What goes up must come down. But if it happens at the wrong time, these forklift components can help keep the load from falling on the operator.
Look up! In many warehouses, vertical racking and stacking of goods and materials is commonplace and can present a risk of them falling toward the operator. In fact, to the initiated, it can seem downright scary to be walking through a warehouse with so many items looming overhead. While properly designed unit loads are unlikely to have materials fall, circumstances can result in materials coming down at the wrong time and in the wrong place.
Taking a systems approach, there is a lot that goes into ensuring that boxes or other items do not fall from above, risking your safety. Luckily, as an extra layer of precaution, particular forklift components are designed to keep the operator safe from such falling materials. In this article, we touch upon what can be done to prevent falling items in the warehouse, as well as the forklift components responsible for keeping you safe from this risk.
Why do objects fall in warehouses?
Materials falling from heights in warehouses can be a significant safety hazard, potentially causing injury to personnel, damage to goods, and disruptions in operations. There are several reasons why such incidents occur, ranging from improper load design to equipment failure to operator error and more.
In many warehouses, a common reason for falling objects is a lack of proper securement. For example, materials are often secured by stretch wrap or banding, and if poorly applied or under-specified, may result in falling objects due to vibration or contact with racking or other loads. Issues may arise if the storage racks or pallets are not adequately rated for the load in racking or multiple pallet stacking situations, and result in equipment failure, in turn leading to falling product.
There are other considerations. Damage to the pallet racking or to individual pallets can also result in failure and increase the risk of falling merchandise. Another concern is employee error. Unit loads may be stacked in an unstable fashion or without consideration of the stacking strength of unit loads. Also, the forklift operator might position the load incorrectly in the racks, or perhaps make contact with the bar above or on an upright and cause materials to fall. Likewise, collisions or sudden stops could result in falling products.
How to prevent falling items
To prevent materials from falling in warehouses, several measures can be implemented:
Proper Training and Supervision: Ensure that all personnel receive training and ongoing supervision regarding safe stacking practices and the operation of material handling equipment. This includes understanding the weight limits and stability considerations for stored materials, correct positioning in racks, and stacking techniques. The proper application of stretch wrap or other load containment should also be considered.
Regular Inspections: Conduct regular inspections of storage racks and shelving for signs of wear, damage, or instability. Include in the inspection any incorrectly positioned or unsecured pallets, as well as damaged or non-conforming pallets. Ensure that identified risks are assessed and rectified as necessary in a timely manner.
Adhering to Load Limits: Always adhere to the recommended load limits of storage equipment. This includes paying attention to the weight distribution to prevent uneven loading. Unit load design software such as Best Load or Pallet Design System can help ensure that your pallet and packaging are fit for purpose.
Securing Materials: Use stretch wrap straps, guards, or containment systems to secure materials on shelves, particularly for items stored at higher levels. Mesh guards can also be helpful.
Contingency Planning: Keep in mind that hazards can emerge at any time, and should be addressed in a timely manner. Don’t wait until the next monthly inspection! Workers should be trained to identify hazards, as mentioned above, and know how to respond, depending upon the degree of risk. Imminent risks might dictate, for example, that an aisle be “coned” and closed to traffic until the overhead hazard is rectified.
By addressing these factors and implementing safety measures, the risk of materials falling from heights in warehouses can be significantly reduced, creating a safer and more efficient work environment.
What forklift components prevent loads from falling?
The forklift is specially designed to maintain heavy loads during transport and load falling towards the operator. There are two main components that are specially incorporated in forklifts to maintain balance.
The Mast: Vertical Stability
The mast is a vertically assembled component attached to the front of the forklift that is responsible for elevating and lowering the forklift. “Mast” provides structural stability by connecting channels and rails. Hydraulic cylinders and other components are incorporated into the mast to maintain vertical movement with precision. The design of the mast is combined with the counterweight at the backside of the forklift used to prevent tilting forward.
Backrest: Load Security
The backrest is an essential safety feature to keep the load from falling bulky items towards the operator. It is placed at the mast and is a protective barrier between the “Operator” and “Load.” It is the best feature that supports the load for securing it during transit and prevents the load from shifting backwards. As a protective shield, it minimises the risk of load falling with a tendency of safety measures.
If loads do fall, however, the overhead guard of the forklift can play a crucial role. The overhead guard is a metal roof-like structure situated above the operator’s head. It is designed to protect the forklift driver from falling objects such as boxes, pallets, or loose materials. While it’s not meant to withstand the impact of very heavy loads, it can effectively prevent smaller objects from directly hitting the operator.
Warehouse personnel must be mindful of the risk of falling objects. Poor load design and handling practices can increase risk, while attention to doing things right can make a powerful difference. Training, supervision and regular inspection are critical to keeping your facility safe. And don’t forget contingency training to address imminent safety risks if you have the misfortune to encounter one. Be prepared to shut down an aisle if needed. What comes up must come down, but preferably only when the time is right, and in a controlled fashion.