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What are forklift proximity detection systems?

Every year, a large number of injuries are caused by pedestrians being hit by forklifts. As forklifts are extremely heavy, they can create fatal crush injuries quite easily.

The best solution is to completely separate pedestrians and forklifts but this is not always possible or practical in a work environment. A forklift proximity detection system is a warning system that either

  1. alerts the forklift driver that an object or pedestrian is too close by using a visual warning (e.g. a red light) and/or an audible warning
  2. alerts a pedestrian a forklift is approaching by using a visual and/or vibrating warning; and/or
  3. stops the forklift if a specified object or pedestrian is too close (many systems have two zones: the outer zone warns the driver and the pedestrian and the inner zone, where the pedestrian is very close, stops the forklift.)

The systems use tags carried by pedestrians and sensors on the forklift. If the forklift detects a tag that is too close, it will perform an action, e.g. playing a warning sound, reducing the forklift’s speed or stopping the forklift completely, depending on the configuration.

Tag detection distances can usually be set to suit the operating environment from half a metre up to 25 metres. Systems can be set to operate in front of, behind and to the sides of the forklift.

How else are forklift proximity warning systems useful?

Similar tags can be applied to sensitive equipment to prevent forklifts from damaging it, for example, when working around aircraft or critical machinery; if the forklift comes too close, it will be stopped before it has a chance to cause damage.

Tags can be applied to pedestrian crossings and walkways to slow forklifts down in these zones.

Tags can be used to open and close doors automatically, for example, into coolstores, or turn machinery on or off.

Tags can be used to slow forklifts down through doorways

Tags can be used between forklifts where there are blind corners or busy crossing points.

How do the systems work?

Some systems work using RFID tags. Others use magnetic field generators. The driver can also wear a tag which is then locked off once they get on the forklift. If they get off the forklift, their tag is reactivated.

If a pedestrian approaches the forklift it helps them automatically maintain a predefined exclusion zone, for example three metres.

Darren is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the NZ Motoring Writers' Guild

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