chaz1Warehouse safety, believes Toyota Materials Handling, will remain a key consideration for UK truck buyers yet the safety record remains stubbornly unchanged to any great degree. During an 8-year life span industry observers reckon 90% of all forklifts will be involved in accidents, but at least the truck suppliers cannot be blamed for dragging their feet over safety issues. The brutal fact is that 55% of forklift accidents derive from unsafe working practices and in many cases properly trained drivers are unfairly blamed.

It is beyond the scope of this brief comment to list all the poor housekeeping habits that cause these accidents, but it is worth mentioning recent hardware developments that have made dramatic improvements to product damage levels and injuries following accidents.

Perhaps one of the most remarkable and simple safety-improving devices on the market is the Sumo Glove, a forklift tip cover made from industrial grade polyurethane, giving a unique cushioning effect without diluting the truck’s effectiveness. This impact reduction system has been found by one global pallet pool operator to cut a fork tip impact force by up to five times.

In other cases unprotected fork tips in collisions do not just cost money through damage to stored goods, pallets, trucks and racking but can lead to high administrative costs. A good case in point is a global courier service that fitted the Sumo gloves to trucks that handled solely highly dangerous goods. In the year before the fitment there was an average of one call a day to the Environment Agency to report damage caused to goods in transit. After fitting the gloves the calls dropped to zero and so there was a massive drop in paperwork, which has to be generated for every single incident, no matter how small.

It is a sad reflection on human nature that when recessions set in, the burden of health, safety and security issues rises. One UK forklift operator now reports that in addition to blatant theft of forklifts, people are hiring trucks one day and disappearing with them the next day.

A useful counter measure to this problem is Lojack, a US-made hidden tracker that uses radio frequency signals that can penetrate buildings, etc, and which also disables engine ignition. Other anti theft devices can help in other ways, like preventing sabotage. Keypads or smart cards, for example, like the Trucklog supplied by Davis Derby, means only authorised drivers can start up the trucks. This could have protected  one Cornish real ale brewer from sabotage to all his vats, caused by fork tip piercing, leading to the loss of over 5,000 litres of beer and being put out of action for weeks.

Toyota has been in the forefront of truck safety improvements, a good example being its SAS (system of action stability). Truck stability is a key safety concern, because forklift tipping incidents are the most common cause of forklift fatalities. The company carried out a survey of hundreds of truck users across Europe to identify the areas they felt were key to the success of their operations. Safety was identified as a key priority alongside productivity, driver comfort and durability. It has, therefore, designed a series of “Plus” formulas, packages of factory-fitted options that help the customers to tailor their trucks to the areas of importance to their business.

So far the Safety + package has been the most popular for its Tonero truck. It features a factory fitted load-weight indicator and speed limiter to assist safe operation. All shipping container stuffers and consignors should consider fitting such a weight indicator as global legislation is likely within a year to make weighing of all containers mandatory at ports. This will cut down on the billions of pounds lost each year by shipping lines and governments over deliberate under-declaring of container payload weights, which puts ships, their crews and the environment at risk.

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