Go back better 

21 August 2020

How returning after lockdown presents unique opportunities to enhance safety and boost productivity for materials handling operations.

The talk is of business returning to a new normal, but one of the UK’s leading suppliers of forklift trucks believes the conversation should be about a new better. 

Mike Jones of RDD – UK importers for Mitsubishi Forklift Trucks – explains: “As organisations return to the workplace things are going to be very different and, in some cases, very difficult. But for many this return represents a rare opportunity to explore options and seize opportunities.”

What’s more, according to Mike Jones, complying with post-pandemic guidelines plays a very positive role in overcoming more traditional safety issues.

The rules governing a return to work may have focused attention on preventing infection… but they also provide the key to avoiding ongoing and wholly avoidable injuries; specifically, to colleagues working alongside forklifts. Every year many hundreds of pedestrians suffer life-changing injuries in British workplaces. 

Jones believes that any business can benefit by taking time out to fully examine and radically improve layouts and procedures: creating one-way systems, separating forklifts and pedestrians entirely, and introducing barriers and speed limits. He says: “This isn’t time for selling, everyone is feeling very cautious. It’s a time for listening and working with not only our customers but the wider community to find the best possible outcomes.”

Talk to someone who knows

“Now’s the time to get some practical, expert advice. Talk to someone who’s done it all before. Our experienced site surveyors can, without charge or obligation, explain the latest techniques and technologies to make your premises safer and, just as important, more cost-effective.”

For businesses who are re-starting, Jones suggests conducting an audit to make sure you have the most appropriate trucks for the job. “It could be that your operations have changed or soon will,” he adds. “Do you have the right number of trucks and are they the most efficient to get the job done? Equipment is extremely cheap when compared to the cost of an operator so it pays to make sure they have the tools to get the job done… along with the appropriate skill-set and training.” 

Future-proof your decisions

In a world that has seen so much change in such a short space of time, try to future-proof your decisions. In terms of motive power, the HSE is increasingly critical of the use of IC engine trucks in confined spaces. Where LP gas or diesel can’t be avoided, be aware that all new trucks must comply with Stage 5 emission standards. If you’re serious about employee health and welfare, you’ll want to seek out a truck that comes equipped with measures to prevent the spread of airborne dust particles. 

In most cases, though, it makes sense to switch to electric. Jones explains: “If you haven’t looked lately, you’ll find the models like the Mitsubishi EDiA have more in common with a Tesla car than a traditional counterbalance. Equally at home indoors or outside, in all kinds of weather, they outperform LP gas and diesel trucks on every parameter, delivering far greater torque and delivering much lower whole life costs. And like top-end cars, they work in perfect harmony with the operator, automatically adjusting their performance characteristics to suit the driving style of each operator.”

Getting handy

If your operations rely on hand pallet trucks, it could be that you are in breach of HSE guidelines, especially if those trucks are used frequently or to shift heavy loads. Switching to one of the new, budget-priced power pallet trucks will immediately enable greater social distancing since fewer people are required to move the same volume of goods. A model like the award-winning PBPL electric pedestrian pallet truck from Mitsubishi Forklift Trucks will not only boost productivity but will reduce strain injuries and the risk of absenteeism.

“After all we’ve been through, there’s a natural tendency to focus solely on what we need to do to comply,” sums up Mike Jones. “I’m urging businesses to take a moment and explore ways to go back better. If you are looking for help or inspiration, we have a web area with plenty of practical guidance and a nationwide network of specialists who can help make your site not only COVID-secure, but also more efficient and robust for the challenge ahead.”

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