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Forklift Training Systems: Forklift Blue Light And Red Zone Lights
Why do you need Forklift Safety Lights?
Forklift warning devices such as strobe lights and back up alarms have been around for many decades. Many forklift manufacturers now consider them standard equipment and include them on their forklifts as a safety package, although at least in general industry they are not required by OSHA. Back up alarms, can be effective and may even be required by OSHA if used on certain types of construction equipment. Back-up alarms are, however, universally disliked by forklift operators, who have to listen to them all day, every day. They are also ignored, to a large degree, by pedestrians who hear them all the time and start to get immune to their warnings over time. Strobe lights are also annoying to the operators, especially if they are installed where they flash into the operators eyes all day long. Neither of these devices does a great job of identifying to pedestrians exactly where the forklift is, from what direction it is coming or how fast it may be moving. Since operators and pedestrians are not fans of these warning systems, management teams take heat for putting them on the forklifts and have to listen to complaints over time about them. It is common to see operators trying to defeat these systems by disconnecting them, breaking them, putting things over them or in them, etc. Safety devices which are present on a forklift, but which are not functional, are an OSHA violation and a source of legal liability.
The good news about forklift blue spot lights is that they are universally loved by the big three groups: operators, pedestrians and plant management. Operators like being able to see where other forklifts are operating. They can tell how far away they are, what direction they are travelling and how fast they are moving. This is a great thing when you are in a facility with limited visibility, intersecting aisles, docks, etc. Pedestrians like the forklift blue lights since they get a warning that danger is coming. Even if the pedestrian makes a mistake and looks down; for example, looking at a cell phone or clipboard, they will be able to see the spot light and recognize the danger. We have already heard stories from pedestrians on how the forklift blue lights have saved lives and prevented injuries. Lastly, management likes the forklift blue lights. They are extremely effective in improving forklift/pedestrian safety, are easy to install and very cost effective. Any time you can make people happy, improve their safety and do so without spending very much money, that is a win-win-win situation.
The forklift blue spot light was introduced into the US market around 2013, but it had existed in other countries before that time. A forklift manufacturer designed the original blue spot light and it was distributed in North America by one company for a period of time. These initial lights were close to $300 per unit and did not come with wiring harnesses or mounting brackets, but even so they were wildly popular. It was not long until other manufacturers started making blue lights and bringing them into the US market. Most of the forklift blue lights are made overseas in places such as China and Taiwan, it is just not cost effective to manufacture LED lights of this type in the US, according to our sources. This is both a good and a bad thing. The good news is that more choices drive prices down. The bad news is that not every blue light is able to do the job and some manufacturers have simply made low cost their only selling feature. Like buying a forklift, buying a forklift blue spot light is not a commodity, they need to be tested and put through the paces to be sure they will do the job at your particular site.
When purchasing forklift blue lights, ensure any lights you are considering have the following:
- Wattage of 1,300 lumens or more for an average facility with decent lighting.
- Lifetime replacement warranty.
- UL 583 and 558 ratings.
Most companies are choosing to mount the forklift blue spot lights on the rear of the trucks. This makes a lot of sense, since many forklifts spend a lot of time in reverse and since many accidents occur when operators are backing up. Operators should be taught to turn and fully look in the direction they are travelling before going into reverse, however, many times this does not happen and then the consequences can be catastrophic. Some companies are also choosing to mount them on the front of the truck which can be of great value in certain applications. However, depending on where they are mounted, tall or wide loads may block the light beam during forward travel. Customers putting lights on the front and the back, may want to consider using blue in one direction and red in the other, this tells the pedestrians and other forklifts which end of the forklift is approaching them. Be sure not to damage or modify the trucks overhead guard when mounting the lights. Tapping into a non-critical structure where another safety device is mounted, such as an existing back-up alarm or strobe may be a good option. Our lights come with brackets which allow you to mount the lights quickly and without modifying the overhead guard. Whatever you do, be sure to mount the lights in a location where they are not easily damaged. We do not recommend putting them outside of the “running lines” of the forklift or they may be smashed off.
One common mistake we see customers make is how to wire the lights. When mounted on the rear of the forklift, the forklift blue spot lights should be wired such that they are only on when the truck is moving in reverse. Although many forklift technicians are telling customers it is best to wire them so that they are always on; this is not a good practice even though it may make the forklift technician’s life easier during the installation. A good analogy would be back up alarms, those could also be wired so that they are on all the time, but why don’t we do that? The reason is because we only want them to be active when a hazard is present. When a forklift is leaving the area it is no longer a hazard to things it has already passed and leaving the light on during this time means pedestrians can come to associate the light with times when there is no danger, which is not good. Wired properly, the rear light shines when the truck is in reverse and the front, if so equipped, is on when the truck is going forward. This tells pedestrians one thing, when you see the light, danger is headed your way.
What things should you consider when buying a forklift blue spot light?
Ideally, the blue lights should shine as far away from the forklift as possible and still put a bright blue spot on the floor. If you buy a cheap light and it will only put a bright spot on the floor at 5 or 10 feet away, then the pedestrian will see the warning just as they are being run over; they simply do not have enough time to react to it. We highly recommend aiming them at least 15 feet away from the truck and possibly as much as 25 feet, depending on the speeds of your forklifts and your application. Be sure to mount them solidly so they do not move, we encountered one customer with the lights facing straight back, the beam did not even hit the floor and therefore was serving no purpose. Be sure the distance you are aiming the beam is uniform, as it could be dangerous to mount some with the spot at 10 feet and others at 25 feet since the reaction times needed would be very different. If you decide to vary the distances for some reason, be sure you at least stay uniform within your department; for example, shipping distance set to 25 feet and manufacturing to 20 feet. One way to verify the light will be bright enough is simply aim the beam at the floor at the desired distance and ensure the spot is very bright. If you are trying several different lights, do a head to head comparison of them on the same truck or pull two trucks up side by side. A more scientific way to measure how much light you are getting at the floor is to use a foot candle light meter, this measures how much light is hitting the surface. You can buy one of these on Amazon for around $50 and the results are amazing. Our top of the line forklift blue light was tested against some of the cheapest lights on the market and we found out it was putting out over three times the amount of light! We could tell the difference was large by just looking at it, but we had no idea it was that much brighter. Cheap lights don’t have the wattage and lumens to compete with the higher quality lights. If you run in the dark all the time or have terribly dim plant lighting then it may not be a big deal, but if you have decent lighting and go outside from time to time it is a huge deal. Saving a few bucks per light and compromising the whole reason you bought the lights in the first place makes no sense.
Warranties on the forklift blue spot lights run anywhere from 6 months to a lifetime. Obviously, a lifetime warranty is hard to beat and means the company will stand by their product. Most companies are offering replacement lights as their form of warranty; which means if you fail one, you must return it and it will be replaced if it is deemed a manufacturing defect. Lights which are damaged due to poor mounting positions or as the result of an accident are not covered under warranty.
Only the best of the best of forklift blue spot lights are UL rated, currently only a few on the market have this special rating. UL ratings are a sure sign that the manufacturer of the light has taken the time to have their products thoroughly tested to world class standards. Customers who want top quality lights and which want to maintain their forklifts UL ratings will pick a forklift blue spot light with a UL rating. Facilities that produce or store flammable materials or chemicals which have fire rated areas in their facility MUST purchase forklift blue spot lights with the proper UL ratings, a failure to do so will void their forklifts UL rating and more importantly it could burn down their site or cause injuries or a loss of lives. 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). To maintain the UL rating of the truck and the light, the wiring of the light to the forklift must be done properly, when in doubt, contact the manufacturer of the forklift for more details. Note: Our lights are NOT rated for EX trucks.
WIRING AND MOUNTING
Many of the cheaper forklift blue lights don’t come with anything but the light. This is something to keep in mind because if you are saving $50 a light on your original purchase, but have to fabricate your own wiring and bracket you will have spent more in the long run than if you spent a little more and purchased a light with those included at no extra charge. Many forklift dealers are overcharging for the simple task of mounting the forklift blue lights. Unless you have an unusual situation, you should be able to install a bracket and connect two wires in a matter of 15 minutes or less. Obviously, that may not be true with every possible forklift on the market, but paying someone hundreds of dollars to install a light is ridiculous. Most in-house maintenance departments should be fully capable of installing the forklift blue lights in-house with no trouble. In fact, many companies hire a dealer to install the first one and then have their in-house staff watch and complete the rest of them internally, saving hundreds or even tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the fleet size.
Most of the forklift spot lights in the industry are blue. The original and about 90%+ of the lights sold are still blue. However, some customers are now requesting forklift red spotlights. Several of our lights are available in both the traditional blue and the new red color. We recommend sticking with one color or the other, unless you want to put one color on the front and another on the back. You can also use blue for the forklifts and red for say golf carts and burden carriers. Other colors may be offered in the future, but some colors just don’t show up very well and probably would not be as effective.
WHAT TYPE OF VEHICLES CAN WE USE THEM ON?
Although sit down rider forklifts are where the forklift blue spot lights got their start, they can be mounted on any type of forklift, including elevated order pickers, stand up reach trucks, rider pallet jacks, tuggers, tow tractors, etc. Companies that have burden carriers such as Taylor Dunn or Cushman or golf carts can use the blue lights very effectively. The lights can be mounted on the top of the cab or on a fabricated pole to shine in front of the vehicle. These vehicles are typically fast and silent and they lose out in collisions with heavier forklifts. The lights can be a life saver on these types of vehicles. Another new application is overhead gantry type cranes. When mounted properly it can follow the crane hook around and put a bright blue spot on the floor to warn people to stay back. Since cranes are normally 20 to over 50 feet off the ground, the vast majority of blue lights on the market will not work for this application. Contact us at 614-583-5749 for more information on high output lights for crane applications.