Advances in technology are helping to transform many of today’s industries, and the material handling sector is no exception. Latest generation lift trucks are vastly improved on what was possible even a decade ago and it is the modern warehouse that is reaping the reward, both in terms of safety and productivity, as BITA Technical Manager David Goss explains.

Worker safety is a management responsibility that cannot be delegated to machines, systems or processes. Only by removing the human element completely would 100% safety be guaranteed, and, whilst autonomous trucks are being pioneered, we are a long way away from complete warehouse automation.

The safest sites are always those where management is proactively involved, not only in the implementation of safety protocols, but also in their ongoing supervision and refinement. However, collaboration between lift truck manufacturers and warehouse operators develops the safest environment possible for workers both by built in safety and through improved oversight.

The British Industrial Truck Association (BITA) is the UK trade association for manufacturers and suppliers of forklift truck and associated components and services. One of the Association’s founding principles was to raise safety standards within the material handling industry. This was evident earlier this year during the inaugural UK National Forklift Safety Day (NFSD), which focussed on the key message that management is responsible for ensuring that operator restraints are being used. Unlike motor cars, the hazard is not speed but tip-over. Seat belts save lives and, where fitted, they should always be used.

Expanding on the theme of NFSD, advances in truck design were highlighted at this year’s Design4Safety Awards, which are organised by BITA. The underlying philosophy of the awards is that smart design should simultaneously enhance safety and increase productivity without compromising either.

Much of the technology presented at Design4Safety revolved around the use of sensors fitted to machines to feedback real time data to operators to enable optimal operational performance combined with a control system that prevents operation outside safe working limits.

Connectivity of such smart systems improves operational decision making which in turn, increases productivity, but what we must ensure is that management’s duty to provide a safe working environment is never overlooked in the drive to ultimate efficiency. This requires organisations to implement Industry 4.0 with an integrated safety and supervision approach, which, in turn requires the closest collaboration with your truck supplier.

David Goss

BITA, Technical Manager