Smarter and safer

LinkedIn +

Forklift safety technology has come a long way since Toyota set the ball rolling in 1998 with its System of Active Stability. This system – the world’s first in electronic forklift safety – was designed to calculate potential danger areas the forklift was subject to, and when necessary, activate preventative measures. This type of system is now the base of all forklift safety developments.

Paul Forster, joint managing director of Atlet, says: “EU safety directives place a duty of care on employers to use equipment that is designed to eliminate risk of accidents. But this is not possible with fork lift trucks because the driver has the critical role – and we cannot control the behaviour of the driver. What we can do is provide equipment that is designed to protect operators from the consequences of accidents.”

Atlet’s UNS Tergo range of reach trucks incorporates an automated safety system – S3 Stability Support System – which provides higher truck stability by governing speed and acceleration, and the interface between speed and steering sensitivity. S3 automatically reduces the speed of the truck functions in proportion to the height lifted and overrides unsafe manoeuvres. The system is governed through the truck’s brain – the Atlet Truck Computer (ATC), which can store up to 350 individual driver profiles, meaning that operators can drive at their own preferred driving style or level of competence. The ATC also includes a PIN system to prevent unauthorised use. The ATC makes servicing quicker and more efficient as the service engineer simply logs into the computer for a detailed historical run down of the truck status, cutting service time and costs.

Pin coding has become a popular technology as it safeguards against workers driving trucks they’re not qualified to operate. Safety parameters such as lift and travel speed can be programmed through the on-board computer according to the requirements of the load or the handling conditions. The system is especially good for novice drivers. Mark Sullivan, product support and service director of Linde, says smart cards are a good alternative to pin coding and offer an even higher level of security.

Jungheinrich was first to launch a battery powered forklift featuring a rotating cabin. The aim of the EFG D30 is to prevent truck operators having to travel lengthy distances in reverse. When the forward view is blocked by a load, the operator can rotate the whole cabin through up to 180 degrees and carry on his route with the load behind him.

For short and medium-long distances, the operator can drive off immediately after picking up the load, while simultaneously rotating the cabin through up to 90 degrees. For longer distances the driver can rotate the cabin through up to 90 degrees, (though only when it’s stationary). The truck also incorporates a memory system which allows the operator to have the angle of his choice set automatically.

“The idea for the rotating cab came from listening to operators who suffered with back problems while driving in reverse by looking over their shoulders when operating conventional counterbalance machines,” says Philip Woodhall of Jungheinrich.

Nissan has created a Risk Reduction System, which it incorporates into the designs of its new forklift ranges. Its purpose is to increase visibility and manoeuvrability, comprising a range of features to maximise stability, control and handling.

A major development in the system has been the introduction of cushioned stability control on Nissan’s latest BX, four wheel electric model. A flexible damping system installed between the truck’s rear axle and frame provides lateral stability for both the truck and its load, enabling safer cornering at higher speeds and reducing the possibility of the forklift overturning.

Syncro steering has been developed to help manoeuvrability in restricted areas – particularly useful with warehouse aisles becoming narrower – to capitalise on storage space. Nissan says a particular problem for lift truck operators is fast, accurate reverse travel away from the pallet position. If a truck is driven into a stack or racking at an angle, it is difficult to position the drive wheels correctly for immediate straight line travel before backing out. Forward and reverse travel to straighten the steer wheels is time consuming, and there is an added risk of destabilising the load or damaging stored products.

The Syncro system guarantees straight line travel when required and indicates the angle of the steer wheels on the dashboard display when the truck is travelling slowly. The system is being applied as standard to all models in Nissan’s three-wheel TX and four-wheel BX series of warehouse electric forklifts.

John Maguire of Narrow Aisle, says it’s surprisingly common for forklift operators who only want to move the truck forward a couple of metres, to start the machine while standing alongside it and pushing the accelerator with their hand. This kind of act not only goes against health and safety legislation but also increases the risk to the driver – like trapping his or her foot under the wheel of the truck.

Narrow Aisle’s Flexi generation 4 articulated truck is designed to prevent these types of mishaps, by incorporating an operator presence switch. This is fitted into the seats, stopping the truck from moving unless the driver is seated in the vehicle. The switch sensors also prevent the mast from tilting, lifting or lowering unless the driver is sitting in the operating position.

The average lift height of the Flexi has doubled over the past three years, due to the growth of high bay warehouse development. To ensure safety standards are still met, the truck’s articulation unit has been upgraded with an integrated rack and pinion hydraulic steering mechanism for smooth, controlled stacking.

Linde has been doing a lot of work on vehicle vibration so that its trucks produce much lower levels of vibration than the limits laid down in the European directive “Vibration” 2002/44/EC, which came into force in May this year.

The company says it has adopted various design measures. For example, the mast is directly attached to the combi-axle while air-suspension seats protect the driver from jolts, oscillations and vibrations.

Linde says oscillations and vibrations impose stress on the back of the driver, in particular leading to headaches and spinal complaints. It says investments in company health management pay off: by reporting sick declines, motivation and efficiency of the employee rises. “The return on investment can grow to be up to five per cent.”

Another area of focus has been the legally required impact drop test. Depending on the type of vehicle, a weight of up to 1.7 tonnes is dropped from a height of 2.5 metres onto the roof of a forklift truck. According to the law, the roof may collapse down to 250 millimetres above the steering wheel. However, Linde allows a deformation of only a few centimetres to ensure that the driver’s head is protected. Linde says drivers who feel safe work up to 10 per cent more effectively.

Mark Sullivan of Linde, says there’s more risk of an accident occurring when a counter balance truck has no load. But by bolting the steer axle to the counter weight and then the counterweight to the chassis, the truck (IC diesel engine) is prevented from tipping over.

Linde’s X range reach truck incorporates a low-slung battery which lowers the truck’s centre of gravity, improving its stability during operation. Trucks are also designed with hydrostatic steering to ensure safe and precise manoeuvring and automatic parking brakes.

Hyster’s warehouse range includes safety features such as clear view masts, automatic parking brakes – to prevent roll back on slopes, automatic speed reduction on cornering and pre-programmable performance that can be set to match the operators’ ability and work conditions.

The company’s Fortens counterbalance forklift features Duramatch transmission, which provides auto deceleration when the accelerator pedal is released. Roger Massey of Barloworld, says: “Duramatch technology virtually eliminates tyre spin through controlling direction changes and provides maximum control on a ramp or gradient by controlling the rate of descent.”

The truck features a suspension system which limits the pivot of the rear axle articulation, enabling it to travel smoothly over uneven surfaces. It also improves its lateral stability and is maintenance free.

“The technology employed in Hyster pedestrian pallet trucks reduces turning effort with steering that progressively stiffens for better control at high speed,” says Massey. He also says the introduction of side battery extraction on electric trucks has helped reduce the risk of injury associated with hoisting batteries out of trucks for recharging.

Fork lift trucks cause more serious injuries than any other kind of workplace transport – more than cars and heavy goods vehicles combined. At least one UK worker is killed or seriously injured by a fork lift truck every day. The Fork Lift Truck Association (FLTA) has revealed that there’s a reportable incident every 90 minutes.

FLTA chief executive David Ellison, says: “Many companies find it difficult to keep up with all the legislation and guidance affecting the 350,000 forklift trucks currently at use in the UK. In a pressured, 24-hour industry where it can be difficult and time consuming to check the facts, simple misunderstandings have a way of spreading to become popular myths and, eventually, common practice.”

Bernard Molloy, managing director of logistics consultancy 3B Net-Works, says workplace layout is one of the main factors to consider when improving on-site health and safety. “Failure to apply due diligence to safety considerations can now land corporate bodies in court on manslaughter charges and managing directors in prison.

“Studies have shown that most fatalities occur when trucks overturn, but the most frequent forklift accident types reported involve pedestrians being struck or run over by a truck. Problems arise when workers step out from behind things – giving the truck operator insufficient time to stop.

“Poor visibility and lack of manoeuvring space are also cited as major contributors to pedestrian injuries. It’s therefore highly desirable to separate site transport from pedestrian, wherever possible.”

And Roger Massey of Barloworld adds: “It’s important that all employees understand the major risks and consequences of accidents in the work place not purely the drivers. Traffic management, for example, plays a role in ensuring trucks and pedestrians are kept apart.”

Share this story: