Next Step: Train the Pedestrians

Oct. 1, 2002
Training the lift truck operators isn't enough with all the injuries and near-misses taking place between pedestrians and vehicles.

We’ve been training the lift truck operators, and that hasn’t been enough. Now it’s time to train the pedestrians.

“We found in both big plants and small plants across the automotive industry, we were having so many recordables — injuries and near-misses — taking place between pedestrians and vehicles,” says Frank Steinberger, a manager from the General Motors Worldwide Facilities Group. As a representative to the Automotive Industry Action Group, Steinberger is co-chair of the new Industrial Truck Occupational Health and Safety work group. This group is writing a vehicle/pedestrian interface that will be the first in a series of documents related to mobile equipment, such as applications, maintenance, automatic guided vehicles, etc.

“This became a huge priority for us,” says Steinberger. “So it was the first thing we tackled.” He emphasized that the document will be a best-practice statement, combining the experiences of lift truck users and vendors. “It’s important to make sure that the AIAG is not about creating new standards or codes. Any time we do work, we first canvass the existing codes and standards. We aren’t about to conflict with ASME or ANS standards.”

What the work group will do, says Steinberger, “is try to define the special habits of our industry and put out a best practice for us.” That is, what is the automotive industry doing that is repeatable? “Our group is interested in reducing injuries and making it easier from an ergonomics standpoint for people to get their work done.”

Ron Tillinger, AIAG’s program director for the Industrial Truck Occupational Health and Safety work group, says, “This first one is the most important — changing the mindset of the pedestrians.”

Training the pedestrians was on Jim Shephard’s mind when he was interviewed for this column last July. “Most of the accidents I’ve seen lately where there have been collisions or near-misses, it really wasn’t the operator’s fault,” says Shephard, who is president of Shephard’s Industrial Training Systems Inc. “I think the companies are doing a good job training the operators. I think they’re missing the big picture by not training the mass of employees.”

But lift trucks aren’t the only hazard to a pedestrian walking through a plant or warehouse. There are other vehicles, such as personnel carriers or mobile cranes; plant equipment like overhead cranes, robots or production machinery, or even the hazard of getting hit by falling merchandise, to name just a few. So while AIAG’s work group will focus on the vehicle/pedestrian interface in the automotive industry, Shephard’s Pedestrian Safety Awareness Program covers everything that could happen to you when you venture out into the plant, warehouse or storeroom. It also covers outdoor handling on loading docks for rail, highway and over-water transport as well as disposal areas for waste.

I don’t think I need a program to teach my employees how to walk safely through the plant, you may say. Consider a few of the questions posed in the Pedestrian Awareness Safety Program:

• Are employees taught what warning lights and alarms may be used throughout the site, what these alarms mean, and what their response should be?

• Are employees taught to watch for tripping hazards, barricades?

• Are walkways that may be used at night adequately marked and properly lighted?

• Are employees and visitors taught about the need to make eye contact with the operator of mobile equipment when walking across the site?

Also, I’ll bet you never thought about visitor safety, even though your company hosts all kinds of contractors, truckers, salespeople and other visitors. Ask yourself:

• Are there pedestrian safety policies covering the movement of visitors who walk onto and throughout this site and other buildings?

• Under what circumstances, if any, are visitors, including contract personnel, permitted to move across the site unescorted?

There are many more questions and answers in both programs. AIAG members can view that program free at when it’s available at the end of the year. There’s a charge for a hard copy. You can order Pedestrian Safety Awareness from

Bernie Knill, contributing editor, [email protected]

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