Best practice interaction between forklifts and pedestrians

Fork-Safe International
Thursday, 25 January, 2007

When Pilkington Australia installed new manufacturing equipment at its Dandenong plant in Melbourne, the issue of how forklifts would interact with pedestrians in an area that never before had forklifts in operation needed to be addressed.

The types of vehicles that were being used also heightened these issues: 2.5, 5 and 15 tonne forklifts were now required to operate in close proximity. Worse still, the access points were a mixture of blind spots, pedestrian walkways and other potential hazards.

Justin McKenzie from Pilkington contacted Fork-SAFE International, who had assisted the company with traffic management in the past.

Once external site reviews were out the way, it was time to gain an understanding of what Pilkington was trying to achieve. This involved meetings with production staff and management to ascertain a clear requirement and resulted in plans being drawn and re-drawn to design a system that suited the requirements of safety, production and budget.

The end result was labelled by Pilkington as "Keeping forklifts and pedestrians apart using smart technology".

In its basic form, the system designed and installed by Fork-SAFE prohibits a forklift or a pedestrian from being able to cross paths simultaneously when they come to a designated crossing point, a practice that the WorkSafe authorities are now requiring.

By using a range of devices and controls such as Cross-SAFE Gates, Boom Gates, Safety Rail and other warning devices, the system is able to determine whether a pedestrian or forklift is approaching or crossing and who is required to give way.

When a pedestrian wants to cross at a designated point via the Cross-SAFE Gate, the Gate notifies the system that is has been opened and that a pedestrian has entered the area.

This activates the yellow strobe lights at the Gates to let forklifts know that a pedestrian is crossing, and prohibits the Boom Gates from opening. Once the pedestrian is clear, the yellow strobe lights are switched off and if there is a forklift waiting, the boom gates can open pending certain criteria.

When a forklift comes to the Boom Gate to cross the Pedestrian walkway, the system checks to see if there are any pedestrians crossing. If so, the Boom Gates remain closed until the pedestrians are clear, but will turn on the flashing Forklift Signs at the Cross-Safe Gates to let pedestrians know that a forklift is waiting to cross.

When the area is clear, the Cross-SAFE Gates will magnetically lock and the Boom Gates will open. The Boom gates remain open until the forklift is clear. When the sensors confirm this, the boom gates will close, the Lights switch off and the gates unlock.

The various access points for forklifts needed to have the same type of control, but because the access points were in a close proximity to each other, a range of sensors and logic was used to provide a clear warning to other forklifts and pedestrians of where the current vehicle was, and who had right of way at that moment.

The solution resulted in the following type of operation. When a vehicle arrives at the roller door from inside the factory, the system turns on a Warning Light to let other vehicles know a forklift is on the other side and about to enter.

This also prohibits the Boom Gates from opening until the forklift is clear of the area to avoid a collision, but will allow a pedestrian to cross as they are not in a danger area.

The system was designed to provide a 'best practice' solution to achieve the following criteria:

  1. Complete separation of vehicles and pedestrians.
  2. Controlled vehicle to vehicle interaction.
  3. Controlled 'right of way' logic to remove decision-making processes.
  4. Controlled vehicle traffic flow
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