How Order Pickers Improve Safety and Reduce Workplace Accidents

Order pickers are a type of lift truck that are used in warehouses to fulfill customers’ orders for products. Rather than use a forklift to pull the entire pallet of goods off of shelves, the order picker raises and lowers employees to the appropriate height to manually pull the desired quantity.

This type of lift truck helps save time and allows workers to be more productive. However, employers must make sure their employees are practice proper warehouse safety and adhering to OSHA (Occupational Health & Safety Administration) requirements to avoid potential accidents and personal injuries.

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Warehouse Safety & OSHA Requirements for Order Pickers

According to OSHA, it is the responsibility of employers to provide safe working environments and conditions for their employees. This includes providing the appropriate forklift training for all types of lift trucks used in your facility, including order pickers.

Each of your employees who will be operating or working near or around the order pickers should be trained. Training should consist of different types of instruction consisting of the following four areas:

  1. General Safety Principles of Lift Truck Operation
  2. How to Operate Each Type of Lift Truck in Use
  3. Potential Hazards Created by Lift Truck Use
  4. OSHA Standards and General Safety Requirements

Employers can obtain a list of recommended topics directly from OSHA to use as a guideline for developing their own training programs. Employers do not have to cover every topic and can exclude those that do not apply to their facilities or which are not relevant to their operations.

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It is important for employers to choose the right person to train their employees. There are different forklift training options, including:

  • Lift Truck Distributor/Manufacturer Training
  • Train-the-Trainer Training
  • Vocational School Training
  • Workers’ Union Training

Regardless of what manner of training is selected and utilized for your warehouse, it is your responsibility to ensure each lift truck operator has been properly certified for the vehicles they are using. Forklift driver certification processes can vary, and some states may also have their own specific requirements in addition to OSHA standards.

In most cases, certification is conducted by the employers. They must confirm the employees have received lift truck training, along with evaluations to demonstrate their proficiency in operating the lift truck. Certificates should be issued that show the employees’ names, dates they completed the training, and which vehicles they are certified to operate.

OHSA does require employers to retain copies of forklift driver certification records for a period of three years. At the end of three years, employees should be recertified. However, if you recertify employees more frequently, then you only need to keep their most recent certification record.

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While the OSHA standard does not require any formal testing to certify lift truck operators, it does mandate that some form of evaluation is conducted. However, employers may want to also test employees prior to the evaluation. Tests can be created that ask a series of safety-related questions for specific lift trucks used in your warehouse, such as:

  • What safety equipment is needed to operate an order picker?
  • Can an order picker be moved when it is elevated off the ground?
  • Are there any exceptions to the elevation rule?
  • Is a warning light required on an order picker?
  • What precautions can be taken to avoid accidents?
  • What are some best safety practices used in our warehouse?

Tests can be short answer, multiple choice, or true/false, depending on the types of questions asked. The purpose of testing is to verify your lift truck operators understand the basic OSHA standards and the safety practices used in your warehouse.

For instance, if they cannot answer the test questions correctly, then do you really want to conduct an evaluation while they are operating a lift truck? Probably not, as this in itself could create potential safety hazards.

Why You Need an Order Picker for Your Warehouse

Order picker lift trucks can help reduce the amount of time required to pick and pull your customers’ orders. To illustrate how much faster they are, let’s look at two alternative methods you could use in your warehouse.

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Method 1: Forklift Trucks

For products on elevated shelves, you could use forklift trucks to pull the entire pallets off and lower them to the ground. Then another worker could pick and pull the desired quantity. Next, the forklift operator would put the pallet back on the shelf before moving on to the next item.

The problems with this method are it is very time consuming and requires using at least two employees to pick and pull orders. The forklift operator has to move the forklift to each location where products are needed for an order.

In addition, there are increased safety concerns when pulling and replacing pallets onto elevated shelves. Furthermore, while the forklift is in operation, other work tasks in the same area may have to be suspended until after the forklift is no longer in use.

Method 2: Manually Moving Ladders/Platforms

You could use manually moving elevated ladders/platforms to pick and pull orders. Yet this method typically requires using two employees to safely move the ladder/platform to the desired location. Then another employee climbs up, picks the products, and then has to either carry them down or pass them down to the other employee at the bottom.

A major issue with this method is when it comes to picking and pulling heavy and large products. These could require two employees to safely remove them from the shelf, along with other employees to transfer them to ground level. Additionally, there are risks with products accidentally getting dropped and damaged.

Another issue with this method is it is also very time-consuming because the ladder/platform has to be moved to each location where products need to be picked. Prior to moving the ladder/platform, the employee has to climb down.

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Benefits of an Order Picker

With an order picker, the issues mentioned above are eliminated, and you can gain the following benefits:

  • A single employee can operate an order picker after receiving forklift safety training and driver certification.
  • There is an area next to the operator for stacking products as they are picked and pulled— either a pallet secured onto forks or a separate platform.
  • Order pickers make it safer to reach and remove products from higher shelving areas.
  • Orders can be picked and pulled in a fraction of time compared to other methods.
  • Warehouses experience a noticeable gain in productivity.
  • Warehouses can reduce labor costs because fewer workers are required to pick and pull orders.

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The Process of Buying an Order Picker

In order to select the right order picker for your warehouse, you need to determine what features and options you require, along with other factors, such as:

  • The overall height of your shelving
  • The space available in aisles
  • The maximum weights the order pickers will need to support
  • The durability of the order picker
  • The reliability of the order picker
  • The quality of the order picker
  • The overall value of the order picker

For instance, Toyota offers a good balance of durability, reliability, quality, and overall value. In fact, Toyota has been named as having the most durable forklifts and order pickers for ten years in a row. Toyota’s order pickers are designed to be used in a variety of warehouse spaces, including narrow aisles and tight corners.

For more information or assistance in selecting the right order pickers for your warehouse or for forklift safety training, please feel free to contact Atlas Toyota Material Handling at (877) 438-2719 today!

Sources

  1. https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/pit/workplacehazards/narrowaisles.html#order
  2. https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=INTERPRETATIONS&p_id=24906
  3. https://www.osha.gov/dte/library/pit/pit_q-a.html