How does getting back to work in the era of Covid-19 work for lift truck operations? From daily operation to service calls, personnel interact with lift trucks in several ways, all of which can risk virus transmission without proper sanitization. Developing and implementing best practices requires drawing on guidance from the CDC and applying it to the unique nature of your facility, including specific equipment used and its applications.
The right supplies
Equipping personnel with sanitization supplies and PPE, including nitrile gloves, hand sanitizer, disinfectant spray, face masks and hand towels helps enable them to adhere to guidelines for cleaning surfaces and limiting the airborne spread of viruses. The Canadian government provides a general framework for cleaning procedures and sanitization products, with EPA-approved disinfectants against Covid-19 and recommended alternatives, including minimum alcohol content for sanitizing solutions. Customizable carrier kits can attach to lift trucks, so that operators and technicians have necessary supplies close at hand throughout their shift.
Knowing and understanding the high-touch points on lift trucks are essential to effective sanitization. There are three main areas that need attention. First are the high-touch points when entering the reach truck, the seat back, and the frame of the operator console. Second are the high-touch zones inside the compartment. These include the control handle; tiller handle; communication radios, and keyboards; and, the operator interface display and any other touch screens. Third are external areas such as access covers for daily checks; the battery connector and forks and fork pins.
Whether a technician visiting for a service call or an operator preparing for a normal shift, all personnel who interact with a lift truck should wipe down and sanitize the lift truck, work area and any tools before starting work and again once they finish. Consistent application of sanitization procedures is key.
To help facilitate regular compliance, the checklist feature on some lift truck telemetry solutions can be customized to add sanitization procedures along with regular OSHA-mandated safety checks that operators must complete at the beginning of each shift.
Developed in connection with recommendations from the CDC, Yale’s own pre-shift and end-of-workday lift truck sanitization checklist includes the following:
• Wipe down and sanitize the lift truck, work area and tools using approved disinfectant spray, paying special attention to high-touch surfaces entering the truck, inside the operator compartment and others
• Put on PPE (gloves, face mask)
• Provide plenty of hand sanitizer and hand towels on the truck or at the work station
• Return the lift truck to the parking area or charging station
• Wipe down and sanitize the equipment
• Provide a visual display that the lift truck has been sanitized, with a sign, band or other company-approved indication
• Remove gloves by turning them inside out and roll one inside the other
• Dispose of PPE (gloves, face mask) and cleaning supplies (wipes, paper towels, shop towels) used while cleaning the truck in company-approved disposal bins
With a virus capable of spreading quickly from person to person, introducing outside personnel can bring potential risk of exposure – even with strict policies in place for social distancing, PPE and sanitization. Government guidelines recommend limiting the number of individuals gathering in a space at one time, tracking visitors and properly equipping them to follow site-specific safety protocols.
Of course, the world is moving forward and industries are ready to get back to work. The challenge becomes developing relationships with a limited number of trusted vendors for essential tasks like service, preventive maintenance and even stocking sanitization supplies. Consolidation allows operations to more efficiently scale up a variety of services by leveraging a partner already familiar with facility health and hygiene practices. This can limit the redundancy of health briefings and trainings, and reduce the amount of ongoing management and communication to help facilitate compliance.
All industries must make adjustments to keep personnel safe and healthy. Con-sistency and collaboration are key. For guidelines to combat the virus to be effective, they must be strictly followed at every opportunity by all involved. By turning effective practices into new habits, the world can move forward from the COVID-19 pandemic and take a renewed focus on core business.
Pat DeSutter is vice-president, fleet service and aftermarket with Yale Materials Handling Corporation