Data published by the UK’s Health and Safety Executive last year revealed that 30 of the 147 workers fatally injured in 2018/19 were struck by a moving vehicle. This compared to 24 in 2017/18 and an annual average of 27 over the period 2014/15-2018/19 (www.is.gd/megale).
There are a range of vehicle types used across industry, from cars, vans and trucks, to a variety of mobile and construction plant, such as diggers and tractors. However, one of the most commonly used vehicles is the forklift truck (FLT) – and the main focus of this article.
Operations Engineer has delved into FLTs on many occasions, typically focusing on a certain safety aspect of the machine itself, such as the tyres or battery system (see box out). However, another main concern to FLT operators – like all vehicle operators – is the presence of people and the risk that they pose of collisions.
To help prevent accidents, measures such as mirrors, CCTV systems and improving the operating position, can be implemented to improve operator field of vision. However, another aid is the sensor system, also known as detection systems, that are fitted to FLTs with the aim of mitigating the risk of a collision by providing warning alarms and, sometimes, automatically stopping the truck when an obstruction is detected.
One example whereby such technology has been implemented comes from building products manufacturer Ibstock. On-site safety is a top priority for the firm. In the past, it has worked with forklift truck manufacturers to develop a pedestrian detection and automatic braking system for reversing lift trucks.
More recently, the system has been upgraded and adapted by forklift maker Doosan for use on five of its torque converter-equipped, three tonne-capacity D30S-7 counterbalance trucks, which were supplied to Ibstock’s Forticrete facility in Anstone, near Sheffield. Working together with local Doosan dealer Glosrose Engineering and control and safety specialists Transmon Engineering, the new trucks were prepared and put through their paces by the Ibstock team.
The system features a three-stage safety system. The first stage warns the operators with an alarm and flashing lights when between nine to five metres away from an object, while the second stage automatically slows the forklift down when at a distance of 5-3m from the object. When 3m away from an object, the brakes are applied to perform an automatic controlled stop.
Rob Lloyd, production manager for Forticrete, explains: “We’re moving thousands of tonnes of concrete products. Much of the work involves rough yard duties and that demands a tough, rugged truck. We found hydrostatic trucks were not best suited to the task and realised we needed the robust, heavy-lifting power of torque trucks – but, critically, we needed them to have automatic braking when reversing.”
The system also features an override button that allows the driver to proceed at a slow speed if the path can be navigated safely. In addition to the standard safety features – and along with the new pedestrian detection system – the Doosan trucks were all supplied with warning light systems, seatbelt interlocks, door interlocks on the cab, automatic radio cut-out when reversing, keypad driver access and flashing beacons.
Another detection system comes from Elokon, which was shortlisted last year for the ‘Technology’ category at the Design4Safety Awards, organised by the British Industrial Truck Association, with the aim of highlighting the importance of product or service design in improving safety standards.
The system, called ELOshield, is a radio-based proximity identification system that is available in four versions – ELOshieldGO (vehicle-to-pedestrian detection); ELOshieldDRIVE (vehicle-to-vehicle collision warning); ELOshieldZONE (proximity detection); and ELOshieldSPEEd (speed adaption).
The former, ELOshieldGO, sees a read-and-reception module installed on to the FLTs. They transmit a radio signal that is received, and reflected back, by modules that are worn by site personnel. Detection distances range from 1-15m.
According to Elokon, the driver receives visual and acoustic indication of imminent danger. The personal module close to an approaching vehicle fitted with a transmitter also provides a warning by emitting an acoustic signal and/or vibration alarm. Furthermore, the system can switch the vehicle to walking speed in order to slow it down.
The company also won in the `Industrial Vehicles & Ancillary Products` category with its ELOprotect system. The system uses two laser scanners, a display and an operating module to monitor the surrounding environment (www.is.gd/xadupi).
Many more pedestrian detection systems can be found online with a quick browse. Blaxtair, a brand from Acure, for example, offers a Pedestrian/Machinery Anti-Collision Camera that uses a sensor to continuously scan any blind areas around machinery. According to the company, the identification of the nature of each obstacle is based on video recognition algorithms and, if a person is detected in the danger zone, the system activates a visual warning and emits a signal to alert the driver. Furthermore, a cabin control screen allows the driver to judge the critical nature of the situation.
Forklift manufacturer Jungheinrich offers a detection system that consists of a reversing camera with pedestrian detection. If a person is in the hazard area, the system will immediately release a visual and audible alarm.
Linde Material Handling also presented a Surround View camera system in 2018 that provides a 360-degree view of forklift surroundings. It is based on automotive sector technology that combines the views of several cameras to form one overall image. The on-board computer then places the contours of the vehicle within the image and displays it to the driver as a virtual bird’s eye view. The Surround View system tries to take this one step further. The image display is still based on live data from cameras mounted around the truck, but instead of a single overall image, the system generates a front, a rear and two lateral fields of vision. If there is someone in the overlapping area of two cameras, they will be displayed in both fields of vision.
These are just a few examples of detection systems available across industry. Ultimately, FLT operators and personnel working in close proximity both have a responsibility to ensure that they do not put themselves and others in danger by staying aware of their surroundings. Detection system technology can help aid in that quest.