CeMAT Insider

OPINION: Slow and steady forklifts win the race

Posted by CeMAT Team on 03-Jun-2016 09:35:46


This post was written by Forkliftaction blogger Nick Welch is Senior Technical Development Executive for RTITB, the largest forklift training accrediting body in the UK and Ireland, recognised by the HSE, HSA and HSENI.

Forklifts account for around 25% of workplace incidents, and while it’s fair to say that speed doesn’t play a role in all incidents, reckless speed is a significant contributing factor in many of the things that affect both safety and productivity. The average forklift environment is highly pressurised and fast-paced with deadlines to meet and schedules to keep. Is it possible to work fast and stay safe or does safety mean less productivity? 

Here are five reasons why slow and steady will always win the race: 

1. Truck stability. It’s a well-known fact that counterbalance forklifts travelling at excessive speed are at an increased risk of rolling over, but a common misconception is that this is not the case when the truck is empty. In fact, a truck carrying a load that is correctly heeled and in the correct travel position is more stable than an unladen truck, due to the lower centre of gravity. 

2. Accuracy. An operator who takes the time to correctly position the forklift for a turn or a pallet position is less likely to make lots of manoeuvring corrections. Each time the truck is manoeuvred or the hydraulics are adjusted, wear and tear occurs and power/fuel is used. Repositioning and adjusting also takes up more valuable time. Taking a moment to get it right first time could make all the difference. 

3. Damage. Raising a heavy load at high speed increases strain on the lifting components that allow the forklift to do its job. Sudden, jerky stopping of the lifting mechanism also places additional strain on the equipment, but it can also affect the stability and possibly the integrity of the load. Smooth, controlled use of the hydraulics will limit the strain and make the process safer and more accurate. 

4. General environment safety. It’s no secret that travelling at high speed limits the time that drivers have to react and increases the chances of collisions with other trucks, pedestrians and racking systems. And then there’s the effect that harsh braking has on the vehicle, the load, the floor surface, etc. Workplace speed restrictions should take into account a number of factors, including the forklift’s limitations, the types of load carried, the floor conditions, other machinery and pedestrians working in the area. 

5. Rushing leads to short cuts. There’s no doubt that experienced operators will work more quickly than less experienced operators. And there’s nothing wrong with that when correct working practices are followed. But when quick working is a product of corner cutting, speed becomes reckless. Turning with loads raised, operating the hydraulics while travelling, not sounding the horn at doorways and skipping pre-use inspections because there just isn’t time are all examples of actions taken by operators who are rushing and placing their own safety and the safety of others at risk, not to mention the integrity of the equipment, the load and fittings such as racking. 

It’s a complicated issue with lots of factors to take into account, but well-trained operators working alongside knowledgeable managers and supervisors who understand the environment, the equipment and operating standards are the best defence against bad working practices that often result in loss of productivity, injuries and sadly, death. 


forklift-action-logo-imhx.gifLaunched in 2000, Forkliftaction is a recognised local and global news service and online resource centre for Materials Handling. Forkliftaction is a proud partner to CeMAT Australia. See Forkliftaction’s full line up of industry bloggers.

Blog first published in Forkliftaction.com News: Newsletter #764. ‘Safety First’ column. Register free, for full access to Forkliftaction’s range of industry resources.

Topics: Intralogistics, Warehouse