Forklift distance to approaching pedestrian

Keeping your distance

The COVID-19 pandemic has made us acutely aware of “social distancing”. We here at ARIN Technologies believe that keeping your distance is always a good thing.

There are several factors to consider when determining a safe distance from a forklift:

  • Forklift speed
  • Forklift size and weight
  • Picking height
  • Load size and type
Forklift Rotation with a load
A forklift pivots on the front wheels

First, consider the size of the forklifts in your facility. This will give you a minimum safe distance to maintain between you and the machinery. Forklifts are designed to work in tight quarters and narrow aisles. Unlike automobiles, forklifts steer with the back wheels and pivot around the front wheels. While this design is optimal for carrying heavy loads and spinning, forklift movement can catch a pedestrian off guard. When moving forward, the rear end swing has the potential to clip racking or nearby people. Likewise, the long forks swing around when traveling in reverse.

A forklift travelling at 7 mph requires about 20 feet to stop, according to A Guide to Forklift Safety. When you are situated in the direction of travel of a forklift, give extra time and space to react in case the vehicle unexpected changes direction.

Forklift with an elevated load
An elevated payload can topple

Picking height is a little less intuitive, but when a forklift is loading or unloading material from a high rack, give an extra wide berth equal to the height of your racking. As the material comes off from the rack, it has the highest potential for damage. Not only can it fall from a tall height, but this is the likely time that a forklift can tip. The tipping motion creates an arc which the load travels, crashing down many feet from the forklift location.

Lastly, consider the material in transit. If the load shifts quickly and becomes unbalanced, it will tip and fall to the ground. Give extra space in case a tall box topples or building material falls from a pallet or, perhaps, a containers full of liquid crashes and bursts.

With all of the negative aspects of COVID-19, it has taught us a new term, Social Distancing, that can be put to practical use around forklifts. Stay safe out there.