Managing warehouse traffic is paramount in ensuring the workplace is without risks to health and safety. The movement of vehicles, including powered mobile plants, in and around a workplace, especially reversing and while loading and unloading are frequently linked with death and injuries to workers and members of the public.
Traffic around warehouses can include cars, delivery trucks, powered mobile plants like forklifts, and pedestrians like workers and visitors.
Warehouse Work Activities
Goods are received and stored at warehouses until they are required and then prepared for transportation. Work activities around warehouses include:
- receiving and unloading goods from manufacturers, importers, and suppliers
- transferring goods onto pallets for storage
- storing goods in appropriate conditions e.g. freezers, cold areas, silos, or racking
- responding to customer orders by picking products from warehouse shelves and preparing them for transportation e.g. placing them on pallets or wrapping them
- loading orders onto vehicles for transport to the customer.
The safest and most effective way to protect pedestrians is to eliminate traffic hazards. This can be done by designing the layout of the workplace to eliminate interactions between pedestrians and vehicles. Examples include prohibiting vehicles from being used in pedestrian spaces and providing separate traffic routes so pedestrians cannot enter areas where vehicles are used.
Where this is not possible the risks must be minimised so far as is reasonably practicable. This can be done by careful planning and controlling vehicle operations and pedestrian movements at the workplace.
The Fundamental Characteristics of Good Traffic Management
The fundamental characteristics of good traffic management can be applied to warehousing, the construction industry, and shopping centres and are worth exploring
Warehousing involves a wide range of traffic movements including delivery trucks, powered mobile plants (e.g. forklifts), and pedestrians, and activities like driving, unloading, transferring, and loading goods.
- Ensure vehicles and pedestrians are using separate traffic routes, by introducing control measures i.e. walkways (overhead, if possible) and well-marked ‘safety zones’ (complete with signs, interlocked gates, etc.) so that drivers and operators are protected if and when they disembark a vehicle.
- Safe Work Australia’s Traffic Management Guide: Warehousing suggests implementing right-of-way rules and regulations and ensuring all workers and visitors at the warehouse are familiar with them, so they know who to give way to and when. These should be complemented by easy-to-read site maps that indicate traffic flow.
- Ensure zones with powered mobile plants in operation are restricted and off-limits to workers and visitors that are not operating the machines or trained to perform a supervisory role. This will prevent unauthorised personnel from accidentally walking into an area where they could be injured by a powered mobile plant.
While warehousing has been discussed extensively, similarities are experienced in other industries.
The construction site, like a warehouse, is faced with managing traffic movements and hazards. It’s essential best practices for traffic management are implemented to prevent workplace injuries or deaths.
Every workplace is unique and therefore control measures will vary from site to site, some elements are universal, however:
- The first step in the design stages of the construction site is to ensure that the amount of shared space that vehicles and pedestrians are at a minimum.
- It is best practice to try and limit the amount that vehicles have to move on to the construction site itself. This could involve planning storage areas and arranging parking for vehicles at a safe distance from the main work site, so the chance of pedestrians being around vehicles when reversing or moving is reduced.
- Ensure that everyone on the construction site is wearing high-visibility clothing at all times, as this will make it easier for drivers to see and avoid them when operating their vehicles in the same location.
Safety at a construction site is of utmost concern as they are accident-prone, due to the nature of activities conducted and the materials and equipment used. It is, therefore, important to implement safety measures and have procedures in place to minimise accidents and to keep the site safe. It is important to have barriers and fences erected to control access for site safety.
Shopping centres, too, are like warehouses and are faced with similar traffic movements and traffic hazards. Generally, shopping centres have a lot of members of the public moving through them, who are not well-versed in traffic management. There may be a variety of traffic types, including trolley collection vehicles, taxis, buses, bicycles, and pedestrians.
- Ensure trolley collection vehicles possess adequate safety features, i.e. reversing cameras, mirrors (to help minimise blind spots), and lights and alarms that indicate when the vehicles are backing up or coming near to pedestrians.
- Keep all footpaths, free of obstacles that might cause pedestrians to trip and injure themselves. These routes should be monitored regularly and any hazards noticed must be removed as soon as possible.
- All pedestrian vehicles, i.e. taxis and buses, should be provided with designated zones in which to stop, preferably away from other vehicles and areas where there is a lot of foot traffic.
Shopping centre car parks are packed with people and cars that are moving in a tight, narrow, and busy area. The high volume of vehicles combined with a high concentration of unsuspecting pedestrians is a recipe for trouble and accidents.
Designated Exclusion Zones
Another way traffic can be managed is by specifying driver-designated safety and loading and unloading exclusion zones. These specific exclusion zones can help to mitigate risk associated with the high risk of collision with vehicles and people. Visible signage and clear instruction go a long way in prevention, too.