With the rising number of serious injuries from forklift accidents, truck manufacturers can – and should – always be looking for ways to make forklifts safer. Here, Stewart Gosling of Red Diamond Distribution, UK importers for Mitsubishi Forklift Trucks, explains the thinking behind the latest safety innovation from Mitsubishi…
Forklift safety is a wide-ranging topic. Indeed, there isn’t one specific area of truck safety that offers that ‘silver bullet’. As a result, the strides made towards making operations safer in recent years have been across the board: from features that reduce the risk of muscularskeletal issues and repetitive strain to improved visibility.
And it’s this last one that can have the most direct impact. European studies show that – for more than 60 percent of businesses – visibility is the top priority when purchasing new trucks: ahead of factors such as reliability and operating costs.
And this makes good business sense as the safest operations are the most productive and efficient ones.
The thing with improving visibility is it’s – understandably – mainly focused on the operator. Giving the operator the best field of vision possible is vital, and in fact something that Mitsubishi has made great strides towards with the VisionMast.
But with more than half of forklift accidents seriously injuring workers on foot, it’s clear that more can be done to give pedestrians more warning when a truck is getting too close.
When a workplace is busy or noisy, you can’t always rely on auditory cues to know where trucks are operating. If there are a number driving around, or a number of vehicles or pieces of machinery operating in the area, then a truck just around the corner may become difficult to pick out.
Extending the area in which you are visibly aware of a truck without impacting on the truck’s size would seem to be an ideal, practical solution.
Draw the line
It’s this line of thinking that led to the development of the Mitsubishi Safety Zone system.
Simply put: this safety alert system uses high-powered LEDs to cast bright, bold red lines on the floor behind and to the sides of a truck. These clearly show to all working in the area of the truck, the minimum distance they must maintain to continue working safely and when a site is busy, this extra visual clue can make all the difference.
Available for use with new trucks, as well as older models, it takes little explanation for your workforce to grasp: making it a practical option for your existing fleet.
A load off your mind
Areas like loading docks can be a hazard. With forklifts and pedestrians often working in the same vicinity, it’s where approximately 25% of accidents occur.
Ideally, the loading bay would be well-segregated. But we all know that making this a reality isn’t always practical.
Having that quick reference available to see when you’re getting dangerously close to a truck can be vital when the time pressure is on.
In tests, it was proven pedestrians and other powered vehicles intuitively move away from the Red Safety zone, it was a natural reaction, this makes it all the more effective.
A recent study of operators in Europe, Russia and the Middle East revealed that up to 77% of forklift trucks are always or very frequently driven in reverse.
In narrow aisle environments, this can be a real issue for operators as they will not be aware of who to expect to be near the truck when the truck clears the end of the aisle. And it can be a real problem for pedestrians, too. To be able to see a truck before it exits the aisle, you’d need to be positioned almost in-line with the vehicle – placing yourself at high risk.
Fortunately, the rear beam of the Mitsubishi Safety Zone gives those nearby that the rear of the trucks will soon emerge from the aisle: giving them ample time to move out of the way.
The system is very simple, but incredibly effective. And sometimes the simplest ideas are the smartest.
It’s been said that you can’t put a price on safety, but Mitsubishi has… and it’s much lower than you think.
Surely it’s time to draw a line.
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