When Lift Trucks And Workers Collide

Study finds the incidence of accidents can be reduced with proper training, use of safety devices.


Here are some examples of workplace rules that are effective in many applications to reduce or prevent the incidence of lift truck/pedestrian accidents:
• Limit lift truck travel speed;
• Use high visibility work clothes or vests for pedestrians;
• Restrict customers and non-employees from areas where lift trucks may be operating;
• Require lift truck operators to stop and sound the steering wheel horn at intersections or before passing through plastic strip curtains; Require pedestrians not to come closer than a predetermined distance from the lift truck, even when speaking to the operator.

Optional Alarms

Hyster makes available as optional equipment a range of different audible and visible warning devices which you may select for your lift trucks. OSHA regulations and ASME B56.1 safety standards for lift trucks do not require the presence of warning devices on a truck other than the steering wheel horn, which is standard equipment.

Hyster's study of optional warning devices indicates that approximately 70 percent of current lift truck users equip their trucks with some form of audible or visible warning device. However, the available accident data does not show that trucks equipped with optional warning devices are involved in a lower incidence of lift truck/pedestrian accidents than those without them. Many of the largest and most sophisticated users choose not to equip their trucks with such devices.

No manufacturer of audible or visible warning devices has undertaken a study on the effectiveness of their devices in reducing accidents; and no manufacturer could provide Hyster with any data concerning the effectiveness of their devices.

The instructions which accompany such devices instruct the lift truck operator to always look in the direction of travel, regardless of the presence of the device.

In determining whether an audible or visible device may be beneficial in your particular work environment, several factors, including the following, should be considered:

Audible devices: Back-up or motion alarms:
• Sound produced must be loud enough to be heard over other noise in the lift truck operating area;
• Sound should be readily distinguishable from other noise or audible devices in the work area;
• Audible devices may contribute to employee noise exposure and exceed OSHA noise limitation;
• Hearing protection makes it more difficult to hear the audible device and to determine the direction and distance from which the sound is coming;
• Audible devices can be annoying to operators and workers, and may be deactivated;
• Audible devices may also be objectionable to nearby residents.

Visible devices: Flashing, rotating and strobe lights:
• Placement of visible devices must be considered based on use of the lift truck and workplace conditions;
• Lights must clear low overhead obstructions and must not shine or reflect excessively into the operator's eyes;
• Shielding may limit the light's visibility to pedestrians;
• Light color should be different from lights used on stationary equipment or background colors in the workplace;
• Workplace light conditions and reflective surfaces should be considered when selecting the type of light;
• Brightly lighted or outdoor areas may necessitate bright or intense strobe lights, or may make the use of lights ineffective.

Whether an optional warning device may be beneficial overall is dependent on factors specific to your workplace, and may require the assistance of a qualified safety professional to evaluate.

Other considerations: You should always consider the following when using audible and visible warning devices:
• Operators and pedestrians can become accustomed to, and may ignore, visible and audible signaling devices;
• Operators and pedestrians can become dependent on these devices and be less likely to watch for each other;
• Multiple signaling devices in the same area can create confusion or indifference for operators and pedestrians;
• Operations and training should be adjusted to counter these and any other potentially negative effects;
• Constant exposure to these devices can be fatiguing to operators and workers;
• Lift truck users consider the steering wheel horn to be an effective means of warning pedestrians of the presence of a truck.

Assess Your Own Operations

Lift truck users must assess their own workplace to evaluate whether it would be desirable to equip trucks with optional warning devices, and whether it would be desirable to change the layout of the physical workplace. Only you are the expert about your business. You must decide how to equip your lift trucks, based on factors that are unique to your operation.

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