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Reducing Foot Rollover Injuries

The Manufacturing Practice Specialty leadership team believes this interview shows how quality SH&E practices, procedures and products can come from outside of the profession and other avenues. Tiki Vietri is a longtime worker in the material handling industry and has nearly 30 years of experience from the ground up.

Vietri has developed and holds the patent for The FootGuardian, a pallet jack safety guard. In this interview, he explains why he decided to create The FootGuardian and how the product can help reduce or eliminate foot rollover injuries caused by manual pallet jacks.

Please provide a brief description of your professional background and experience.

I hold a business degree and am currently a manager for a supermarket chain. Although I was born in New Jersey, I grew up in Argentina. I came back to America as a teenager and could be considered an immigrant success story—working my way up from bagboy to manager of one of our company’s highest-volume stores.

Most of what I know about business has come from my 29 years of experience in retail.

You have developed and hold a patent for a pallet jack safety guard (The FootGuardian). Why did you decide to create this product?

It is a common-sense solution to a widespread safety problem. On most manual pallet jacks, the back wheels are exposed, presenting a real danger that the feet of operators or bystanders may be rolled over or crushed. By encasing the wheels of the manual pallet jack, my patented safety guard reduces the exposure associated with foot rollover injuries.    

I have seen this type of injury often, both in my line of work and in other industries. A few years ago, a friend who works in manufacturing crushed his foot in such an incident, and the experience was both painful and costly. What was most frustrating to me is that after the accident happened, he still had the same exposure—the same injury could easily occur again. Realizing that this situation was entirely preventable, I developed The FootGuardian.

How many foot and toe injuries occur each year due to the use of manual pallet jacks? What other types of injuries can manual pallet jacks cause?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2008, there were 49,390 occupational injuries that affected the foot/toe. The total number of injuries last year involving non-powered pallet trucks was 17,580; of which 14% or 2,490 injuries was to the foot/toe. In addition to the foot being injured or crushed, victims also typically experience secondary sprains/strains and back injuries, particularly when the foot remains caught under the wheel and the body’s momentum continues to pull away from the foot. 

How do injuries caused by manual pallet jacks differ from those injuries caused by powered pallet jacks?

The injuries caused by manual pallet jacks are similar to those caused by a powered one. The foot does not know the difference once a thousand pounds are on it. However, most powered pallet jacks tend to have guards, whereas The FootGuardian is the first solution for manual pallet jacks.  

The objective is to protect the employee’s foot in a similar manner as in powered units.

How did you gather your research and data when developing the pallet jack safety guard? Did you conduct any independent studies?

As noted, both the problem and the solution were fairly simple once I understood how common and costly these foot rollover injuries are. Seeing such injuries firsthand was enough to prompt the invention. We cannot expect change if we continue to use pallet jacks without wheel guards. The FootGuardian is the solution.

What are the average costs of foot injuries to employers, both in terms of dollars and lost time?

According to the National Council on Compensation Insurance, the average cost of a lost workday due to foot injury is $9,600 (OHS, July 2005). The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that employees who suffer a foot or toe injury miss an average of 8 days of work, versus 5 days for hands and fingers (BLS, November 2007).

For employers, injuries result in additional costs and consequences, such as the loss of a trained employee, time spent responding to a medical emergency and filling out paperwork, uncertainty about the employee’s return, increase in workers’ compensation premiums and loss of morale in the workplace.

What makes The FootGuardian unique? Is it easy to install on any model of pallet jack?

The product is unique because it is the first and only foot guard for manual pallet jacks. 

The FootGuardian can be installed in less than four minutes. Mounting a specially designed collar clamp to the steering mechanism provides continuous protection at all angles and in all states (loaded, unloaded, operated on inclines and declines). The FootGuardian allows a full range of motion for steering.

It is also reusable. When the pallet jack is replaced, simply detach the guard and place it on the new jack.

Does the FootGuardian offer any advantages beyond safety?

Safety is its primary purpose. In addition to the confidence and peace of mind that The FootGuardian gives the pallet jack operator while working, the product also offers significant benefits to companies. The impact of an employee injury extends beyond the immediate cost of the accident and includes factors, such as lost time and lost production. By preventing injuries, The FootGuardian prevents these subsequent losses.

What kind of feedback have you received from those who have implemented your product?

The FootGuardian is currently used in several retail stores. All feedback received has been positive, and those using the product are impressed with the effectiveness of such a simple mechanism. Employees at store level have been receptive to the idea and feel they can work with confidence while using a manual pallet jack. I find it interesting to note that when I am installing a guard, I typically hear a story of someone they know who had their foot run over.    

At the manufacturer level, I sometimes hear that no customer/end user demand exists for this safety guard. This is contrary to reports from end users and insurance/risk management companies. I like to remind manufacturers that air bags were also not in demand before being commonly deployed. Very often, the invention precedes the demand.

Still, in this case, the demand is out there, as the stories from the frontlines of warehouses, retail stores and manufacturing facilities tell us.

Do you plan to modify The FootGuardian in any way?

The FootGuardian has been effective on all models we have tested. If it needed to be modified or customized to suit a specific type of a manual pallet jack, we would provide that modification.

What are your overall expectations for the FootGuardian?

I would like to see the reduction of exposure with foot rollover injuries caused by manual pallet jacks. With this in mind, The FootGuardian should become a standard for all manual pallet jacks—installed not as an afterthought, but designed in at the manufacturing stage. Adding the product upfront would be the most cost-effective method of installation and would provide a unique value proposition for manufacturers of manual pallet jacks.


Tiki Vietri has developed and holds the patent for The FootGuardian, a pallet jack safety guard. He holds a business degree and is currently a manager for a supermarket chain. He may be contacted through his website, http://www.thefootguardian.com/.


Pallet Jack Safety Guard in Action

Great as an add-on accessory.

Half-inch gap from the bottom of the floor.

Steel guard attaches to the post in under 4 minutes.

Three plates of steel weighing 5 lbs.

Fits most major manufactured pallet jacks.

Floating mechanism operates in 20° inclines or declines.