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Stick a Fork in Your Forklift Problem with Engineered Conveying Systems

The forklift truck is a common piece of equipment for many industrial manufacturing operations that need to move enormous amounts (read: tons) of material from point A to point B, day in and day out. Most of these operations probably feel like they can’t live without forklifts. However, the convenience and expediency they provide in addition to sparing workers the task of lifting heavy loads often comes with an enormous price.

A quick Google News search for “forklift accidents” will reveal a long list of reports about catastrophic injuries and deaths that resulted from using this allegedly indispensable piece of equipment. As of the writing of this article, these two accounts were among the most recent of pages and pages of stories:

  • A warehouse employee spent four weeks in the hospital and needed 13 operations after suffering life-changing injuries when she was crushed by a forklift truck at work. The local prosecutor attributed the accident to a failure to properly assess the risks posed by the use of forklift trucks in areas where pedestrians were likely to be and to take proper measures to guard against such accidents. The company was fined £300K ($404K) after admitting to a health and safety breach. Source: The Sentinel (stokessentinel.co.uk), November 16, 2017.
  • Another warehouse employee died from injuries suffered in a forklift accident when he backed up and rolled off a ramp after material fell from the pallet he was moving. The forklift tipped over and crushed him when he jumped off. Records showed that the worker was not properly trained or certified as a forklift operator. In addition, video from the worksite showed that the employer failed to install a curb along the sides of the ramp to prevent the lifts from running off the ramp. Source: WGN News (wgntv.com), August 2, 2017.

A Matter of Life and Death

As these incidents illustrate, forklift trucks can present a significant safety hazard to operators as well as anyone in the proximity of forklift traffic in the facility; the WGN article states that transportation accidents account for a large portion of fatal workplace incidents among workers in general. When any accidents occur, the monetary costs can add up quickly. CertifyMe.net, a provider of 100% OSHA-compliant online forklift certification, claims the cost of forklift accidents involving injured workers can cost as much as $38K in direct costs per injured worker and $150K in indirect costs. In the event of a death or dismemberment, it’s easy to imagine those costs escalating into the millions from fines and lawsuits.

The OSHA has published a 48-page Guidance for the Indentification and Control of Safety and Health Hazards in Metal Scrap Recycling that includes a case history about another forklift truck operator who was killed in a rollover accident. These are the corrective measures mandated in the document:

  • Employers must keep aisles and passages used by material handling vehicles clear of obstructions.
  • Operators must inspect all powered material handling equipment at the beginning of each shift.
  • All failing equipment must be tagged out of service and not used until repaired.
  • Operators of sit-down trucks need to be trained to remain in the operator’s position in a tipover accident and to lean away from the direction of fall to minimize the potential for injury.
  • When seat belts are installed on forklifts, employees are required to wear them.

Monitoring the shop floor for obstructions, inspecting and repairing equipment, training operators and making sure they’re adhering to safety measures–it’s a lot to stay on top of while also concentrating on achieving productivity goals and maximizing profitability.

Making the Case for Conveyors

If they haven’t done so already, industrial facilities that deal with large amounts of metal scrap need to serious consider putting their fleets of forklift trucks out to pasture. Automated solutions like PRAB conveying systems are designed to quickly and efficiently move this material out of the work zone to an area where it can be processed, disposed of or recycled.

Whether your specific application calls for steel belt conveyors, drag conveyors, trough conveyors or any of our other conveying and load-out systems, a custom PRAB solution can minimize hazardous conditions in your workplace caused by the material you handle, as well as the equipment you use to move that material. Or should we say, used to use.

The forklift truck dates back to 1906. More than 110 years later, we would say it’s had a good run. But the time has come to consider conveying as an alternative solution to equipment that’s become too costly and potentially dangerous to operate.