OSHA estimates that approximately 680,400 lift truck accidents occur each year. The hard fact is that most of these accidents can be prevented with proper training and the adoption of best practices and safe work habits.
Here are six primary areas businesses should focus on to help create a safe environment for lift truck operation.
1. Operator training
When done properly, operator training should consist of a logical progression of events that result in informed, skilled operators who consistently practice safe work habits.
Initial operator training
In addition to learning general material handling and workplace rules, and how to operate the equipment, your workers must also understand and implement safe operating habits. These habits, supported by knowledge gained through training, will determine whether or not they are safe lift truck operators.
Skill development, certification time
Initial operator training typically lasts about one day, while material handling skill development can take much longer. It is important that you constantly supervise new operators after initial training for as long as necessary, either by having supervisors alongside them or using lead operators following on another lift truck.
Certification means that not only have operators been trained, but also that their employer has certified that they have demonstrated successful and safe performance of all job requirements.
Even after certification, many companies require freshmen operators to wear orange vests, and instruct supervisors and experienced operators to watch them and provide feedback and coaching until they become well accomplished operators.
Pedestrian injuries consistently rank among the five most common lift truck accident scenarios. You need to ensure that any pedestrians in your facility or workplace are trained to properly navigate near operating lift trucks. You also need to educate them of the possible dangers, as well as instruct them to pay attention and communicate with lift truck operators.
According to OSHA CFR 1910.178(l)(2)(iii), “all operator training and evaluation shall be conducted by persons who have the knowledge, training and experience to train powered industrial truck operators and evaluate their competence.”
Regardless of whether your company employs its own trainers or you outsource initial training, you need to make sure trainers are qualified. You also should determine where initial training ends and on-the-job training and evaluation responsibilities begin.
Even if your lift truck operator training program is best-in-class, it will only be effective if it is supported by a strong supervisory structure. If, upon completion of training, your new operators enter an environment where the experienced operators disregard safe operating habits, there is a good chance that any lessons learned by the new operators will rapidly be forgotten.
Safe operating habits and practices learned in initial training must be reinforced by supervision and examples provided by mentor operators. You need to make sure your supervisors know the habits to reinforce and can properly identify those safe operating habits. If you get a blank look after explaining the need to honk horns at intersections and slow down in heavy traffic, you are likely already losing this battle.
Your supervisors should also go through operator training and fully understand the rules of safe operation on all equipment types within your workplace. For example, Crown Equipment Corporation’s LeadSafe lift truck safety program teaches supervisors how to observe and track safe lift truck operation, evaluate a warehouse, identify relevant OSHA regulations and provide appropriate feedback to operators.
It is important that supervisors encourage safe operating practices and behaviors as fervently as they promote productivity. If they do this, you will quickly understand how both safety and productivity go hand-in-hand.
3. Equipment maintenance
If you want your lift truck operators to work safely and productively, your equipment needs to be maintained to work properly at all times.
Proper planned maintenance, performed at appropriate intervals, along with the use of proper parts and repair methods, is the foundation of a good equipment maintenance program. To build on this foundation, you must also take pre-shift equipment inspections and operator complaints seriously and not allow equipment to be operated unless all systems are performing properly.
This is not an area where you can get by with a bare minimum. If you sacrifice equipment and facilities maintenance, you will sacrifice worker safety, as well as uptime, productivity and the life of your equipment.
4. Pre-use inspection
While a thorough pre-use inspection is required by OSHA, it is also a smart business practice. These inspections should always be performed before any piece of equipment is put into operation during a shift.
Pre-use inspections usually take experienced operators little time to perform. When done properly and regularly, they allow operators to fully understand the working condition of the lift truck they are about to use, eliminating surprises if something doesn’t work as expected.
When an operator discovers a problem on a pre-use inspection, the lift truck should be taken out of service, locked and tagged out and fully repaired prior to being available for use again.
5. Laws and standards
Understanding OSHA 1910.178 training requirements will help the business and the operator comply with OSHA law and further create a safe workplace. The 2004/2005 ANSI/ITSDF B56.1 standard also contains updated information that can help you understand safe lift truck practices. It features a section titled, “For the User” that every employer should read, understand and put into practice.
Learning and complying with these standards is a sure way to help prevent OSHA citations and promote a safe operating environment for lift trucks.
6. Constant workplace evaluation
The final area you should focus on to help create a safe environment for lift truck operation is workplace evaluation. Only through constant workplace evaluation will you be able to set goals and identify areas for additional training and improvement.
A properly designed workplace evaluation program can help you gain valuable insight into workplace safety. Areas of inquiry and awareness should include:
The areas within your workplace that have the highest incident or close call rates
The types of operations or tasks that seem to have the highest rates
The conditions, situations, tasks or areas that your operators feel are the most challenging
Operators who are viewed as potentially unsafe to work around by other operators
Changes in weight, size and/or shape of materials handled, as they may affect equipment requirements and/or training needed
Changes in processes or workflows, as these may affect already congested traffic areas and/or training required.
By focusing your attention on these six key areas, you can significantly increase the safety of your workplace. Creating a safer environment for lift truck operation can help you avoid operator injuries and equipment, facility and product damage, as well as protect you from possible liabilities and fines and even lower your insurance and maintenance costs.
Author Information Ron Brewer is the manager of Crown Equipment’s operator training program. For more information on the company’s family of Demonstrated Performance training solutions, which includes both service and operator training, visit www.crown.com .
Common causes of lift truck injuries
How do most material handling equipment accidents and/or injuries occur?
Distractions near break, lunch, end of shift, etc.
Handling unusual loads or performing unusual tasks
Inadequate equipment maintenance
Temporary workers who are inadequately trained/skilled
Poor operating habits, including:
Traveling too fast for area
Traveling with forks/load raised
Improper operating position
Continuing to operate while distracted
Operating with known equipment maintenance issues
Lack of communication with other operators, pedestrians
Walking in front of moving equipment (pickers)
Not wearing fall protection or seat belt
Poor training, including:
Not reading operators manual
Unaware of difference between braking and plugging on electric lift trucks
Unaware of truck capacity or how to read capacity plate
Unaware of safety rules of docking, transporting, stacking or battery changing and charging
Unaware of how to perform pre-shift inspections.
Intelligent data the key to manage fleet costs
By Alan Marder , The Raymond Corporation
Warehouse and facility managers face ongoing pressure to reduce maintenance costs — and these pressures are even greater in challenging economic environments. Wireless real-time data acquisition enables managers to track maintenance and associated costs on lift truck fleets, whether in a single warehouse or multiple facilities nationwide.
The ability to continuously review this data helps managers analyze the effectiveness of lift truck fleets and even determine the root cause of maintenance needs, facilitating a quick response to reduce future maintenance expenses.
Gathering the right data
A comprehensive fleet optimization program can include a wireless system that integrates real-time data from the lift truck’s vehicle manager, operator and fleet maintenance program into a single reporting system. Some robust fleet management systems today also offer a Web portal that allows maintenance personnel to enter and upload all work orders, service requests, parts and related costs for maintaining and repairing trucks in a fleet.
In a system that enables tracking of maintenance needs, the person performing the maintenance — either the lift truck dealer or a company’s in-house staff — can enter the work order number, lift truck identification information, date, number of labor hours for maintenance, details on what issue the maintenance addressed, and whether the activity was preventive maintenance or in response to lift truck damage or abuse. In addition, the hourly labor rate, all parts that were used and the cost of those parts can be entered.
With this information, it is possible to track the maintenance history of each lift truck in a fleet and evaluate the cost per hour to run the truck.
In addition to tracking lift truck maintenance details, fleet optimization systems can track operator input. Daily operator checklists are required by OSHA prior to lift truck operation. The wireless fleet optimization system requires completion of an electronic checklist before the lift truck will start.
If the operator indicates any lift truck issues, the system sends a wireless alert immediately to the facility manager, notifying him or her of any preventive maintenance that may be required to prevent a larger problem from occurring. This enables the manager to schedule maintenance when it is convenient, parts are available and the driver is scheduled on another truck thus reducing unplanned downtime and lost productivity.
Turn data into intelligence
In-depth reports generated by using a fleet optimization system’s reporting capabilities can facilitate intelligent, strategic management decisions based upon the cumulative information gathered from the vehicle manager, operator and maintenance history. Custom reports compare the various trucks within a fleet at one or multiple facilities to demonstrate costs per lift truck or per location, making it easy to understand the cost per hour to run and maintain each truck or an entire fleet of trucks. Further analysis can help the facility manager determine which replacement parts offer the best value over the life of a lift truck.
For example, the facility may currently purchase inexpensive load wheels and find they require frequent replacement. By analyzing the costs and testing various load wheels, it may be possible that a slightly more expensive load wheel actually lasts nine times longer, justifying the investment because the lift truck can be more productive and require less downtime to change wheels.
The analysis may uncover uneven flooring in the warehouse that causes premature damage to tires. Fixing the floor may reduce damage to lift truck wheels, thus lowering replacement costs and reducing downtime. This analysis turns the data from the fleet optimization system into actionable intelligence.
Today’s managers are under pressure to reduce costs, increase productivity and manage their company’s assets. Facility managers can analyze lift truck data on-site if they have the human resources available to do it. Lift truck manufacturers and their dealers may offer consultative services to regularly review and analyze the data and help facility managers develop action plans to reduce maintenance costs.
It isn’t until a facility applies a real-time optimization and asset management strategy that costs associated with lift truck operations can be fully realized. For instance, damaged racks are a common occurrence in warehouses and distribution centers. However, the total cost of the damage is not often considered. The total cost may include not only the price to replace or repair the rack, but also lift truck maintenance after an impact, lost truck and operator productivity while the lift truck is repaired, and damaged product.
A robust fleet optimization system helps to identify the totality of related costs and provides managers with access to information that allows them to make informed, intelligent business decisions as they develop cost reduction strategies.
Author Information Alan Marder is director of technology solutions, The Raymond Corporation
Hyster marks 80th anniversary
Hyster Company is marking its 80th year as a lift truck manufacturer. Hyster Company was born when Willamette Iron & Steel, originally a lumber carrier manufacturer, merged with two other companies in 1929 to form a new company named Williamette Ersted. The name was eventually changed to Hyster Company, a reference to laborers shouting “Hoist ’er!” when a load was ready to be lifted.
Since introducing a smaller lift truck in 1941 and moving into the container handling market in 1959, Hyster Company now offers 130 models of lift trucks configured for gasoline, LPG, diesel or electric power, with a capacity range between 2,000 pounds and 115,000 pounds.
This year, Hyster introduced the E45-70XN, an electric ac product that combines energy efficiency and productivity capabilities.
“Since 1929, Hyster Company has aimed to provide the best products and support to meet the material handling needs of our customers,” said Hyster president Paul Laroia. “Today, 80 years later, we remain as committed as ever to maintaining and meeting that same goal.”
Hyster has also released a guidebook, “The Right Time: A Guide to the Timely Replacement of Lift Trucks.” The publication offers information on how to improve productivity, increase uptime and reduce maintenance costs by knowing when to replace older, less efficient lift trucks. For information, go to www.hyster.com .
Toyota launches diesel hybrid lift truck
Toyota Industries Corporation has launched world’s first internal combustion hybrid lift truck. Sales of the Toyota diesel hybrid lift trucks will begin in the Japanese market this December.
The Geneo-Hybrid 8,000 pound counterbalanced lift truck combines a 2.5-liter diesel engine, electric motor and nickel-metal hydride battery. Company officials said the lift truck would reduce fuel consumption and CO 2 emissions by 50%.
“Toyota has been a leader in hybrid development for years with the very popular Prius vehicle,” said Brett Wood, president of TMHU. “We are excited to see hybrid technology entering the mainstream of material handling. This is a huge step forward for our industry.
The lift truck’s drive motor runs on electric energy from the engine-powered generator and battery. Load handling functions are powered by a Parallel Hybrid System with a hydraulic pump that receives mechanical energy from the diesel engine and generator, and electric energy from the battery. The nickel hydride battery is recharged by the engine’s operation and does not require plug-in recharging.