being safer. An AGV may be too expensive to implement in a factory versus a forklift although there is a need point of affordable innovations. There is a need for the ability to track both pedestrians and vehicles. The challenge with the AGV market is the cost and the safety. 2D LADAR scanners are a great product but very costly to implement to view overhanging obstacles and to completely improve the drivers field of view. The issue is cost versus safety.
Some companies are doing crossover from forklifts to AGV’s. Others are converting manned industrial trucks to automated vehicles and light trucks. Long term goals are ideal but where is the balance for cost and safety? With the high cost of forklift accidents per year being $135M, there is a need to find a balance. Toyota’s focus is on training to help with overcoming the safety issues associated with automated facilities by training everyone from the administrative person to the forklift drivers.
Vehicle tracking systems are effective for forklift safety, although customers are more interested in the cost versus the safety. So, there is a crossover of taking jobs versus a safe, efficient facility where ultimately safe, efficient systems are more cost effective in the long run. Productivity and efficiency are the driving forces. Companies are not trying to lay off people or get rid of forklift drivers but produce more goods. Freight transport and storage are all cost driven. Companies recognize a safety need, but no one wants to pay for it.
For automated forklifts that follow workers down aisles for manual order picking, several commands are introduced into the system so the order picker can command the robot and the robot will remain safe. However, these commands are more for the order picker than the robot.
Recommendations The following summarizes the recommendations for improvements to increase forklift safety arising from the discussion and presented papers.
Follow the OSHA checklist; enforce the requirement that all drivers wear seatbelts.
Ergonomics of vehicles are currently difficult so change the driver’s seat so that the driver is not required to
turn his/her head backwards to see in the direction of travel when the forklift is carrying a load.
In noisy environments, add rear backup lighting. Currently drivers rely on their hearing to know when a pedestrian is in the way. Therefore, there is a need for something to replace acoustics. A suggestion would be to use a laser beam 15 m in front of the vehicle through the intersections to tell pedestrians where the forklift is intending to go.
Adding sensors and cameras to forklifts to improve the driver’s field of view are suggested and being tested at NIST. See Figures 2 and 3.
Because there are nearly 1 million forklifts in use today in just the US, there needs to be safety equipment that retrofit to existing forklifts, as well as being designed into new forklifts.
There is a need for the ability to track both pedestrians and forklifts and provide the information back to the driver and/or to the pedestrians.