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Optimising forklift safety and efficiency | Part 1

Supplier: Remax Products
09 April, 2015

Learn how to optimise your forklift fleet and workplace to make them safer and more efficient. It is estimated that there are over 100,000 forklift related accidents globally each year, with around 35,000 causing serious human injury and approximately 100 resulting in death.

In this series of three articles we will discuss the ins and outs of how you can optimise forklift safety and efficiency for your business.

It is estimated that there are over 100,000 forklift related accidents globally each year, with around 35,000 causing serious human injury and approximately 100 resulting in death.

From the above figures, it is no surprise that the forklift is known as the single most dangerous vehicle in the workplace. Forklifts account for up to 30 per cent of vehicle related accidents every year. According to WorkSafe Victoria, on average about 250 people are seriously injured by forklifts every year, along with many more 'near misses.'

Forklifts are heavy, powerful and unstable pieces of equipment that pose many risks. Minimising accidents and increasing safety is only half the job of a good operations or warehouse manager, the other half is increasing efficiency and productivity in the warehouse.

So what can you do to optimise your forklift fleet and workplace to make them safer and more efficient?

Four ways to optimise forklifts for maximum efficiency, safety and productivity

Perform regular battery checks

A forklift battery can be a fire hazard if not checked regularly and replaced at any signs of serious corrosion. Forklift batteries can also become problematic if they are left to severely degenerate in lifespan. Crown forklifts predict that ten per cent of batteries fail prematurely due to improper charging.

If forklift operators know that the forklift has a low charge, they may push the forklift to make it through its shift without having to recharge or change forklifts. That ten per cent of premature failing also means ten per cent of your forklifts will be creating delays through ineffective batteries. Battery ageing with improper care negates, to some extent, the increased lifespan of electric forklifts over internal combustion types.

Make sure your equipment is reliable

It is important that all your equipment is functioning well. The average useful life of an electric forklift is six years, with an internal combustion forklift being closer to five. These life estimates equate to between 10,000 and 12,000 hours of use. Forklifts can become dangerous for the operator and all those around it if used past their useful life estimates.

However, the useful life estimate varies across different machines for several reasons, including the type of forklift, the amount of maintenance it receives, the number of hours it's used each week, the difficulty of tasks it must perform, along with the workplace environment.

For example, electric forklifts have a longer life, largely due to having less moving parts. An electric forklift that has low hour usage on it, a strong maintenance program and works short shifts in a clean and neutral temperature zone would last even longer.

Ensure operators wear seatbelts

Operators not wearing seatbelts causes a large number of serious injuries and fatalities around forklifts,

although it is not in the way you might imagine. Seatbelts do more than just protect the operator in case of collision. The major contributors to fatalities and injuries are forklift operators attempting to jump from their vehicles as they tip over and then being crushed.

It is estimated that around 42 per cent of forklift fatalities are caused by operators trying to jump from the vehicle as it tips. Tipping injuries and fatalities can be completely avoided if the operator wears a seatbelt, as operators will fall with the forklift and be protected by its frame.

Use a fleet management system

Most major forklift providers have developed telematics or fleet management systems. These systems allow you to optimise operator and forklift productivity, reduce fleet costs and most importantly, increase safety and compliance with workplace regulations.

What fleet management systems can do for you:

  • Set zoned maximum speeds for the forklift which cannot be exceeded by the operator.
  • Ensure fleet compliance through tracking each forklift and measuring distance travelled, lifting exercised and battery use. Many fleet management systems will do the calculations for you and alert you when things need to be inspected based on allocated time frames.
  • Increase productivity through optimising your fleet. Crown believes that their inbuilt Infolink system can help reduce fleet size by three to five per cent. Through tracking, managers can check the productivity of each driver and the use of each forklift. This data can prove helpful in creating the optimal plan to meet each week’s workload.
  • Provide safety warnings. Fleet management systems can provide warnings when the forklift is overloaded or travelling too fast. Some systems even have a handbrake interlock system that ensures the handbrake is always engaged when the operator leaves the vehicle, shutting the vehicle down and saving energy.