Now You See What I See

By Becky Ferrell


My grandfather and father were mentors to me their entire lives. Both of them worked in manufacturing. One of their life lessons was that I needed to know HOW to do things, not just the general manner of how things were done. As I grew I learned how to do things:  drywall, carpentry, plumbing, body work on the family cars, tune-ups, etc. I was not allowed to take the family car out on my own until I could DEMONSTRATE my ability to change a tire. It was an unorthodox upbringing for a girl at that time, to say the least.


As I too chose manufacturing as a career, I carried this lesson into my work.  During my tenures as a line supervisor, I had workers and job setters train me how to run their equipment. This enabled me to occasionally “sub in” to keep production running if they needed a break. When I moved into Supply Chain, I learned how to use the tools of the trade of my people: walkies and fork trucks.


Supply Chain Management: Fork Truck Safety


Those of you in manufacturing plants understand the inherent dangers on the floor with the operation of fork trucks. Accidents occur far too frequently and while drivers can be at fault, the general consensus is when pedestrians are involved, most of the time it is the fault of the pedestrian.


In any incident between a fork-truck and a pedestrian, the pedestrian is NEVER the winner. Pedestrians, pre-occupied with moving between locations, simply do not see a fork truck as a danger and frankly have a grave misconception regarding the field of vision of a driver. Having learned to drive a fork truck, I understood the visual limitations of the drivers, but how could that be translated to the workforce?


After conducting the investigation into a very serious pedestrian-fork truck near miss, it hit me. No matter how often I jerked pedestrians out of the path of a fork truck, lectured teams, conducted safety talks, had my drivers scream at pedestrians, etc, most employees were never going to understand the important role they played in their own safety.  Why?  Because they had no visual comprehension or awareness of the visual limitations placed on the fork truck driver; it was outside of their experience!


Implementing Effective Training: A Safety Experience


Still upset from the investigation (and relieved no injury had occurred…. THIS time), I drafted a Safety Experience designed to heighten the awareness of the workforce, not through another safety talk, but by tapping into the life lesson from my grandfather and father….allowing the workforce to experience the field of vision. Approaching the Safety Director and Plant Manager, I was given the green light to proceed. Their commitment was that 100% of the workforce would be required to participate.


The following month the Supply Chain organization delivered the “Now You See What I See” safety experience. A stationary fork truck was set up in the break area. Department by department, the employees were assisted into the seat of the truck. One of my drivers walked around the truck, allowing the person in the seat to see where the driver suddenly disappeared and appeared. Driving backwards with a load? No problem. We asked the employee to place themselves in the appropriate reverse driving position and allowed them to see where they could see pedestrians…or not.


The experience was a “hit.” There were a lot of “OMG – I didn’t know,” and “no wonder….!” exclamations and conversations as employees exited the seat. This enhanced fork truck awareness practice became part of the new employee training process. More importantly, near-misses involving fork trucks and pedestrians decreased significantly. The process became a staple in re-training those involved in near-misses.


Frustrated because despite repeat lectures employees simply don’t seem to understand the message you’re trying to deliver? Even though it means their own safety? Try creating an experience instead of a lecture. Maybe they just can’t see it because they’ve never experienced it.


BTW, this works for teens as well!

Thanks, Dad and Pop!


Need a fresh set of eyes to identify potential safety issues or help develop enhanced interventions? High Value Manufacturing associates have the experience you need. We know safety is the number one priority in any manufacturing environment! Give us a call; we’ll be glad to help!



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