Spilling the contents of an industrial drum is never good news. Especially if what they contain is waste – be it chemicals, laboratory gear, shock-sensitive cargo or explosive. The cost associated with cleaning up the resulting mess is always high because often it affects other operations in the warehouse as well. Not to mention the health risks the staff will face as generation of toxic vapors and physical injuries are not uncommon in the process. So, not only will you have downtime because drums were inadequately handled, but the risk of some worker getting injured is also increased. This is bound to drive costs up and general morale down.
That being said, if you are managing a warehouse that is partly or exclusively dealing with drums, pallets, shelving units and packages then you need to have reliable machines. Using appropriate material handling equipment like pallet jacks can eliminate much of the problems. But when it comes to drum handling, the majority of the issues can be prevented by simply adapting or upgrading equipment like forklifts.
Forklift Drum Lifter
There is a multitude of ways to transform the equipment you already have. Forklifts are one of the most ubiquitous warehouse machines, and they can be quite versatile too. That being said, adding a forklift drum lifter attachment to your machines can offer relief to your workforce and reduce the risks of injuries.
In essence, this is a one-piece drum handler which can be attached to fork trucks via adjustable fork pockets. The attachment helps forklift operators to lift, raise and tilt 210-litre steel drums. Control is maintained with a pull chain that can be used without leaving the operators seat (at least three meters of chain). This would be the most simple forklift drum lifter set up.
Another straightforward way to lift drums with a forklift is by attaching parrot beak drum handler. The operator can lift plastic or steel drums to place them on or remove them from bunds. It works like an auto clamp does and it can be manipulated without leaving the driver seat. If the parrot beak is from galvanized steel, though, it has far greater load capacity (1000 kg vs 380 kg) than the drum lifter described above. One has to take their specific requirements when considering this kind of warehouse equipment.
For example, you can also add a forklift tine hook which will transform your machine into an in house crane in minutes. These beasts have the capacity to lift up to 2500 kg, however, the standard barrel weighs 210 kg. So you will have to assess your needs before going for the attachment which will serve you best.
Other Drum Handling Attachments
Forklift Drum Positioner
This two-pronged attachment is very important for handling drums with hazardous content. They are fixed and can be added to your forklift via pockets (140x55mm). These type of drum positioners are used for loading and unloading standard steel or plastic drums off rack stands.
Rotators are safer and more versatile than your forklift drum grabber. They not only lift, but also rotate the drums. This is a great way to reduce unnecessary exposure to hazards. Usually, drum rotators are able to rotate sideways and up to 360 degrees. Lifting, raising and tilting loaded drums with forklift attachments contributes to reducing preventable injuries by a fair margin.
It’s the ultimate waste handling forklift attachment. Drum dumpers allow the operator to dispose of waste and scrap products without leaving the driver seat. The barrels are secured with a belly strap and locked with a pin and over centre catch. Dumping is controlled with a rope draw cord. Fast, clean and safe.
Other Aspects of Safe Handling
Personal Protective Equipment
Having all of these pieces of equipment will not eliminate injuries at the workplace in and of itself. Your workforce has to be on board with every safety precaution that applies to material handling. And this means wearing personal protective equipment which can significantly reduce the degree of injury when a safety incident happens. It has to be worn within the parameters of the active area. Wearing safety boots, as well as helmets, protective goggles, gloves, masks, high visibility vests and other industry-specific personal safety gear is paramount.
Assigning an occupational safety officer to monitor safety practices in your warehouse will make handling hazardous material safer. All staff on the floor should be trained and in line with the safety procedures. Things are moving fast and we might be able to delegate much of the tasks, especially those in though and hazardous environments, to automated machines. But until that moment comes, safety training plays a crucial role in having incident-free days.
Inviting an expert to run a safety assessment is also a good idea. They can identify issues you aren’t able to because you are immersed in the specific business you are managing. They can offer fresh insights regarding operational safety. These kinds of reports can influence the organisation and workflow within your plant and can even affect the choice of equipment. And we all know that warehouse managers always balance between financial sustainability and uninterrupted output. In the business with hazardous drums, though, the stakes are too high to wait for an incident before you invest in proper equipment.