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Avoiding Accidents between Forklifts and Pedestrians – Warehouse technology Müller & Partner GmbH sets new standards for safety technology

Collisions between forklifts and pedestrians are always dangerous and can lead to serious accidents. Companies today reduce the latent risk of an accident by the clear separation of traffic routes, the wearing of safety vests and by equipping the forklifts with cameras and sensors. Nevertheless, accidents still can’t be completely avoided at present.

INSERCO has also become aware of an increasing interest in this concern within their markets. Consequently, after some consultations and technical brainstorming with the safety equipment manufacturer Müller & Partner, they have taken up a strategic position in this sector.

The routes that pedestrians and forklifts use, particularly in private depots and on factory premises, aren't always able to be strictly separated from one another. Often, people and machines are working in very close proximity, e.g. when loading and unloading trucks with a forklift, this is common practice. Naturally, the traffic routes can be separated by specially designed markings or physical boundaries. However, this isn’t always possible or sensible from an operational standpoint or simply because of structural and/or space limitations. Safety devices on the construction machinery and forklifts, like optical and acoustic reverse warning systems and/or reverse cameras as well as the wearing of warning vests also minimize the accident risk.

But is that enough? If you ask around at any facility, it’s hard to find someone who can’t tell you about a coworker who was in dangerous situation at some point or was actually involved in an accident caused by a collision with a forklift. In the news, you can regularly hear about serious accidents between people and forklifts.

For the most part, unpredictable situations, mostly involving stress, distractions, but also even due to monotony and routine, lead to accidents. These happen even though the workers are trained and wearing easily visible work clothing. It is the unpredictable situations that usually lead to accidents, like when, for example, an electrician suddenly steps into the path of a forklift.

Up to this point, one decisive factor has been missing in the preventative measures taken for occupational traffic safety: an active alarm for both the vehicle's driver and the pedestrians within the traffic area of the vehicle.

While the systems available up to now only offer the driver assistance, an active alarm immediately alerts the attention of the driver and the pedestrian to the dangerous situation. With this alarm, both sides can react quickly and adequately.

The new LOS technology for collision avoidance

The new assistance system for avoiding collisions is wireless and based on the use of two devices: the KEEPER is installed on the forklift and “receives” the wireless signals of the BEEPER(s) in its range. Based on the measured distance between the two devices, a warning can be triggered. For practical use, the warning zones in the operational environment can be customized. Through the configuration of the system, a wide range of vehicle types can be supported.

Fig. 1: Functional principle of the LOS system: The BEEPER, worn by pedestrians, activates the KEEPER on the forklift based on the measured distance and alarms the wearer upon entry in a predefined danger zone.

Additionally, it is also possible to detect people behind obstacles and around corners. Depending on the situation, this “x-ray vision” can see through building and facility components in the line of sight because the wireless signal is reflected and can therefore "see" around obstacles. When the direct path is blocked, the wireless signal looks for alternative routes to the receiver – just like with cellular communications.

The range is adjustableand can be individually configured to the specific operation or traffic situation. Particularly important is the fast processing of the measurement data, which takes into account the approach of the monitored vehicle based on its speed. When forklifts or bicycles with a certain speed are moving toward a person or persons and this trend is clearly recognizable in the measurement data, the warning zone expands dynamically. So even despite apparently long propagation paths for the wireless signal (e.g. around corners), it’s possible to generate a timely warning signal for both parties. Optionally, the forklift can be set to “silent running” and stopped through a contact situated in the keeper. This is an additional increase in safety.

Summary

Forklift accidents are always events with far-reaching consequences for businesses. Unfortunately, they are seldom trivial. In fact, they are often serious and can even be fatal. The usual, general preventative measures for safety in a shared, occupational traffic area are often insufficient and leave a substantial, residual risk.

The LOS technology addresses this latent danger with a new approach: The pedestrian and the driver will be made equally aware of the dangerous situation in a ahead of time. In this way, critical situations can be detected in advance and serious accidents will be avoided.

INSERCO has chosen to enter a partnership with Müller & Partner based on their particularly innovative approach toward the issue of collision prevention using sophisticated technology. The competitive advantages of the safety technology, Made in Germany, make the product a useful addition in the operations of our customers.

For further information, please contact us by email: service@inserco.de

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