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Avoid Lift Truck Run-Ins

If an operator or pedestrian steps out of line and has a run-in with a lift truck, the lift truck will most likely win. Here's how to cut your chances of confrontation.

A pedestrian being struck by a lift truck is the most common lift truck accident. Injuries from lift truck run-ins can range from a minor bump to severe crushing and even death. Based on accident investigations, the nearly universal cause of these accidents has been operator and/or pedestrian inattentiveness. No matter how many bells, whistles, mirrors and horns you put on a lift truck, nothing can take the place of properly trained operators and pedestrians aware of lift truck traffic in a plant.

The first step in preventing lift truck/pedestrian run-ins is to analyze plant work flows and separate people on lift trucks from people on foot as much as possible. Only the people who work in the plant can identify the best ways to reduce the chances of pedestrian accidents. If you have operators performing a task with a fellow worker close to the machine or its moving parts, something is wrong. Reevaluate the task and find a way to complete the job with less chance of lift truck/pedestrian interaction.

When specifying a lift truck, you can add lights, alarms and mirrors to meet any special needs in your plant. CLARK offers these devices so our lift truck buyers can customize their trucks according to their needs, and we encourage our customers to consider using these devices if they feel it will reduce the chance of accidents at their facilities. Also, operators should help with the selection process, because some workers find warning devices annoying and disconnect them.

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These devices cannot replace constant vigilance. Operators can't assume that pedestrians are aware of the moving lift truck just because the back up alarm is beeping or the strobe light is flashing. The best bet is to mark specific walking areas for pedestrians where lift trucks aren't allowed. However, pedestrians often must walk across lift truck operating paths, so the chances of accidents are still there.

When loads restrict forward vision, operators must take special precautions to prevent pedestrian or plant equipment collisions. Often, reverse travel is the safest when forward travel view is restricted by load. When traveling in reverse, operators must be especially careful to look in the direction of travel. Spotters are essential when visibility is hindered.

Upright Safety Label Part

After examining lift truck travel and plant layout, training is the next item that must be implemented to minimize lift truck run-ins. Lift truck operators and plant workers should be trained and often reminded about material handling and lift truck travel in the plant.

Your training should reinforce to operators these simple rules:

Watch where you're going. Always face the direction of travel, and when coming to intersections and blind spots, sound your horn to help alert pedestrians of your whereabouts.

Ask them to stand back. Always be on the look-out for pedestrians. Make eye contact with them so you know they are aware of your presence. Double-check behind you for pedestrians. They may not understand that a lift truck steers from the back, and its tail swing could put them in danger.

3. If you don't have a clear view of travel, don't move the truck. Get help from a spotter. If your forward view is restricted, travel in reverse.

Be especially careful in dock areas. Here, congestion and high pedestrian traffic combined with tight working areas create hazardous conditions. Before you start, make sure truck drivers and other pedestrians are out of the way.

Keep pedestrians away from your forks, especially when lifting loads. Sudden load shifts could drop material on them, causing injury.

No hitchhiking. Don't allow passengers to ride on any part of the lift truck. They block view, distract you and do not have a safe area on which to ride.

If the load must be held in place by another person for transport, stop. The lift truck you are using is not equipped to handle this type of load and places the person holding the load in grave danger. Use the right equipment to move loads.

Read the operator's manual before you operate any lift truck. It's the best way to understand the critical operating nuances of a lift truck model.

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Pedestrian training

Training operators is only half the equation. Because pedestrians are vulnerable, it's important they understand the dangers when walking around a facility. The two most important concepts for newcomers to the plant to understand is that lift trucks can't stop on a dime and that when they turn, they pivot at the rear instead of the front.

Lift trucks are designed to stop slowly to minimize load damage from sudden changes in load balance. Sudden stops can also adversely affect the operator's position and the truck's stability. That means pedestrians must give lift trucks a wide berth just in case the operator doesn't see them and they must stop quickly to avoid a run-in.

Lift trucks are rear-steering vehicles, which gives them the best maneuverability possible. That means it steers completely differently from a front-steer vehicle which can fool pedestrians. The tail swing can pin or crush pedestrians if they get too close.

Additional equipment to consider

Because material handling operations vary greatly from plant to plant, it's imperative to analyze the operation to determine what types of additional equipment may be needed to improve material handling safety.

Some items to consider:

Flashing, revolving or strobe lights: Available in many colors, so you can select a unique color for use on all mobile equipment. Don't use that color for any other signal, such as in production areas or fire exits.

Mirrors: Mirrors can give the operator an improved view of the area surrounding the lift truck when normal operating vision is otherwise obstructed. Because of distortion, don't rely on these mirrors to maneuver around the facility, for the same reason it says in your car's side-view mirrors, "Objects in mirror are closer than they appear." Always keep a clear view of travel.

Headlights: Helpful when operating in trailers or other dimly lit areas, they can be mounted on the front or rear of the lift truck.

Paint: The standard Clark color of high-visibility green with low-glare matte black uprights and overhead guards can be changed to safety yellow or bright orange when you specify your truck.

Audible alarms: These beeping devices are activated whenever the lift truck operates in reverse or whenever it is moving. Consider variable-decibel alarms, which adjust volume based on ambient noise level. When you are specifying your lift truck, work with experts at your CLARK dealer to identify and select any additional equipment options that may help operators and pedestrians steer clear of each other in the plant.

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