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  • Writer's pictureSarah Ghiz Korwan, Esq.

National Forklift Safety Day Conference and Webinar

On June 14, 2022, National Forklift Safety Day was marked by an in-person conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., which was also available through a live-streamed webinar. The conference was moderated by Chuck Pascarelli, President, Americas, Hyster-Yale Group. The speakers included Doug Parker, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA), Jonathan Dawley, President & CEO, KION North America; Lorne Weeter, Vice President of Sales, Mobile Automation, Dematic; and Brian Duffy, Director of Corporate Environmental and Manufacturing Safety, Crown Equipment Corporation.

First on the agenda Doug Parker, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, started his discussion by noting that the mission of OSHA is not simply advancing worker safety, but to make safety a core value of business and employers. He stressed the need for business and industry to think and operate holistically, an approach which means incorporating worker safety at various levels, such as in design and manufacturing in trucks. To support this holistic approach on another level, OSHA plans to roll out a “Safe and Sound Campaign” later this summer, which provides companies with tools to make incremental steps toward safety. The program sets up simple goals to make it more accessible for small and medium sized employers to improve the health and safety culture of a business. He noted that this program offers on safety training for trucks and forklifts as well.

Secretary Parker included OSHA’s Heat Initiative in his remarks, noting that the dangers of heat exposure may be getting worse due to climate change. He noted that heat stress can be especially bad where industrial powered vehicles are used outdoors, but can also impact jobs indoors where forklifts are in operation. He stated that heat is the leading cause of weather-related deaths. As part of it the Heat Initiative, OSHA is planning on engaging in significant outreach this summer by distributing information and providing education to companies when the temperature is expected to reach eighty degrees and, for the first time in the history of OSHA, they will be doing proactive inspections when national weather service issues heat advisory warnings.

Secretary Parker concluded his remarks by discussing OSHA’s work updating regulations related to powered industrial trucks and national consensus standards. OSHA received twenty-three comments during the comment period, which ended in May, and most of which were supportive of OSHA’s scope. This particular rulemaking is especially challenging since the current rules are outdated and the original powered industrial truck standard dates to 1969. He hopes that in the future there will be more time and resources to update national consensus standards and outdated rules. There is no projected date for when the new standards will be released.

Jonathan Dawley, President & CEO, KION North America, and this year’s chairman of National Forklift Safety Day next presented on why forklift safety makes good business sense. First, Dawley noted that since the pandemic, the labor market is tighter than ever before, with high turnover of employees, a culture of safety is critical for better employee retention. To promote better safety, training must include pedestrian awareness, new worker training as well as equipment operation. Dawley also discussed the importance of communication at all levels, including the most basic facility signage which provides traffic patterns. The next level of communication includes town hall meetings with management.

Next, Dawley discussed automation in vehicles, forklifts, telematics (including wireless and systems which can be deployed to lock/tag out if there’s a problem), and technology in forklift safety. He noted that technology is quickly developing to enhance safety, including areas such as collision avoidance technology and operator awareness technology. He also noted that leveraging on technology is not a substitute for a culture of safety, but certainly enhances it. He emphasized that a culture of safety starts at the top, including key performance indicators, safety reviews and engagement of workers at all levels of management stream. He encouraged leadership which encompasses learning, action and accountability with follow up along the management and worker ladder.

Lorne Weeter, Vice President of Sales, Mobile Automation, Dematic discussed the different types of automation and related safety issues related to each. Specifically, the different types of automated equipment include traditional equipment, such as powered industrial trucks, which require manual operation, automated-guided forks (AGF), and automated-guided vehicles (AGV), which only operate on defined path. He further discussed that automated mobile robots (AMR) are also now commonly used in industry, and these operate on real-time path planning. They engage with the use camera systems, analogous to self-driving cars, using Smart manufacturing, cameras and artificial intelligence.

AGFs and AGVs require navigation scanners which look at targets and QR codes on floor. These also require a computerized integration with user interface. They must have emergency stop bottoms accessible on all sides and laser safety scanners. As automation develops, key safety measures must also be considered with automation and robotics. First, there must be site safety assessment, which includes identification of hazards and who is at risk, must be performed. This also includes safety training of people and periodic checks to maintain safety. He also advises the importance of separating people from automated equipment with physical barriers, signage and training. He stressed that separate areas for robots and workers must be maintained. Finally, he discussed awareness of scanning capability, noting that scanning ranges change, and pick up areas and pinch points create high hazard areas, requiring regular training and testing.

The final speaker was Brian Duffy, Director of Corporate Environmental and Manufacturing Safety, Crown Equipment Corporation. He presented on a highly successfully, detailed safety program developed at Crown. The twenty-week program looks at focused behaviors of material handlers and pedestrians and involves coaches, or peers, who are respected and trained to positively reinforce safe behaviors. The program uses observations, training, and feedback to constructively address behaviors which need to be corrected. Crown also has re-training program if a worker has an accident or other problem. The results have been a dramatic decrease in lift truck accidents and an increase in compliance to 95%.

For assistance with safety training at your operation, call the Law Office at 301-595-3520.

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