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Forklift Blue Lights
Strobe lights and back up alarms have long been the standard safety equipment for forklifts. In fact, they are now considered standard equipment by many forklift manufacturers and come with every new forklift as part of the safety package. Back up alarms can be a very effective tool, unfortunately they are very easy to get used to or even tune out when you hear them all day, every day. Needless to say, this cuts their effectiveness down considerably. If you hear a back up alarm but ignore it anyway, you’re really no safer than you were without the back up alarm installed. Strobe lights are another popular option, but they can be extremely annoying to the forklift operators, and if installed in such a way that they flash in the operator’s eyes, they can even be distracting, causing the operator to get into accidents and once again making the environment more dangerous than it was before! In addition, neither the back up alarm nor the strobe light is effective at letting bystanders know where exactly the forklift is coming from, or how fast. These systems can also be so repetitive and annoying that operators often try to thwart them by disconnecting wires or covering up lights. If they’re not effective at ensuring safety and annoying to everyone nearby, why do we even bother to install them?
Well, there is a better way. Forklift blue lights are the next big thing in forklift safety that are not annoying to operators and also are actually effective at preventing collisions and accidents. They allow pedestrians, bystanders, and other operators to see exactly where other forklifts are operating, how far away they are, what direction they are moving in and how fast, all at a glance. They are great for situations with limited visibility because of intersecting aisles or other visual obstacles. They are also much safer for people who may be wandering through the work site, because even if they’re looking down at their phone or a clipboard, they are able to see the blue light approaching on the ground and stay out of harm’s way. This system can prevent countless injuries and even save lives. Best of all, Forklift blue spotlights are unbelievably easy to install and extremely cost effective, which will help a lot in getting them approved by management.
This product has been around in US markets since about 2013, but it had already made the rounds in other countries well before that. They were actually designed by a North American forklift manufacturer and originally cost upwards of $300 dollars each, and that’s without wiring harnesses or mounting brackets. Even at that price, they were extremely popular. Since then, a few other manufacturers have picked up the idea, making small tweaks and changes that improve the design while keeping prices down. Unfortunately this also means that not all forklift safety lights are created equally, so you will need to do some research before you buy. Make sure that any lights you’re considering buying have a wattage of at least 1,300 lumens, include a lifetime replacement warranty, and have their UL 583 and 558 ratings.
The most effective place to mount the forklift safety spotlight is on the rear of the forklift, since they spend a lot of time in reverse and that is typically when the most accidents happen. Even though forklift operators are taught to turn and look fully in the direction they’re going to be heading before moving, we all know that this isn’t a perfect world and it doesn’t always happen that way. That’s why we have blue lights for forklifts- to help minimize the negative effects of human error. Some people instead choose to mount the lights to the front of the forklift, which can be useful as well. One consideration with this position is that, depending on where they are located, particularly tall or wide loads could block the light and render it useless at times. Of course, you could always put one in front and one in back, but if you do that, you’ll want to make one light red and the other blue, and be consistent about that throughout the entire fleet of forklifts so that everyone knows which color means that the forklift is travelling forward and which color means that it is travelling backwards. When mounting the lights, take care not to damage the overhead guard.The product will come with brackets and mounting hardware to allow you to mount it up quickly without compromising the overhead guard. Also be careful not to mount the lights in a position where they could be easily damaged, such as outside of the “running lines” of the forklift where they can be easily knocked off and broken.
Wiring the lights can sometimes offer a bit of a challenge, and a lot of the time mistakes are made during this part of the process that reduce the safety value of the forklift pedestrian warning light. When the lights are mounted on the rear of the vehicle, they should be wired in such a way that they only turn on while the forklift is moving in reverse. Many are wired so that they are always on simply because that is an easier wiring job to accomplish, but for the maximum safety benefit, you will really want to wire them to only come on while moving in reverse. Think of back up alarms. They could very easily be wired so that they are always on, but that would be ridiculous. The safety equipment should only be activated when a threat is present, otherwise it is subject to the same fatigue that strobe lights and back up alarms experienced. People on the site grow used to them and they become ineffective at preventing accidents. When people see the blue light, they need to know to be on their guard because a forklift is reversing toward them, not think that it’s probably headed in the other direction and crossing now should be fine. It needs to be clear that when you see the light, danger is always headed your way so that is doesn’t lose effectiveness.
How Much Light?
In a perfect world, the safety lights for forklifts should shine as far away from the forklift as possible while still leaving a very noticeable blue spotlight on the floor so that pedestrians have as much warning and time to get out of the way as possible. Cheap lights will shine only about 5 or 10 feet away, which is pretty useless for a pedestrian to see just as they are being overtaken by a reversing forklift. Good lights shine from at least 15 feet away, and some even up to 25 feet so that pedestrians and other forklift operators have plenty of reaction time to get out of harm’s way and into a safer position. This is especially important if you have some speedy operators, because depending on your speed a forklift could cover a distance of 5 or 10 feet in only a matter of seconds. Make sure that the distance and angle of every beam on every forklift is precisely uniform. Think of the disaster it could be if one light shone 8 feet away and the other 18. Pedestrians could see a blue light coming toward them and think they have ages to get out of the way, but really the forklift is nearly on top of them already. It is very important to be consistent in how you aim the lights for maximum safety effectiveness. Be sure to mount the lights solidly so that they do not move or slip over time, even with heavy use for this same reason.
Before setting up all the lights, make sure that the bright spot on the floor will be very bright and sufficiently noticeable. A simple way to verify this is to aim the beam at the floor at your desired distance and make sure that the spot on the floor is as bright as can be. Maybe try a few different distances to get the best ratio of spot brightness to lead time of the warning signal. If you are testing two different brands or models of forklift blue light, set up a head to head comparison by mounting each one either on the same forklift or two different ones that have been pulled up exactly even side to side. Then, simply shine the lights at the same distance setting and see which produces a brighter spot on the floor in front of you. Of course, a more scientific method would be to test this using a foot candle light meter, which is the official measurement of light, but in most cases a naked-eye estimation will do the trick. After all, your workers aren’t going to be walking around with light-measuring equipment- they’re just relying on their eyes, so if you can’t tell the difference between one light and the other just by looking at it, chances are good that they won’t be able to either.
A typical warranty on a product like this can last anywhere from 6 months to an entire lifetime. Obviously, a lifetime warranty is the most desirable and very difficult to beat as it shows that the manufacturer really believes in and stands by their product. The typical procedure in redeeming warranties like this is sending in the broken light for the company to inspect, then the company will send you a replacement if the cause of the malfunction was one that is covered in their warranty terms. If the lights were damaged due to poor mounting positions or as the result of a collision are not usually covered under these policies.
The Importance of a UL Rating
A UL rating is what separates the wheat from the chaff in terms of forklift blue spot lights, because only the best of the best are UL rated. In fact, there are only a handful of UL rated forklift safety lights on the market right now. This rating is an undeniable sign that the manufacturer has taken the time to adhere to the strictest quality standards for their product. Facilities that produce and/or store flammable materials or chemicals in fire rated areas are legally required to purchase lights that have achieved their UL rating. Failure to do this will void the UL rating of the entire forklift and could pose a fire hazard to the site. These types of sites will need to buy forklift blue lights which are UL 583 approved for types E, ES, and EE trucks (UL file AU6311) and UL 558 rated for G, GS, G/LP, GS/LPS, LP, LPS, D, DS forklifts (UL file AU6318). The wiring on these products must also be done carefully to comply with standards and avoid voiding the UL ratings of both products. When in doubt, contact a professional.
WIRING AND MOUNTING
Some cheaper options are cheaper because they come with the blue light only and no mounting hardware, brackets, or the other necessities for actually using the product. If you save 50 bucks on the light but have to fabricate all of your own wiring and brackets, chances are good that you didn’t actually save much money, if any at all. Make sure to read listings and descriptions carefully and if you’re not sure, ask the seller if hardware is included. Some dealerships are also taking the opportunity to over charge for the simple task of installing and mounting the blue lights. There’s really no need to spend money on this, as anyone should be able to install the lights in about 15 minutes or less. That will save you a few hundred dollars alone, which is how much forklift dealerships are charging for completing this “complicated” process so that you don’t have to. Most in-house maintenance departments will have no trouble installing the lights properly. If you’re worried about it, you could even have the first one installed professionally while your maintenance crew watches, and they can install the rest themselves. This could end up saving you a lot of cash, depending on the size of your fleet.
Well, they’re called forklift blue lights for a reason, and that’s because most of the lights in the industry have traditionally been blue. There is now a demand for red lights though, which means that more and more of those are beginning to be manufactured as an option. We recommend sticking with one color of lights only, or else putting one color on the front of the vehicles and a different one on the back. It is possible that more colors of safety lights will begin to be manufactured in the future, though there are certain colors that will never show up very well and will likely not be used ever.