Workplace safety is a paramount concern, and nowhere is this more crucial than when heavy machinery and equipment are involved. Forklifts, especially, present a big safety risk to not only operators but anyone else who happens to be nearby. In fact, forklifts cause about 100 deaths annually and more than 100,000 injuries in the United States, according to OSHA as quoted in Gizmag. Historically, before getting behind the wheel of a forklift, operators had to go through training via videos, books and classroom instruction. Now, thanks to the emergence of a new 3D Forklift Trainer from Tactus Technologies, operators can learn how to use these useful yet dangerous machines with gaming technology and software. The result is a virtual environment that teaches beginner forklift drivers what it’s like to drive and operate this type of machine within real-world applications and simulations. This is a beneficial technology to many because it represents a risk-free way of learning the ropes within a warehouse setting.
Beneficial or Harmful?
The proponents of this software say this helps first-time operators work out the kinks of operation within a virtual environment until they’re plenty ready to get behind a real wheel. They can navigate a virtual warehouse from the complete safety of their “cab,” with the ability to make mistakes and learn from them without harming someone or something. Others say this practice can actually work to negate workplace safety due to the false sense of security this instills in an operator and the lack of “real world” operation of a forklift. In addition, OSHA still requires forklift operators to train in a hands-on environment with an actual machine.
Although the new technology afforded by simulators forces those behind the wheel to react to obstacles or collision threats, some argue this just isn’t the same as good old fashioned in-the-trenches training. They also say the training programs are cost prohibitive for many warehouse owners when the opportunity for training is right there in front of them in the form of the actual trucks. Another negative is that it’s geared toward younger people who are already well-versed in gaming and will therefore have an easier time with it than older workers.
Virtual Technology Nothing New
Forklift simulators expand on a concept that’s been around for awhile now: virtual reality gaming. Whether you agree that video games — especially when applied to dangerous situations like forklift operation — create an environment of desensitization similar to first-person shooter games, or you believe this technology will only help operators deal with on-the-job problem solving, the technology is certainly something to consider. Improvement of safety and reduction in training duration are two of the main benefits touted by the makers of this technology. Rather than sit in a classroom and simply read a manual before getting behind the wheel of a large forklift that has the potential to do some real damage, the simulation software allows them to rehearse safety standards over and over again. They can also be tested on what they’ve learned, all while posing no real threat to their own safety or the risk of property damage from one wrong turn. Within the simulation, drivers can navigate a custom warehouse where they are given certain obstacles to get through and maneuver through the stickiest of situations. Those in training can do anything they would do in a normal warehouse environment, including picking up and lifting pallets, dropping off pallets, navigating a maze of hallways and steering the vehicle properly.
It’s no surprise that the virtual gaming world would eventually come to the forklift training market. It’s certainly making a splash in the industry that will only grow in popularity, especially among younger forklift operators in training.