Brainstorm: Lift Trucks

In March we asked industry experts: What important safety features should manufacturers consider when acquiring lift trucks for warehouses or loading docks?

This article originally ran in the March 2012 issue of Food Manufacturing.

The Food Manufacturing Brainstorm features industry experts sharing their perspectives on issues critical to the overall food industry marketplace. In this issue, we ask: What important safety features should manufacturers consider when acquiring lift trucks for warehouses or loading docks?

Steve Cox, Instructional Designer, The Raymond Corporation

There are a range of features available to lift truck users that make their operations more efficient — audible alarms, warning lights, work lights and mirrors. The value of these features is often dictated by a lift truck’s various environmental conditions and applications. For example, a truck and feature that is beneficial in dock-to-stock applications may not be beneficial in orderpicking applications. The right lift truck in the right environment is a vital element to increasing efficiency.

However, there is one feature available for all lift trucks that will benefit any operator in any environment — operator training. Studies have shown that a well-trained operator will operate his or her lift truck more effectively than an operator who is not familiar with the proper operation of the equipment he or she is using on the job. In 1984, a study done by H.H. Cohen and R.C. Jensen in the Journal of Safety Research found that, after proper training, operators improved their lift truck operation by 70 percent. Almost 30 years later, training is still a crucial part of lift truck operations.

Required by federal regulation, training programs are designed to develop equipment knowledge and provide the proper experience in lift truck operation. Training also helps the operator understand his or her work environment by identifying the obstacles that may exist in the workplace and how to work around them. Trained and knowledgeable operators are able to more efficiently manage a lift truck and respond to situations quickly.

When evaluating features that may benefit a lift truck fleet, consider the pros and cons of each feature and how it will compliment a specific lift truck in a specific operating environment. Most importantly, place a high importance on lift truck operator training. After all, a trained lift truck operator is the most effective lift truck asset.

Mark Hoch, Director of Sales, Hyster

Safety is a crucial topic in our industry, and as a manufacturer of lift trucks, we have a responsibility to provide products that can be safely operated in a variety of work environments. Efficiency and productivity do not have to be at odds with safety gains. At Hyster, we are always looking at our products and their features to work toward providing greater levels of safety for not only the lift truck operator but also pedestrians or others working around the warehouse or loading dock areas.

One of the features we have included in our lift trucks that can enhance safety is a traction control system. This type of system improves stability and lift truck control for operators, including elevation for reach trucks or order selectors. Another feature is speed limiters for standard lift trucks. Controlling the speed of a lift truck within a given environment can help reduce the likelihood of a speed-related incident. For loading docks and other tight work areas, Hyster also offers a zero-turn radius truck that provides greater maneuverability when compared to standard four-wheel trucks, allowing the lift truck to safely operate in a much tighter space. Our customers have also pointed out that by replacing the LP lift truck units with electric lift trucks, they are reducing the level of emissions found in the work environment, and thus providing a healthier working environment for their employees.

Jeff Mueller, Manager of Vehicle Safety Standards Engineering, Jungheinrich Warehouse Products (North America)

Protecting people, product and property is critical to the food manufacturing industry. Material handling equipment, and its use, plays an important role in helping accomplish this objective.

First, ensure your equipment meets the ANSI/ITSDF B56.1 Safety Standard for Low Lift and High Lift Trucks. This industry safety standard not only governs the design and testing criteria for material handling equipment, but also sets forth the requirements for the proper operation and maintenance of the equipment.
The food manufacturing process offers unique applications and challenges. Many manufacturers offer common equipment options to the industry such as backup alarms, travel alarms, headlights and strobe lights. In addition, some equipment can be ordered with “configurable” or adjustable options like speed limit control, acceleration control and shelf height selection. The specific work environment will dictate what options are appropriate.

What is not “optional” is having a well-trained operator of the equipment. U.S. OSHA Regulation 29 CFR 1910.178 requires operators to complete a thorough training program and obtain certification on the type of material handling equipment he or she will be operating. Training shall consist of a combination of formal instruction (e.g., lecture, discussion, interactive computer learning, video tape, written material), practical training (demonstrations performed by the trainer and practical exercises performed by the trainee), and evaluation of the operator's performance in the workplace. Employers must remember that each operator must be re-evaluated and re-certified every three years.

Having the appropriate equipment in the right configuration, along with a well-trained operator, will go along way in helping to reduce the potential for worker injuries and product damage in your workplace.

More in Facility