Road freight transport and management is one of those high-risk industries that sees a lot of injuries and accidents related to manual handling of freight, falls, loading and unloading. Manual handling of freight and material is crucial to any warehouse operation where heavy lifting, unregulated movement of vehicles and awkward postures leads to many avoidable accidents and mishaps. Managing this warehouse traffic should be the number one priority for organisations so that there are no health and safety risks for the employees involved in warehouse operations.
All kinds of vehicular movement in and around the workplace, reversing, loading and unloading of goods lead to several situations that may result in an accident. The most effective way to deal with and manage such situations is to work towards removing traffic hazards. While this is easier said than done, you can design the layout of the warehouse in a manner that interaction between people and machines is kept to a minimum.
Designated areas meant for vehicular movement should be avoided by pedestrians and vice-versa. Wherever this is not possible, plan and control vehicle operations and pedestrian movements in a manner so that there is complete coordination and cohesion between the workforce when conducting operations.
There are two aspects of how warehouse traffic can be managed; by specifying driver-designated safety and loading and unloading exclusion zones. Appropriate exclusion zones can increase the safety of people in a loading area by decreasing the chance that there will be a collision with vehicles and people due to their separation. By controlling these important factors, you can have greater confidence that the workforce remains safe from accidents. Let us see how this can be achieved.
Safety of workers who walk through a warehouse should be paramount as they are the ones most likely to come into harms way. If the design and layout of the warehouse allows it, consider building overhead walkways so that the workers do not ever get in the way of the moving vehicles. If this is not possible due to the design or space constraints, consider the following:
- Install physical separation structures like barriers or fences that keep the pedestrians isolated from the moving traffic. They create a separate walkway for them in a safe and secure way. Verge’s Eco Barriersare 1m high barriers that help keep pedestrians away from moving traffic.
- Installation of safety railings or bollards that prevent pedestrians from stepping out into the moving vehicles due to blind spots.
- Implement signage that clearly specifies the right of the way procedures for both the pedestrian and moving vehicles. This signage must clearly indicate who has the right of the way. Site plans that specify the flow of the vehicular traffic also play an important role in ensuring the safety of the pedestrians.
- Pedestrians that need to work with the vehicles, helping with the loading and unloading of goods should wear high-visibility clothing so that their presence is easily noticed.
- Instruct drivers and workers to stay clear of the vehicles when loading and unloading is taking place. Ideally, they should wait in the designated safety zones until the loading/unloading process is complete. The vehicles should be parked and secured in designated parking areas before the loading/unloading takes place so that there is no chance of their accidental movement.
Driver-Designated Safety Zones
Driver-designated safety zones can provide an important additional safety measure for drivers waiting for a load/unload. Proper signage and specification of driver-designated safety zones can play an important role in the execution of traffic management plans in a warehouse. These zones aid in:
- Designating specific travel paths for vehicles, and pedestrians including entry and exit points, specifying traffic routes especially in locations and situations where pedestrian and vehicular traffic merges, and minimising crossflow of traffic and blind spots.
- Clearly specifying vehicle parking areas, especially along the loading and unloading bays so that the workers not engaged with loading and unloading do not venture into such areas.
- Use of painted floorsand signsthat act as warnings for:
- Load-shifting equipment parking areas
- vehicle-only and pedestrian-only zones
- speed limits and overspeed prevention aides such as speed humps
- pedestrian prohibited areas such as forklift operating areas
- right of the way for moving vehicles/machinery etc.
- Giving directions and warning through visual warning aides like flashing lights and high visibility markings.
- Use of wireless radios and hand signals where the person receiving the message acknowledges that the message has been received and understood.
Safe Loading and Unloading Exclusion Zones
Many of the accidents in warehouses involve the workers involved with loading and unloading of goods on to the trucks. It is imperative for organisations to create safe loading and unloading exclusion zones so that the risk to drivers and workers can be minimised, if not completely eliminated.
These zones help identify high risk areas and provide necessary tools to organise and manage them by controlling access to such exclusion zones.
Developing an Exclusion Zone
Here are the things to note in the process of creating an exclusion zone for loading and unloading:
- Assess the risks based on the site design and area, flow of traffic, type and number of vehicles involved as well as the pallets and loads.
- Based on the assessment of the risk, installation of signage, barricades, ground-marking and creation of safe work processes.
- Rules for when the exclusion zone will be activated or deactivated.
- Identifying areas where the drivers and workers must not enter when the exclusion zone is active. Use of safety gatesto temporarily block access may be a useful safety measure.
- Designating safe areas for the workers where they must stay put when the exclusion zone is active.
- Rules for how and when to deactivate exclusion zones so that free movement of vehicles and pedestrians can resume.
- Areas for installation of barricades so that the moving machinery stays isolated from the pedestrians
- Processes to manage access to exclusion zones when they are active.
- Developing a can’t see-can’t loadmechanism where the forklift driver ensures that the truck driver and any other workers that assist or observe are perfectly visible in a safe zone before starting the operation.
Controlling the Exclusion Zones
- Everyone in the warehouse must be aware of the existence of exclusion zones as well as the time and duration when they are activated and deactivated.
- Mandatory activation of exclusion zone when a forklift or heavy machinery is operating.
- Pedestrians and unauthorised workers to remain outside the exclusion zone when it is active and move to the designated safety zones.
- The forklift driver stops loading or unloading if the truck driver or other pedestrians leave the safe zone and cannot be sighted.
Safety in warehouse operations is not only the responsibility of the organisation but also of the workers. Proper and complete adherence to the rules for driver-designated and loading and unloading exclusion zones leads to a safe and healthy place for everyone.