Kenco discusses warehouse safety, particularly forklift accidents, and how data can be leveraged to reduce them. Forklift accidents are a persistent problem in warehouses, causing injuries and lost productivity. National Forklift Safety Day highlights this issue

As supply chain professionals, we spend much of our day with our heads in the numbers: number of goods shipped, average time to pick and pack, inventory accuracy. Missing those goals may be frustrating, but it’s not the end of the world. There’s always a chance to improve productivity the next day.

However, there’s one data point that remains stubbornly high across the U.S., and its repercussions can’t be fixed overnight: warehouse accidents. The National Safety Council found nearly 25,000 workers were involved in DART (Days Away, Restricted or Transferred) forklift accidents between 2021 and 2022, with more than 15,000 cases requiring employees to spend days away from work. Improper forklift training and use is such a common issue that the industry now recognizes National Forklift Safety Day on the second Tuesday of June – June 11 this year.

So what can warehouse managers do to reduce these accidents – and avoid the health and productivity impacts accompanying them?

Looking at OSHA’s Hierarchy of Controls, we find challenges to accident reduction both at the top and the bottom of the pyramid. Elimination and substitution may one day be possible as more forklifts become automated, but these approaches aren’t short-term solutions. Administrative controls still place prevention while the forklift is in operation firmly in the driver’s hands. PPE might give the driver a little protection during an accident, but is unlikely to reduce property damage.

For National Forklift Safety Day, let’s look at the middle of the pyramid – engineering controls – and how technology designed to monitor forklift operations can have a big impact on safety efforts.

Leveraging telemetry to reduce accidents

Telemetry isn’t a new solution, but as data becomes an even more valuable currency across the supply chain, monitoring tools have also grown in importance. Warehouse managers want to see every movement of their forklifts the same way they can track goods and employee movement throughout the facility. In fact, many major forklift manufacturers now pre-install telemetry functions within their forklifts.

Once a telemetry solution is activated, it can offer a variety of metrics that give management insight into a driver’s habits. Apart from measuring speed, telemetry tracks data points such as how much pressure the driver applies on the brakes, or whether they’re overloading the forklift’s weight capacity. In the event of an accident, telemetry simplifies piecing together what occurred and retraining forklift operators to reduce future risk. The technology can even lock the driver out of operating the forklift for a set time after starting the vehicle, ensuring the driver conducts the OSHA-required safety checklist prior to operation.

Telemetry monitoring also extends to the vehicle itself, reducing the chance a malfunction causes a forklift accident. The technology can measure vitals such as tire pressure and battery life, and alert warehouse techs when preventative maintenance might be needed.

Unlocking forklift monitoring – no matter the brand

Warehouse managers who want to leverage telemetry often face a similar roadblock: implementing one solution across all forklifts. Manufacturers often gate their telemetry function and require a subscription to access. In warehouses with four different brands of forklifts, that means four different subscriptions to ensure data collection across all assets. The change management involved in getting team members to consistently leverage a telemetry solution is already hard enough – imagine undergoing that process three more times.

At Kenco, we’ve solved this complexity with our proprietary FleetCloud solution. FleetCloud is brand-agnostic, allowing warehouse managers to implement the technology once and gain visibility into forklift operations across the warehouse. There’s only one point-of-contact for training and ongoing maintenance, and only one login process to remember. In addition, FleetCloud can pair with Kenco’s Strategic Insights solution – part of our comprehensive MHE Solutions offering. Strategic Insights gives warehouse managers access to experts who can analyze their telemetry data against a pool of data from our facilities nationwide, helping managers maximize their assets’ lifespans.

Chances are your warehouse isn’t living at either end of the Hierarchy of Controls – you’re not ready to invest in full automation, but leaving accident avoidance up to the rule book and PPE alone is too risky. Telemetry is the solid middle ground, offering you the data visibility needed to ensure the rules you’ve put in place are being followed, and that you’re staying up-to-date on maintenance.

Interested in learning more about Kenco’s telemetry solutions? Read more about Fleet Cloud here and Kenco MHE Solutions’ Strategic Insights offering here.