When it comes to forklift accidents, forklift operators are most often blamed, with many companies holding training sessions for the driver after each accident. But a safety curriculum project recently investigated the adequacy of standard forklift training courses and found that as many as 25 percent of forklift accidents are not caused by the driver but environmental factors that are controllable. Only when the real causes of forklift accidents are known can businesses eliminate hazards and design a safe operating environment. An essential tool in reducing forklift accidents are safety lights.
If safety lights had been a part of the canning plant where John Black worked a few years ago, he might not have been injured on the job. It was a Friday morning and Black was on his way to the storeroom when he stopped and talked to a coworker who ran the palatizer. During their conversation, a forklift struck Black from behind, breaking his hip. Insurance investigators determined the forklift driver wasn’t watching where he was going. To add insult to injury, the incident report criticized Black for not paying attention.
The canning plant had a history of forklift accidents, each one reportedly caused by forklift operator error. However, a second investigation revealed other contributing factors. This investigation found that light readings at the canning plant’s warehouse measured 5 candlepower, far below acceptable light levels for general operations. OSHA Inspectors also cited the company for noise violations due to sound levels measured at 100 decibels. Approximately 60% of the employees at the plant suffered hearing loss. During his eight years of employment there, Black lost 30% of his hearing capacity. The plant had no pedestrian routes, nor any protective islands. Due to production line speed, the average speed of forklift trucks through the area where the accident occurred was eight miles per hour. To make matters worse, the forklift involved in the accident didn’t have any safety lights, nor did it have an automatic back alarm.
When it comes to proper lighting in a warehouse it’s important to understand how light affects vision among people of different ages. As a person reaches the age of forty their eyes go through predictable changes, with the lens becoming progressively opaque and a weakening of the muscles that control the focus of the lens. This condition continues to degenerate until a person reaches the age of sixty.
What does this have to do with lighting? Because of these changes in vision, a man in his sixties needs six times as much light to discriminate objects as a man in his twenties. As a person loses their ability to discriminate objects in dim settings, they become more sensitive to glare. A forklift driver in a dark warehouse with too little depth perception won’t be able to see a fellow employee or object in time to respond.
OSHA measures light in footcandle units and in lumens per square foot and established a minimum standard for lighting in areas where forklifts operate. Safety codes recommend the minimum light level to be 20 footcandles in warehouses. When light levels in an area are below 2 lumens per square foot, forklift trucks are required to use auxiliary lights. Auxiliary lighting is a complex task. Especially, since forklift trucks normally carry loads in reverse. Turn to Forklift America for safety and auxiliary lighting to keep your warehouse safer and reduce forklift accidents.