It’s about time we separated forklifts and pedestrians. For good.

FLTA offers employers 7-point plan to transform on-site safety 

We live in changed times. Social distancing has transformed the way we interact with others and the physical layouts of premises have been altered to reduce the amount of contact.  

But for those who work with forklifts, the concept of keeping a safe distance is not new. However, all too often, this doesn’t work in practice, with workers on foot accounting for two-thirds of all injuries resulting from truck-related accidents. 

According to Tim Waples, CEO of the Fork Lift Truck Association, this time of change presents British businesses with the perfect opportunity to reassess their operations and radically improve safety for all employees. 

“It starts with a risk assessment,” he explains. “There is no ‘one-size-fits-all' solution, but there are quite a few measures employers can take, many of which will incur little or no cost.” 

Here are a few suggestions: 

  1. Take pedestrians out of the equation. Carry out an audit and identify which employees genuinely need to be in an area where forklifts operate. Equip them with distinctively coloured hi-vis vests and ban everyone else (you’ll be surprised how many fall into the letter category!)  

  1. Follow a different route. Where pedestrians can’t be excluded, separate pathways should be created for them. Ideally, these should follow routes employees would normally take (often known as ‘desire lines’) to encourage maximum usage.  

  1. Get it right on the ground. Where trucks and other staff must occupy the same areas, painted lines and hashed areas are an option, but raised pavements and physical barriers of steel or plastic are far preferable. These should run alongside walkways and at every crossing – forcing pedestrians to stop, and preventing them walking directly into the path of an oncoming truck. One-way systems are effective, and in areas where space is particularly tight you could consider overhead walkways (although disability access must be considered). Wall-mounted mirrors can also be installed at blind corners. 

  1. Examine your options. Check out the new and innovative safety devices now available on forklifts, many of which can be retrofitted. For example, blue spotlights projected onto the floor ahead of the vehicle give visual warning as a truck approaches a blind corner or the end of an aisle. Red safety zone lights projected around the perimeter of a forklift provide a continuous “exclusion zone”. 

  1. Reduce speed to reduce accidents. Set strict speed limits on your forklifts. Consider electronic speed zoning to automatically slow trucks down in high-risk areas.  

  1. Monitor what’s happening when you’re not there. Front and rear cameras and GPRS impact detection systems can provide you with timed and dated footage, allowing you to review incidents and identify areas for improvement.     

  1. Speak to someone who’s done it beforeIf you are looking for more guidance on safer working in your workplace, your local FLTA member will be happy to provide it. You can find their details here.  

More information on separating forklifts and pedestrians can also be found on the BITA (British Industrial Truck Association) website where you will find an excellent ebook on forklift/pedestrian segregation, produced to support National Forklift Safety Day on 9th June. For more information visitwww.bita.org.uk.