Following an OSHA mandate requiring checklists be routinely completed before every lift truck operation, the industry has finally become comfortable having a routine. But, that doesn’t mean forklift users have gotten any better at it. In 2011, more than 3,400 citations were issued for non-compliance with section 1910.178 governing powered industrial trucks. As an alternative, truck-mounted fleet management technology from a variety of suppliers offers built-in compliance with official and user-defined safety standards.
In theory, checklists are kept on the lift truck, completed at the start of each shift, collected and reviewed by a supervisor weekly (or sometimes monthly), then filed in anticipation of an OSHA inspection or an incident.
The possibility exists for an operator to complete a checklist, mark the truck “unsafe for operation” then go and drive the truck. Only when the checklist crosses the supervisor’s desk will there be an opportunity to take the unit in question out of service.
“If there’s an incident before those repairs, the supervisor can only hope that the checklist demonstrating a lack of action is nowhere to be found,” says Jim Gaskell, director of Global Insite Products for Crown Equipment.
Truck-mounted technology can now automatically shut down the unit upon a failed inspection while immediately sending e-mails to the supervisor and service provider. Those inclined to “pencil whip” the randomized checklist questions are held accountable by a dashboard that shows a supervisor whether each operator has taken 30 seconds to complete a recommended 3- to 5-minute inspection. When it comes time for an audit, the process can be cut from as much as a day of collecting and organizing paper checklists to a few minutes to generate and print a report.
These systems can provide a 13-month ROI and enable much more than checklist compliance. But, they also require a sizable cultural shift in labor management. An operator whose truck locks down after a failed inspection will have to find another one. And, an operator whose required refresher training period expired yesterday will find he cannot access any forklift in the building.
Supervisor visibility into the fleet and its operators also allows managers to evaluate each worker based on the sum of his productivity, speed and safety. For instance, a supervisor who always perceived the fastest picker to be among the most valuable might suddenly see all the impacts that have come as a result of that speed. Less-experienced operators can have their profiles adjusted to set speed caps on whatever forklift they are using.
“One customer found that an employee’s forklift never lifted throughout the day,” says Gaskell, offering an extreme example. “The guy had just been driving around the warehouse talking to people.”