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Edilio Brito will receive the President’s Award for Innovation in Safety for his commitment to improving forklift visibility.

By Hilary Reeves

Tropical Shipping Lead Mechanic and 2018 Saltchuk Safety Award winner Edilio Brito grew up in Miami, a talented guitarist by day and a gas station attendant by night.

“My childhood was normal in my eyes,” he said. “We didn’t have much, so we had to make due. We listened to music, went to many concerts, and even played in a few rock bands.  We dreamed of being musicians.”

His first job, working as an attendant at a full-service Exxon Gas Station when he was 17 years old, introduced him to shop life.

“Thank God, those gas stations are gone,” he laughed. “You had to attend to customers in the full-service area while keeping an eye on the self-service. If a self-service customer left without paying, it came out of your check, and at four dollars an hour that wasn’t much of a paycheck. I remember I would go to the mechanic’s shop and ask all kinds of questions. Sometimes I would even help him out.”

Maintaining Miami

Brito joined Tropical Shipping in 1992 as a mechanic, one of only two in the company’s Miami shop.

“The Lead Mechanic was promoted to Supervisor in West Palm Beach, and that left me by myself in Miami,” he explained. “I was the only mechanic in Miami for about 10 years – I managed and successfully ran the Miami Shop on my own. I worked on chassis, tires, forklifts, trucks, reefers, and purchased and handled my own parts inventory during those 10 years.”

Today, Brito is Lead Mechanic of a five-person crew and the shop pulses with energy, having acquired the responsibilities of equipment maintenance of Caribtrans, Deluxe Freight, and VI Cargo.

“I oversee two equipment mechanics, one refrigeration mechanic, and one container/chassis mechanic,” he said. “I’m responsible for 63 pieces of equipment and numerous refrigeration equipment, chassis, and containers, and for purchasing and handling Miami maintenance parts inventory. The work is spread out amongst us in different capacities.”

Pointing toward safety

Brito was nominated for a Safety Award after an accident prompted him to spend countless hours trying to solve a seemingly simple problem: how to make forklifts and their direction of travel more visible. At one point, he had forklift operators testing five different systems, each designed to create different lighting effects around the forklifts.

In a Tropical warehouse a bright blue LED paints an arrow and box around a forklift.
The bright LED system projects a directional arrow and perimeter around each forklift. The 20-foot arrow is projected in the direction the forklift is traveling.

“I installed a blue dot, but it didn’t make sense to me,” he said. “Some sidelights and an arc created more of a zone around the forklift, but I still wasn’t satisfied. What does a dot on the floor or an arc tell you if you’re new to this environment?”

“Edilio has always looked for ways to improve safety, especially when it comes to equipment under his responsibility,” his nominator stated. “Even during his hectic schedule and while maintaining the equipment, he continued to focus until he found a system that the operators liked.”

Instead, a complete directional and perimeter warning system was adopted. The bright LED system projects a directional arrow and perimeter around each forklift. The 20-foot arrow is projected in the direction the forklift is traveling.

“An arrow, now that tells you something,” he concluded. “It tells you the forklift is going in the direction the arrow is indicating. That’s something everybody can understand. And I’ll continue to look for better ways to promote awareness of our forklifts, especially in a warehouse environment.”

‘Not just turning wrenches’

Brito remains passionate about machine work in part because of his natural ability to tinker, troubleshooting until he “figures it out.”

“The challenge of trying to figure out what caused a failure and how to prevent it from happening again is why I got into this line of work,” he said. “I have a creative mind, and I need opportunities and challenges to use it.”

Brito also likes the multitasking, researching, and creativity that comes with the job.

“A typical day for me is full of multitasking,” he said. “Every day is different – it’s not just turning wrenches. That’s what keeps it interesting for me. Safety to me means taking the time to protect yourself and co-workers. Safety needs to become a habit, and we must utilize it every minute of the day.”

Tropical Shipping Lead Mechanic Edilio Brito is one of 10 nominees for the 2018 Saltchuk Safety Awards, awarded annually to an individual responsible for an innovative idea that improves safety behaviors and to an individual who displays distinguished service with regard to safety.

Hilary Reeves

Hilary Reeves spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining the Saltchuk family of companies as a consultant. Since People of Saltchuk launched in 2014, Reeves has interviewed more than 200 Saltchuk employees from operating companies all over the world. Born in Tacoma, Washington, Reeves is a former president of both the collegiate and local professional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists, a graduate of the Society’s Ted Scripps Leadership Institute, and a Toastmaster. When she’s not writing, she loves to read, ski, and practice the piano. She lives in West Seattle with her husband and two young daughters.