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Many accidents in warehouses occur when forklifts encounter pedestrians in their work area. Such encounters can lead to accidents that may possibly include injuries. So warehouse or fleet managers realize that something should be done to prevent or at least minimize these encounters.
Forklift fleet managers are probably aware of a number of proximity sensor devices that recognize when a pedestrian crosses into an area where forklifts are being used. There are also warning devices that are designed for pedestrians to recognize that a forklift is approaching and to get out of the way.
These systems are essential because us humans are not very good when it comes to judging distances.
Many warehouse operations are using another trick to ensure that no accidents occur between a forklift and a pedestrian. The concept is call exclusion zones.
Exclusion zones is where the work area dedicated specifically to forklifts is somehow identified. This warns pedestrians to keep away or to be alert while they are in this zone.
Painted walkways, cones, and barriers help to define these zones.
The key to safety is to ensure distance between a forklift and a pedestrian when the two are in the same area.
It is recommended that the size of an exclusion zone should be related to the size of the forklift. For most small forklifts and reach trucks, a little over 9-feet (3 meter) of space should be the minimum distance between lifts and pedestrians.
For Larger forklifts or container handlers it is suggested that the minimum distance between a forklift and a pedestrian should be a little bit more than the radius of the turning circle of a larger forklift or container handler. This distance assures that even if the forklift pivots on its driving axis, the rear end swing will not endanger a pedestrian who happens to be walking or standing close to but outside of the zone.
If an encounter is about to happen, it is suggested that the pedestrian and the forklift operator should make eye contact and hand signal each other that each is aware of the other.
It should then be the responsibility of the forklift operator to stop the lift and straighten the wheels. This avoids the forklift operator from driving forward, which would cause a counterbalance swing of the lift into the pedestrian who may be standing next to the lift.
The operator of the lift should also drop the forks to the floor, engage the handbrake and shift the forklift into neutral. Only after this is completed can the pedestrian approach the forklift to communicate.
Once the communication between the forklift operator and the pedestrian is concluded, the pedestrian must exit the exclusion zone and then the operator can safely drive the forklift away.
Generally, the forklift operator and pedestrian may be tempted to discuss an issue as they move along. This scenario is not recommended. Why? Because as we walk or drive at the same time as we talk, neither the driver nor pedestrian is looking where they are going.
Be safe and be alert as you work in a warehouse.