How to Prevent Forklifts from Hitting Doors & Overhead Obstructions.

With warehousing booming and warehouse staff recruitment also rising to meet the demand, we think now is the perfect time to look at how you’re protecting your warehouse equipment and, in turn, your staff and stock. 

In warehouses where forklifts drive beneath doors, ducts, conveyors, electrical equipment or other overhead obstructions, dangerous and expensive accidents can happen. We’d like to share some ways (we’ve discovered throughout our time in the biz) to make these journeys safer?

Elevated loads should be driven in reverse; we know this might sound crazy; however, it means the driver should be able to see an obstruction in advance. If being driven forward, the operator may not see the obstacle at all until a crash. 

So, how can you reduce the risk of a collision?

Protect the exceptions

Experienced FLT drivers usually know a safe operating height for most of the warehouse area. Problem areas are the exceptions — areas where perhaps a door frame sits much lower than the ceiling or where a low hanging obstruction is located, and extended heights may not be adequate. These could include: 

  • Aisles beneath overhead conveyors
  • High speed and dock door areas
  • Large HVAC or pollution control units suspended from ceilings
  • Overhead fans

Better training, marking and processes.

  • Ensure your FLT drivers are fully aware of where obstructions may be. Familiarise them with the facility and any low-hanging areas where problems might occur.
  • Set a maximum elevated load height and train people to stick to it.
  • Mark obstructions with something colourful or caution tape. A dull grey duct against a dark ceiling is more challenging to see than one marked with caution tape or other bright methods.
  • Ensure FLT drivers don’t exceed the maximum speed for the facility. This is important at all times, especially when driving with a load.
  • Add ways to reduce speed and increase awareness when drivers go through internal or dock doors. These are danger zones for many reasons, but damage to a door frame or retractable door mechanism can be costly — and dangerous!
  • Be aware of environmental factors. Make sure lighting is bright and that drivers have the best chance to see the obstruction. If forklift traffic is constant in an area under a ceiling-mounted obstacle, pay special attention to it with education, warnings and better lighting.

Overhead collision bars

Clearance bars aren’t just for car parks; they can also be used to mark overhead clearances and serve two roles: a visual marker and a touch warning.

Brightly coloured clearance bars stand out against dark and shadowy ceilings. Hang them in front of dock doors or a scrolling door frame to mark the maximum height. If a forklift driver fails to see or miscalculates the height, their load can bump the bar, which they may hear and feel, warning them that their load is set too high to pass beneath the obstruction.

These bars can also be marked with a specific clearance. If drivers know the clearance height in advance, they can adjust loads before reaching the area and acts as a helpful piece of reinforcing information. However, 

Collision bars may not be adequate for higher traffic areas or more critical protection, as they rely on the operator either seeing the bar and gauging the load height or feeling the impact when the load strikes the bar.

Low clearance alarm bars

Low clearance alarm bars are an excellent way to protect critical, low-clearance items. They provide all the benefits of simple clearance bars but trigger audible and visual alerts when they are struck. Once a load hits them, a loud siren goes off, and red lights flash to help the driver realize the mistake and stop before real damage happens. Alarm bars must be powered, either by battery or a facility wired connection, but require little or no future maintenance aside from that.

Alarm bars add a layer of alarm and warning to the functionality of collision bars. They provide the same visibility and “feel” warning but add lights and a loud alert, so the driver should hear in noisy warehouse and manufacturing environments. Perfect for more critical situations and higher traffic areas.

Steel frame “goal post” protection – we’re not talking football

Full-frame “goalpost” protection might be necessary for high-traffic openings and doors with expensive high-speed or scrolling overhead doors. A goalpost guard surrounds the door with a brightly coloured steel frame around the top and sides, which protects the door frame, door and door motors from impacts.

This solution is more minor a warning system than a full-scale guardrail but may be needed in certain instances of heavy damage and expensive doors. This solution is more costly; however, it’s the best protection for critical, higher-risk doors.

Overhead warning sensors

These sensor systems mount on opposite sides of the protected object and project a beam across the area that triggers bright lights and audible alerts when broken. Motion sensors offer good protection in places where you can’t install hard protection. Like collision bars, as you can position them between any two surfaces, sensors are extremely flexible and can install them in more situations.

It’s about prevention.

Sensors and collision bars should enhance your driver training and development–never replace them. But in dangerous situations, you can improve your training and help your drivers avoid this kind of costly and dangerous accident with enhanced visibility, guards and alerts. These warning devices don’t just prevent one collision; they help change driver behaviour over time to further prevent accidents.

While the various systems have costs, the accidents they help prevent are far more expensive. The proper training combined with the correct warning system in the right situation helps ensure smooth, safer operations.

With Ikon – you’re protected

We don’t just design, install and manage bespoke pallet racking, mezzanine flooring and shelving systems, we also ensure that your project is fully protected.

Our specialist in-house design team assess your requirement by approaching your warehouse space as if it were our own. We offer a tailored solution to any problem resulting in optimised safety and productivity so you can focus on what ultimately matters – your customers and growing your business.

Get in touch and see how we can help you.

Improve the way your warehouse works

01773 718 719