RR1084 Forklift truck reverse sensor systems assessment

Counterbalance forklift trucks (FLTs) are widely used in a variety of industry sectors for material handling. Incidents involving FLTs are typically vehicle/pedestrian, vehicle/vehicle, or vehicle/structure collisions. Of these, vehicle/pedestrian incidents have the most potential for reportable injury and around 500 incidents a year involving moving FLTs are reported to HSE.

Measures to improve or augment the operator's field of vision can include: mirrors and CCTV systems (which rely on the operator's observations) and sensor systems (including ultrasonic, radar, and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)), similar to those commonly fitted to passenger vehicles; or simply improving the driver's operating position.

This report describes work undertaken to assess the active sensor systems (ultrasonic and radar) commonly used to reduce the risk of collisions. The systems tested appeared to provide a useful function in mitigating the risk of collision by stopping the truck when an obstruction was detected. However, certain configurations produced blind spots in the detection zones that could allow a pedestrian to approach the truck without being detected. The sensors also needed to be mounted to give an appropriate detection zone without producing a large number of false detections.

Companies should establish the conditions under which they will be operating an FLT and select a system that best fits their particular operating environment. Consideration should be given in the first instance to the practicability of removing pedestrians from the working area, although it is acknowledged that this is not always possible.

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Updated 2021-04-15