6 July 2021

When investing in a materials handling equipment for your business there are many things to consider. What load weights do you need the truck to carry? What heights should they be able to lift to? Which engine type should you choose?

Another just as important consideration is operator comfort.

Your operators spend extended periods of time sat in or operating your trucks. Ensuring their comfort whilst working is essential for both employee wellbeing and productivity.

The risks of operator discomfort

There are many risks associated with operator discomfort. Not only to the operator, but to the truck, the warehouse and those working in the wider environment.

For the operator, shoulder pain, knee pain, back pain and fatigue are common issues – and this discomfort can lead to the operator taking time off, get RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) or making mistakes that result in damage to the truck, the warehouse or even present danger to their colleagues.

The best way to mitigate these risks is to ensure operator comfort from the outset.

Things to look out for:

Ergonomic Seating

At the heart of operator comfort is seating. If a forklift seat becomes worn or is not fit for purpose, it can cause many issues for the driver, from lack of concentration right through to muscle strains.

That’s why when choosing a forklift, you must consider the seating options available. And the type of seat you require will depend on a number of things, such as how long the truck will be used for and for which applications the truck will be required.

Features you may want to look out for include:

  • Optimally shaped backrests which offer ultimate comfort and support and provide a secure leaning position during turns.
  • Adjustability, so the seat can be tailored to a healthy seating position for your operator.
  • Armrests which help to reduce fatigue.
  • A swivelling base, so the operator doesn’t struggle getting in and out of the truck.

We recognise seating as a crucial part of operator comfort. That is why many of our trucks now come with the option to upgrade to a deluxe seat.

Vibration Damping

When using lift trucks, your operators may be exposed to whole body vibrations. Whole body vibrations have been recognised to cause significant issues for the operator, namely lower back pain.

So how do you overcome these issues when choosing materials handling equipment for your business?

There are many solutions to help improve whole body vibrations. These include triple-suspension floors, which are a floating structure to dampen shocks and vibrations (available on our reach truck range), as well as state-of-the-art technology to reduce micro vibrations.

The unique castor wheel design that’s comes with NPV20-25N3 / NPF20-25N3(R)(S) platform power pallet trucks uses variable damping to minimise shocks and vibration, even on rough surfaces and features a locking function which maintains stability during turns, with or without loads.

However, although materials handling equipment can be tailored to improve the effects of whole-body vibrations, one of the best solution is always to ensure smooth warehouse flooring.

Ergonomic Controls

Ergonomic controls can also help to aide operator comfort. Ensuring that controls can be easily reached and are ergonomically shaped and positioned brings you one step closer to minimising strains and discomfort.

Adjustable steering wheel heights and positions are another consideration and the ability to use controls without having to twist and turn is also important.

Visibility

Poor visibility is another contributing factor to operator discomfort. Not only is it extremely unsafe for the operator and those in the wider environment, it can force the operator to move to look around obstructions which can lead to strains and other injuries.

Ensure your trucks have clear views of fork tips and that trucks with cabins also have high-visibility overhead guards to maximise forward and upward view.

Noise

Noise from lift trucks is not only generated by the engine, but also mast movement, horns and tyres. When choosing materials handling equipment, look for adjustments that have been made in order to reduce noise output, such as efforts to reduce vibrations. Other options include opting for typically quieter models (e.g electric trucks) or investing in ear defenders for operators.

Operator safety

Operator comfort is just one factor to ensure safety in the warehouse. If you want to find out more about forklift safety and safety in the wider warehouse environment, click here.

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Battery powered pallet truck
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energy-efficient – and quiet forklift trucks
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NR16-25N3H(X) Reach Truck range