We’re nearing the end of Distracted Driving Awareness Month and it's also World Day for Safety and Health at Work. Distracted driving isn’t just a problem on the open road. It’s a serious problem when it comes to mobile equipment at work.
According to the National Safety Council, forklifts were the source of 78 work-related deaths and 7,290 nonfatal injuries involving days away from work in 2020. And according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), nearly 20 percent of forklift accidents involve a pedestrian, and 36% of forklift-related deaths are pedestrians.
Shared responsibility between mobile equipment operators and pedestrians is essential to safety. Before the term halo was a song or a video game, it was a forklift safety rule. A safety halo is commonly described as a virtual two-ring zone around a forklift. The warning zone, or yellow zone, is six feet away from the forklift. In this zone, the pedestrian and operator must make eye contact. The pedestrian must communicate their intentions. The operator must stop and yield the right of way to the pedestrian.
The red zone, or danger zone, is three feet away from the forklift. If a pedestrian is in the red zone, the operator must immediately stop, place the vehicle in neutral, set the parking brake and remove hands from the controls. The operator should not move the vehicle at all when a pedestrian is in the red zone halo. Pedestrians should only approach a forklift in the red zone if absolutely necessary and only if the vehicle is at a complete stop. The pedestrian should not lean on the vehicle or go near the controls.
World Day for Safety and Health at Work promotes acting together to promote the prevention of occupational accidents. The halo rule demonstrates the need for intentional interaction between mobile equipment operators and pedestrians to work together to create a safe environment. Teammates working together to keep each other safe is what a safety culture is all about.
Modern mobile equipment includes lighting to alert pedestrians to forklift traffic. Some even project lighting on the floor surrounding the vehicle, indicating the halo safety zones. Neither replace both the operator and pedestrian being present in the moment, aware of their surrounds and engaging in eye contact and communication. Technological can help, but personal responsibility leads to the safest outcomes.