Forklift related accidents contribute a significant proportion of workplace fatalities all over the world. No more severe is this problem than in the USA, the location where the majority of forklifts are manufactured. “OHSA estimates forklifts cause about 85 fatal accidents per year, 34,000 accidents result in serious injury and 61,800 are classified as non-serious”. (Hall, 1996)
Furthermore forklift accidents occur indiscriminately across all industry sectors, however a significant fatality ‘blackspot’ exists for plant and machine operators within the Manufacturing industry (NOHSC, 1998). A high density of pedestrian workers exists within this environment, which in addition to vehicle roll-overs comprise the main accident mechanisms. Conditions like narrowed aisleways and carrying loads were found to increase the likelihood of such accidents nearly two fold. (Collins et al (a), 1999)
Certain risk factors were found to be inherent, due to the design and functional requirements of the forklift. The narrow track coupled to a variable centre of gravity makes stability a primary concern whilst operating. Cornering and the responsive steering characteristics of forklifts are two unbridled determinants of the vehicle’s stability. Toyota was found to be the only forklift manufacturer to address the issue of forklift stability, and does so with the advent of SAS technology introduced on their new 7 Series forklift. (Thomas, 1999)
Stability becomes even more of an issue when handling loads, especially when adjusting the mast whilst the forks are elevated. Both Toyota and Komatsu forklifts now have an automatic mast-levelling feature, which is an initial step towards reducing the impact of this hazard (Robertson, 1999). Further development of this feature is required so that the effects of steering actions, uneven terrain and positioning the load is represented therefore making this an even more desirable feature.
Whilst the challenge of maintaining stability for forklifts is renowned, a great concern exists due to the absence of an effective means to warn or restrict operators from handling unsafe loads or performing unsafe actions. Adaptation of attitude indicators as used in aviation to inform pilots of the aircraft’s dynamics, may be an example of a more effective means of relaying stability safety information rather than a basic load chart (Allstar Networks, 2000). This could be the first stage of technological advancement, which prevents actions from occurring that may contravene the vehicle’s safety dynamics.
2003. , 30 p.