The Industrial Truck Association’s 8th Annual National Forklift Safety Day webinar will take place virtually tomorrow, June 8th, bringing together customers, policymakers and government officials to discuss forklift safety, training and equipment checks.

With over 34,900 serious injuries and 85 fatalities each year, it has never been more important for manufacturers and warehouses to implement the technologies and policies needed to keep workers safe and avoid costly legal, medical and other liabilities.

Let’s take a closer look at forklift safety and some tips that you can implement this Forklift Safety Day to improve your operations and reduce risk.

With over 34,900 serious injuries and 85 fatalities involving forklifts each year, it has never been more important to implement the policies and technologies to keep workers safe. Click To Tweet

OSHA Safety Regulations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, better known as OSHA, has several safety regulations in place to ensure a safe work environment. Any failure to comply with these regulations could result in fines of between $13,653 to $136,532 per violation.

The two regulations covering forklifts include:

  • Vehicle Inspections: Before use, drivers are required to inspect vehicles for unsafe conditions. These examinations must take place at least daily. When forklifts are used around the clock, they should be examined after each shift. When defects are found, they should be immediately reported and corrected.
  • Operator Training: Employers must ensure that only trained operators can use forklifts and similar equipment. Under the Final Rule for Powered Industrial Truck Operator Training, employers are required to provide operator training and licensing along with periodic evaluations of operator performance.

These standards provide a baseline for forklift safety, but they shouldn’t be the only safety standards in place. States may operate their own Occupational Safety and Health Plans and workplaces may go above and beyond with other safety requirements of their own.

Safety Best Practices

OSHA and state-level safety standards provide a baseline, but businesses should go above and beyond these requirements to ensure safety. These policies should be put into writing or posted in areas where drivers can readily view them.

Some best practices to consider include:

  • Traffic: Separate forklift traffic from other workers where possible, or even better, limit some aisles to workers on foot only or forklifts only. Install physical barriers and ensure that workstations are isolated from aisles used by forklifts. And, restrict the use of forklifts near time clocks, break rooms, cafeterias and exits.
  • Maintenance: Conduct preventive maintenance of forklifts to ensure that they are properly running at all times. Consider using telematics solutions to create the most effective maintenance schedules. Repair and maintain cracks and other defects on loading docks and in aisles where they can create safety risks.
  • Driving: Install technology to monitor driver behavior and take the appropriate action. Drivers should slow down and sound the horn when crossing aisles, alert workers when they are nearby and use flashing lights instead of (or in addition to) horns when in areas with a lot of ambient noise.

Vehicle Management Systems

Vehicle Management Systems, or VMS, are instrumental in controlling safety, productivity and damage issues that occur in most fleets. While safety regulations define standards, VMS are necessary to enforce these standards and ensure compliance.

National Forklift Safety

There are several ways VMS can help:

  • Safety Checklists: VMS enforces daily vehicle inspections and safety checklists by preventing the vehicle from operating until the checklist has been completed. Operators don’t need to reference any external materials or rely on memory to know what to check, which helps increase compliance and actually find potential issues.
  • Access Controls: VMS authorizes and tracks drivers’ access to vehicles. That way, you can ensure that only trained operators are driving the vehicles, as well as hold drivers accountable for vehicle, product or facility damage that occurs on their watch. You can even identify unsafe driving behaviors and detect impacts in real-time.

While VMS implementation has a cost, the cost of a single accident can often more than justify the investment in VMS technology to help manage these conditions. And that doesn’t include the potential to reduce maintenance costs and improve productivity.

Benefits Beyond Safety

Vehicle Management Systems provide benefits that go well beyond enforcing compliance with safety standards. Along with other telematics solutions, they can help ensure that an entire manufacturing or warehousing operation runs smoothly and minimize risk.

Some key non-safety capabilities include:

  • Productivity Measures: Operators are paid three to four times more hours than actual material movement time, which creates a lot of inefficiencies that could be addressed with more information. For example, VMS along with Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) can tell people where and when to complete tasks.
  • Management Tools: VMS provides critical visibility into the real-time location and status of each forklift. Rather than guessing, supervisors and managers can assign drivers and see their progress in real-time to keep them engaged and active.
  • Maintenance Costs: VMS makes it easy to schedule predictive maintenance using actual motion hours rather than hour meters or calendar time. In fact, most companies can cut maintenance costs in half while avoiding on-the-job breakdowns.

VMS is quickly becoming a workplace standard. In particular, manufacturing companies in North America . and other high-cost countries have embraced these technologies as a way to cut down on costs and remain competitive with outsourced manufacturing businesses.

The Bottom Line

There are nearly 35,000 forklift accidents and 85 fatalities each year, according to OSHA, while more than 10% of forklifts will be involved in some type of accident each year. While OSHA and states have adopted safety regulations, Vehicle Management Systems (VMS) and other technologies are critical to enforcing and complying with these regulations.

While VMS involves an upfront cost, most companies can realize a return on investment in less than a year thanks to improved safety, productivity gains and reduced maintenance costs. In fact, VMS have become a workplace standard and have been transformative in helping manufacturing and warehousing businesses compete in today’s global economy.

Powerfleet provides a wide range of telematics solutions for numerous industries, including Vehicle Management Systems for forklifts. From our basic out-of-the-box Powerfleet Essence (OC-53) to the Powerfleet Enterprise (VAC4S) for ultimate global visibility in high density fleets, we provide companies with real-time visibility into their assets, accountability for their employees and tools to improve workplace safety.

For more information, contact us or find your local sales representative.

To attend the free National Forklift Safety Day webinar, visit the ITA’s website.

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