Forklift operators’ comfort and ease of using a forklift lowers operator fatigue and can drastically improve efficiency. In some highly optimized applications, improved operator comfort can lead to such drastic cost savings that it is reason alone to purchase new lift trucks.
Some of the most important elements of good ergonomics are visibility, location of handles, seat comfort, ease of mounting and dismounting, and noise.
Good visibility means that the operator can see where he is driving, he can see the load, and he can see what is around. When the operator can’t see the load, she must lean out of the forklift or strain to see through the mast. This not only causes operator fatigue, but can also lead to accidents.
Hydraulic levers that are easy to reach and easy to use also reduce operator fatigue. Finger-tip hydraulics allow the operator to keep her hand and arm in one place, reducing leaning and reaching. Older style hydraulic levers require the operator to reach out and pull down on a lever to get the desired result. Whereas a finger-tip control is very easy to operate and requires very little movement.
A suspended seat reduces back pain and overall operator fatigue.
If an operator must mount and dismount frequently, it is better that the forklift seat be at a convenient height so the operator does not have to do much climbing up or down. Some forklifts, like many electric sit downs, sit high off the ground and are difficult to mount and dismount.
Noise is also a big factor in operator fatigue. Engine, motor, back up alarm, and warehouse noise are known to cause operator fatigue. Quieter forklifts can keep an operator’s mind clear and sharp for longer.
Check out this article on Modern Materials Handling about ergonomic tips.