Occupational safety is a priority area for management and employers. However, in the modern world, operating powered industrial trucks (PIT) still poses a risk to the life and health of employees. Forklifts cause many injuries to both operators and pedestrians every year. Sometimes such accidents lead to the death of workers, which is a serious concern. The main reasons for this situation are non-compliance with security standards, as well as insufficient attention to improving the industrial location layout and optimization. In this regard, managers need to pay increased attention to training employees, improving the design of the working environment, as well as using modern technologies.
Ensuring a safe workplace is a priority for employers and managers. However, many professions are still associated with health and life risks. In particular, activities related to the operation of powered industrial trucks (PIT) often lead to injuries and fatalities. Additionally, there is also a threat to pedestrians who are near forklifts and other vehicles. In this regard, managers need to work to ensure safety when operating the PIT, as well as to minimize accidents. In order to achieve positive changes, it is necessary to conduct appropriate training for employees, modernize the layout of industrial locations, as well as introduce new automation technologies and stock management methods.
Safety when working with PIT is a priority for many occupation areas. PITs are “mobile, power-propelled vehicles used to carry, push, pull, lift, stack or tier materials” (University of Maine System, 2019, p. 1). Thus, these include all trucks with internal combustion and electric motors that employees use to move materials and products. It is reported that forklifts are more probable to be involved in an accident than other types of PIT and are 90% likely to cause serious injury or fatality during their lifetime (Forklift accident statistics, n.d).
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that between 2011 and 2017, 74-94 fatal accidents involving forklifts occurred annually, as well as 7920-9440 occupational injuries (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019). Additionally, it is reported that approximately 70% of all PIT accidents in the US could be prevented (Forklift accident statistics, n.d). Although the number of workplace accidents has decreased in recent years, this factor is still a feature of some professions (Elliott, 2020). The main cause of accidents is inadequate or insufficient training of employees before operating forklifts.
OSHA regulates what conditions an employer must meet before an employee is admitted to work with a PIT. Standard 1910.178 defines that each employee must undergo special training and standardized evaluation receiving a specific certificate (United States Department of Labor, n.d). Additionally, each PIT operator should be re-evolved at least once every three years (United States Department of Labor, n.d). The standard also specifies that all PIT malfunctions and defects must be identified, after which the truck must be sent for repair until the operating functions are fully restored (United States Department of Labor, n.d).
Improper use of forklifts is a health hazard for both the operator and bystanders. In particular, the most common dangers are “being struck by loads falling off a PIT, falling when being lifted by a forklift, and tripping over the forks” (as cited in Michael & Gorucu, 2020, p. 404). Thus, failure to complete training, lack of a certificate, and re-evaluation is a violations of safety for which the employer is responsible. Thus, training is an integral part of ensuring safety when working with PIT preventing injuries and fatalities.
Ensuring safety when working with PIT and reducing the number of related accidents is a management goal. Michael and Gorucu (2020) report that most injuries or fatalities are due to non-compliance with OSHA standards by employees. Thus, the employer and manager should only allow trained and certified employees to work with the PIT. It is also necessary to conduct training of workers aimed at constant observation of the surrounding objects and people while operating a forklift.
Proper use of the seat belt is key, as an overturn or PIT fall is one of the main causes of fatal accidents (Michael & Gorucu, 2020). Managers need to ensure that all employees have received both formal and practical training (University of Maine System, 2019). As part of this process, workers get acquainted with both the universal principles of operating PIT and the interaction with a specific model in a particular setting. Upon completing the education, supervisors must evaluate each employee using a standardized form provided by OSHA. While training and proper supervision are fundamental to ensuring safety, there are other significant factors.
Warehouses, manufacturing facilities, and other locations where PITs are used need better design and layout. Evidence of this factor is the significant number of accidents in which pedestrians are involved (Michael & Gorucu, 2020). These cases include events when a “pedestrian struck by a forklift, and worker crushed by forklift” (Michael & Gorucu, 2020, p. 404). In particular, managers need to closely monitor the allocation of special PIT lanes, as well as the speed limits on them. Cantini et al. (2020) note that the optimization of the traffic map forklifts, including highlighted areas, one-way traffic, and stock management is the most important aspect.
Stock management includes methods of organizing products, ordering, and controlling for the convenience of access and transportation. It is important not only to separate PIT areas from pedestrian areas but also to provide the most efficient route for them. Stock management in this situation should be based on observations of the movements of PIT operators in the industrial location. For the greatest efficiency of this process, one can also integrate modern technologies that ensure accuracy.
The industry today offers employers and managers a large selection of various assistive devices to optimize various activities. To ensure the safety of PIT operators, automation and mapping are most relevant. Automation allows for forklifts that perform operations without direct control of the employee (Khodr, 2021). This technology allows the operator to control the PIT from a distance, which eliminates the possibility of an accident.
However, Khodr (2020) also reports that modern software often leads to bugs and inefficiencies, so they need to be complemented by changes in location design. In particular, it is necessary to equip the industrial facility with LED strips for the direction of movement, lasers, and sensors both at the forklift and at the location. Thus, operator interaction via remote access to the automated PIT will ensure efficiency and safety. With the correct transformation of the environment, the forklift is able to navigate and execute the orders correctly.
There are other promising technologies that can improve the efficiency and safety of PITs. Cantini et al. (2020) report that managers can integrate smart tracking devices for better stock and route management. This technology makes it possible to draw up forklift routes and optimize not only the direction but also the distribution of products. These devices also allow monitoring the movement patterns of PIT and pedestrians and exclude the possibility of their intersection.
This system also allows the creation of a virtual industrial location map, which can later be used in conjunction with automation. While these technologies help to automate the operation of the PIT fully, they still require operator involvement to monitor and prevent errors. In this case, the employee must also undergo the necessary training and receive the appropriate qualifications. There are certainly a number of issues associated with technological innovation.
First of all, the implementation of such systems is quite costly and often cannot be used by small businesses. Ensuring safety when working with PIT for such facilities should be based on training and constant monitoring of the quality of the location and vehicles. Managers in a resource-constrained environment should continually verify the qualifications of employees. Additionally, it is important to restrict pedestrian access to the PIT operating area.
Working with PITs, especially forklifts, carries the risk of accidents and often leads to injury and even fatalities. Managers need to provide proper training for operators, improve the layout of industrial locations, and introduce modern technologies to ensure safety. A key recommendation in this regard is strict adherence to OSHA standards, as violations are often the cause of accidents. Managers need to ensure that operators are properly trained and evaluated by involving competent instructors. The improvement of the PIT operating environment and the introduction of modern technologies are more suitable for large companies that need to optimize their work in vast areas. However, these steps are critical, as larger locations use more PITs, which increases the risk of accidents.
Cantini, A., De Carlo, F., & Tucci, M. (2020). Towards forklift safety in a warehouse: An approach based on the automatic analysis of resource flows. Sustainability, 12(21), 1-17. Web.
Elliott, K. S. (2020). Influencing workplace safety through educational training. The Midwest Quarterly, 61(3). Web.
Forklift accident statistics. (n.d). Safety in numbers – Forklifts. Web.
Khodr, N. R. (2021). Strengthening efficiency and safety in forklift operations through autobiographical design [PDF-file]. Degree Project in Media Technology. Web.
Michael, J., & Gorucu, S. (2020). Analysis of forklift and pallet jack injuries in wood-related industries. Forest Products Journal, 70(4), 403-408. Web.
United States Department of Labor. (n.d). 1910.178 – Powered industrial trucks. Web.
The University of Maine System. (2019). Powered industrial trucks policy. General University of Maine Publications. Web.
US Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2019). Occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities involving forklifts. Web.