Forklift safety: AGV to the Rescue


Standards and data on AGV safety are still developing, but some AGV manufacturers are going above and beyond the minimum requirements to ensure accident-free operations.

In the USA, forklifts were the source of 70 work-related deaths in 2021 and 7,290 nonfatal injuries involving days away from work in 2020.

Most fatalities are caused by being crushed by a forklift, either as it falls, possibly due to an unstable load or driver error, or between the forklift and a hard surface or another forklift.

The number of forklift-related incidents is a worry for companies and comes with a significant price tag and loss of productivity. Indeed, incidents can lead to damaged products, reduced employee productivity, fines, penalties, and increased insurance costs.

However, using automated guided vehicles (AGVs) in forklift applications is proving to offer a much safer alternative and one that has other benefits over and above enhancing safety.

As a relatively new addition to site operations, standards and data on AGV safety are still developing, but some AGV manufacturers are going above and beyond the minimum requirements to help ensure accident-free operations. 

Beyond safety of mobile robots

Before delving deeper into forklift AGV safety, let’s first consider the other benefits these machines offer in many industries, including warehousing, manufacturing, retail, and food & beverage applications.

The primary reason most companies look to invest in AGVs is productivity. AGVs can operate 24/7 and provide a significant uplift in the efficiency of a site’s intralogistics. 

They carry out mundane and laborious tasks and free personnel to carry out more value-add tasks for the business.

Ensuring safety of AGV

Regulations (and, common sense) demand that AGVs include safety sensors and devices to avoid and proactively prevent safety incidents. Safety sensors detect if a person, other vehicles, or an obstacle is on the AGVs path. For forklifts, however, safety measures should go much further.

  1. An incorrectly positioned load may fall resulting in damaged goods, risks to personnel, and even the possibility of the vehicle toppling over. It makes sense, therefore, to add additional sensors around the forks and lifting area.
  2. These can provide data about whether the load is positioned correctly, and whether it is safe to proceed with the mission.
  3. As well as providing alerts about any problems, data can also be collected and analyzed to understand any underlying issues with the lifting process and identify any corrective actions that will increase operational safety

Make more use of data

Data from AGVs can provide deeper insights into operations. Alongside alerts and information about potential issues during an operation, collecting and analyzing data from the AGV will help identify where vehicles are slowing or stopping more frequently, reducing overall operational efficiency.

Managers can then identify why these issues are occurring and take action to optimize process steps.