Material handling equipment-pedestrian cohabitation

by Dec 4, 2018Material handling safety management

Material handling equipment-pedestrian cohabitation in the workplace


The optimal performance level of any Production or Operations Management System couldn’t be reached without a material handling system supporting it. Accordingly, special attention must be given to material handling equipment for their frequent use and for traffic density in the workplace.

Several types of material handling equipment are used in all industrial sectors, from simple manual trolleys to automated industrial vehicles through pallet trucks and stackers. However, the most common and most used, but also the most dangerous, are decidedly lift trucks.

In Quebec in 2013, three workers died and 601 were injured in accidents caused by forklifts. Also, between 2017 and 2018, 8 fatal accidents were directly or indirectly related to the use of forklifts.

Although being struck is the most specific? type of accident related to lift trucks, mainly because of their weight (the weight of a forklift equals that of three cars), as well as their traffic environment (often in coexistence with pedestrians), lift trucks are associated with several other dangers for which the damages could be as severe as those of a collision—carbon monoxide poisoning, overturning, collisions with structures (sometimes followed by collapses), load drops, musculoskeletal disorders (usually caused by excessive reverse driving), falling or slipping of the operator.

Given this range of dangerous situations that forklifts can cause, effective management of their cohabitation with pedestrians and the safety of their operators becomes necessary, while not disturbing or altering handling or production efficiencies. Additionally, to ensure that safety and performance objectives are achieved, all aspects of material handling must be taken into consideration—from the equipment itself, to the traffic plan, to the facilities layout and controlling for human factors (operators and pedestrians). Therefore, a custom analysis must be performed to account for the specific aspects of each company.

Although lift trucks get the first priority because of the severity of accidents caused by this type of equipment coupled with their frequent use in the workplace, other material handling equipment must not be neglected (e.g. powered pallet trucks). Their integration in the analysis allows not only for a better control of the dangers relating to them, but their use could also offer options to resolve a lift truck related problem (better matching between the unit load and the material handling equipment).

Finally, we would like to note that several sections in the Regulation respecting occupational health and safety are dedicated to lift trucks and traffic safety in the workplace.

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Intervention Prévention Inc.

Intervention Prévention concentrates its operations in the field of work safety, offering specialized services following Standards CSA Z462 – Workplace Electrical Safety, CSA Z460 – Control of Hazardous Energy: Lock-out and Other Methods, and CSA Z432 – Safeguarding of Machinery.


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