Recently, a distribution center came to us with a problem, stretch wrapping was slowing down their forklift drivers. During an average shift, forklift operators were getting on and off their forklifts nearly 200 times to stretch wrap pallets. And this customer’s problem isn’t unique, many warehouse operations that rely on manual stretch wrapping find that the process slows them down considerably (especially if they greatly increase volume).
However, not only is hand wrapping pallets slow and tedious, but forcing operators off of their forklifts also greatly increases their risk of injury.
The risks of forklifts
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), about 110,000 forklift related accidents happen every year. In fact, according to the Warehousing Education and Research Council, one in three forklift-related injuries occur when operators get on and off their forklift.
Ways to reduce forklift risks
If you can’t reduce the number of times a driver gets on and off their forklift (low volume or other factors make automation untenable) then there are some other steps you can take to minimize risk.
One basic risk reduction measure is to simply separate pedestrian and forklift traffic. According to an article by Machinery Equipment Today, "forklift injuries often happen when people stand too close to moving forklifts".
The easiest way to mitigate this risk is simply to separate the two traffic streams.You could consider adding designated forklift lanes that pedestrians are instructed not to walk in. Designating and clearly marking forklift spaces for loading, unloading, and pallet wrapping is also an easy way to cut down on pedestrian/forklift traffic.
Another option for reducing risk is reducing the number of people working near forklifts. This can be difficult, but clearly marked forklift areas are a good start.
A clearly defined loading dock injury prevention plan is also a great way to help reduce risk.
Another option for reducing this risk (and speeding up stretch wrapping times considerably) is to consider a semi-automatic or automatic stretch wrapper. An automatic stretch wrapper (in addition to wrapping the pallet) is able to cut the film from the load at the end of the wrap cycle and hold the film to attach it to the next load.
Many automated options also allow forklift drivers to begin the stretch wrapping process without getting off their forklifts (either remotely or with a device like a lanyard switch).
Reduce the risk
The best way to reduce the risk to forklift operators is to keep them on their forklifts, and the best way to do that is with a stretch wrapping machine that eliminates the need for hand wrapping. If you are looking at your options, and would like to learn more, check out our free Guide to Buying a Stretch Wrapper - available here for download today.
You may be interested in these related posts:
- Pallet Jack Safety Fails: An Infrequent But Serious Problem
- 6 Common Semi-Automatic Pallet Wrapper Safety Considerations
- Does your loading dock injury prevention plan create safety hazards?
This post was published on August 2, 2016 and updated on February 13, 2019.