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Workers say electric forklifts need noise. Researchers are responding

Photo: Travis Perkins plc/Flickr

Northampton, England — Prompted by workers’ safety concerns about the quietness of electric forklifts, British researchers are working to develop an audible alert.

The workers are employed by building materials supplier Travis Perkins, which commissioned the project. Travis Perkins staffers are working directly with researchers from the University of Salford.

Tim Walton, a postdoctoral research fellow at Salford who is assisting with the study, said in a press release that the group will conduct various virtual reality experiments to test alert sounds. The researchers will monitor the perspectives of forklift operators and bystanders. “One of the key things we will be looking at is to balance detectability and operator accessibility,” Walton said.

In the United States, 70 workers were killed in forklift-related incidents in 2021, according to the National Safety Council’s Injury Facts.

Richard Byrne, environmental, health and safety and fleet director at Travis Perkins, said that “there should always be a safe distance between people and working machinery, but exclusion zones work best if people are alerted as they approach any high-risk areas.”

The study’s results, expected to be available before the end of the year, will be used to “promote best practice and implement a new national and international standard electric forklift truck sound alert.”

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