Traffic management in Warehouses2020-09-21T04:23:20+00:00

Traffic management in Warehouses

Warehouses are typically extremely busy places and often high-pressure environments. On any given day, forklifts can be found navigating their way through complex product and rack aisles or delivering product to loading docks for delivery to trucks awaiting pickup. Adding to the complexity, warehouse workers are often busy picking and preparing stock for customer orders…sometimes in relatively close proximity to forklifts. One moment of carelessness can result in a workplace accident with sometimes severe consequences. In this article we take a look at traffic management in warehouses and how warehouse owners, managers and employees prevent injuries or death without compromising their business productivity goals? Well, it comes down to practicing traffic management on the job.

Traffic management involves identifying risk factors at the workplace which contribute to workplace accidents and creating effective plans to keep forklifts and people apart.

Simply keeping forklifts and people apart can reduce the probabilities of a significant interaction by a tremendous rate. However, since this isn’t always possible, let’s break down the fundamentals of warehouse traffic management safety by item.

Managing Racking Safety in Warehouses

Keep pedestrian and vehicle traffic apart

Walking throughout a busy warehouse with operating mobile plant wearing nothing but high visibility vests and safety boots means that pedestrians still have a high risk of suffering a potentially deadly forklift accident. To minimize the dangers, warehouses should use overhead walkways, barrier fences, and designated pedestrian-only areas to keep personnel and powered mobile plant apart.

When complete separation isn’t possible – like in loading bays – warehouses can use warning devices, signals, clear safety procedures or even some high-tech devices to assist in keeping plant and pedestrians separate.

Designating specific pedestrian crossing points and doors for personnel can help prevent distracted workers from running into plant operating in the warehouse. Likewise, using bollards and safety railing provides a highly visible demarcation line that can physically prevent pedestrians from stepping into a forklift’s blind spot even if they don’t realize their mistake on time.

Furthermore, outfitting forklifts with proximity alarms, speed limiters, or other types of warning devices will add a much-needed technological safety layer to protect against human error.

Vehicle-pedestrian coordination is essential to avoiding loading dock accidents

When it comes to vehicles and pedestrians cooperating, the golden rule is that any unessential worker or visitor – such as office workers or truck drivers – should wait in a safe zone outside the area while the loading process is underway.

Loading docks demand that forklifts and pedestrians work in proximity to assemble or unload pallets. Pedestrians must respect the swing radius of the forklift and keep a healthy distance between them – at least 2 -3 meters is recommended. Furthermore, pedestrians must always alert forklift drivers of their presence and wait for a hand signal reply before approaching the load to avoid stepping into a blind spot.

Forklift operators must stop their forklifts while pedestrians work in the loading area – such as during the receiving process. Likewise, pedestrians must retreat to a safe zone before the forklifts can move the pallets to its racks of destination.

Forklifts, reach stackers, and other powered load shifting equipment

Load shifting equipment – like forklifts, reach stackers, ride-on pallet movers, and walkie stackers – are essential to moving heavy loads quickly. Unfortunately, when fully loaded, drivers may often operate them under limited visibility conditions – a factor only made worse if they speed through the warehouse.

Most forklift accidents involve speeding or poor visibility and can easily be fatal if a pedestrian is involved.

To prevent interactions, or at least limit their risk, warehouses must implement and enforce speed limits – preferably fitting forklifts with speed limiting devices. There’s a range of devices now available that provide geo-fencing and allow speed limiting in zoned areas to increase safety.

Operators of plant must manage their speed and they should always prepare to make a sudden stop without dropping their load. Furthermore, they must slow down even further anytime they reach an intersection, corner, or doorway.

Using hand radios to communicate will assist in reducing the need for hand signals or approaching the forklift driver to communicate – which would endanger the pedestrian if the driver doesn’t see him on time. Whenever visibility is an issue, forklift drivers must coordinate with a pedestrian to assist them to drive their load home safely.

We always recommend to our clients to develop clear protocols for staff working around mobile plant. Some of these protocols involve warehouse workers not entering a forklift operating envelope without positive identification from the plant operator.

The work area must have visible signs and clearly delineated spaces

Speed restrictions and high-visibility gear would be of little help if the warehouse isn’t ordered rationally. Physical barriers – like fences – should separate vehicles from pedestrian areas. Forklifts should have enough space to turn smoothly without the risk of impacting a rack.

Vehicle and pedestrian pathways should run a straight course and avoid crossing into each other as much as possible. Forklifts should have their own parking and recharging areas and, likewise, forklift pathways must stay clear of pallets, loads, or anything that can obstruct vehicle traffic.

The warehouse should have clear signals to indicate risk areas, separate vehicle from pedestrian pathways, and alert workers about any traffic hazard in their vicinity.

Using line marking across the warehouse and in loading docks will help forklift drivers do their job safely. Likewise, while mirrors, sensors, and reversing cameras can improve drivers’ overall visibility, lowering pallet loads at the end of racking will help eliminate corner blind spots and remove a major source of traffic accidents.

Put your warehouse traffic management plan on paper

Practicing common sense traffic safety rules in the warehouse is one thing. However, unless these practices are written on paper by the company and comply with both Australian and international standards, informal safety practices will only create confusion and risks.

On the other hand, by creating a traffic management plan, warehouses can define safety methods that everybody – workers, visitors and contractors– must follow. Warehouse managers and supervisors can use traffic management plans as both a blueprint to train new personnel and set a benchmark to quantify points of interaction during operations.

Traffic management plans must detail anything related to moving vehicles, plant and equipment, people, and load movement around the warehouse. Fundamentally they must leave no detail up for debate. Pedestrians and mobile plant should have separate designated travel paths and entry/exit points.

Interactions between pedestrians and vehicles should be regulated to avoid dangerous ad-hoc solutions becoming the norm. The plan must also define the responsibilities of persons responsible for managing traffic, appropriate ways to handle traffic interactions, and how to implement and monitor a traffic management plan’s effectiveness.

Maintaining warehouse safety without damaging productivity isn’t easy. Warehouses can be dangerous work environments where the hectic pace of receiving, storing, and dispatching goods may leave little time to think about safety.

The good news is that by setting clear traffic management plans from the get-go warehouses can set a straight course every employee can follow to finish their day’s work without an accident or incident.

Safetysure works with a range of organization’s to develop warehouse traffic management plans. We do all the hard work! We map and quantify your points of interactions and help you decide on which control will work best to make your warehouse safer.

Safetysure helps business plan for traffic management

Safetysure works with a range of organization’s to develop warehouse traffic management plans. We do all the hard work! We map and quantify your points of interactions and help you decide on which control will work best to make your warehouse safer.

Call us for a free no-obligation quote on 1300 087 888 on improving traffic management in your warehouse. We work with some of the world’s largest and smallest companies to improve safety in the warehouse. You can find out about our services here.

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