Safety Barriers for Warehouses
Enforcing work health and safety standards in your warehouse is no easy task. With plant and pedestrians keeping your stock moving in and out, the chance of them running into each other with tragic results can be high. Of course, you must educate your workforce to follow traffic management plans and install warning signage to keep pedestrians and forklifts separated. But even the best precautions can fail in the face of human error. The good news is that you can radically reduce forklift accidents by installing effective safety barriers around your warehouse.
Why Use a Safety Barrier?
With the average forklift weighing 1360 kg + loads of up to 2000kg, forklift can become a potentially deadly weapon if used in an uncontrolled way.
Pedestrians. racking, conveyors and other machinery or equipment is at risk whenever there’s a forklift operating in close proximity. However, though warehouse vehicles are a kinetic risk, most of the damage they can cause can be absorbed or mitigated if there’s an effective safety barrier in place.
Well-designed and tested safety barriers can absorb low-level impact from forklifts, order pickers, walkie stackers, pallet jacks, and other types of warehouse vehicles without damaging them or the surface where they are installed.
Adding safety barriers to your warehouse business may save you tens of thousands of dollars in the long run – money that you’d otherwise spend on repairs or in settling expensive legal liability and compensation claims.
Barriers can also increase your staff’s awareness of their surroundings. Indeed, their mere presence and bright yellow color can remind pedestrians to keep an eye for incoming vehicles – even if they can’t hear them or see them at the moment.
However, if a warning isn’t enough to reduce the risk to an acceptable level and push comes to shove, well designed safety barriers have the flexibility and strength to absorb the impact of a moving vehicle safely and without significant side effects.
How strong should safety barriers be?
Safety barriers perform a variety of jobs such as directing traffic, protecting frame structures, and segregating pedestrians from vehicles – among others.
There are many types of barriers in the market but not all of them are meant for being used in a warehouse environment.
Hard barriers are typically constructed from of steel or cement can stop moving vehicles that weigh as much as 40 tons providing, they are designed and anchored correctly. However, while they typically assist in segregation and protection of personnel, they can easily damage your expensive fleet of warehouse vehicles if they are not constructed correctly. Worse still, since replacing hard barriers requires replacing the anchorage in surrounding floor as well, repairs are typically highly expensive.
Soft barriers, on the other hand, are flexible enough to absorb and dissipate the impact without damaging your vehicles or the floor. These barriers are made using polymers, making them both highly-flexible and easy to repair. That’s why they are ideally suited for a warehouse environment.
Where should safety barriers be located?
Safety barriers should be located wherever there is a high interaction risk in your warehouse. In other words, wherever one of your vehicles is at risk of damaging property or harming your employees.
Installing barriers around the expensive equipment in your distribution center – such as conveyor systems, electrical equipment, and machinery – will protect it from damage in case one of your vehicles bumps into it.
Barriers should also be used to safeguard structural frames – such as building columns, corners, and racks. This will prevent your forklifts from compromising their structural integrity and save you thousands of dollars on repairs.
Pedestrians such as your warehouse staff are always at risk when there’s a forklift nearby. So, whenever possible, you should select safety barriers to protect both pedestrian lanes and shipping & receiving offices. Typically, if you have staff working in packing and dispatch areas they should be protected from interactions with machines by physical barriers.
Finally, you should always ensure that barriers in raised loading dock areas are designed to prevent forklifts from falling off the loading dock – a type of accident that may have disastrous consequences for forklift operators or warehouse staff working in the area.
When can temporary barriers be used?
Not all safety barriers are fixed permanently. Warehouses can be dynamic environments that are always changing. Whether you need to cordon off a slippery area or protect a newly installed rack, temporary barriers give you the flexibility you need to deal with any scenario.
Temporary barriers often come in a modular design that simplifies onsite assembly. So no matter what the problem is, they can provide an ad-hoc solution to your work safety needs.
Do you need to protect your shipping & receiving office areas? Some organisations use modular barrier system to enclose them and remove them later as required.
Likewise, if you’re looking to segregate wheeled and foot traffic from each other, then using temporary barriers may be be a more convenient alternative to its fixed cousins.
What standards exist for warehouse Safety Barriers?
To guarantee their effectiveness and avoid liability claims, safety barriers must be built up and installed according to existing standards safety standards.
PAS 13:2017 Code of practice for safety barriers used in traffic management within workplace environments with test methods for safety barrier impact resilience is an international Code of Practice that contains industry-leading guidance in both the use and design of safety barriers in workplace environments. In the absence of specific Australian Standards, PAS 13 can be used as guidance on selection of barriers in work environments
There are different standards that provide information on how safety barriers should be designed. For example, AS/NZS 1170.0:2002 Structural design actions General principles specifies the loading a safety barrier must sustain and how they should be constructed. Australian Standard AS/NZS 4024.1-2019 Series Safety of Machinery on the other hand, gives detailed information on how you should use safety barriers to protect machinery and the employees using it.
When installing barriers, a rule of thumb is to always build them in a way that meets or even exceeds Australian design standards.
Common mistakes in warehouse barriers?
We are sometimes called to evaluate incidents or accidents involving safety involving interactions between plant such as forklifts and personnel. In some instances, barriers and walkways had been implemented but those barriers failed to be an effective means for controlling the interaction.
A number of factors should be assessed as part of the barrier installation process. They include (but are not limited to):
- The fundamental purpose of the barrier;
- The speed and potential forces behind the plant operating in the area;
- The efficacy of the barrier to withstand the forces of plant operating under routine conditions. Was the barrier flexible, semi-rigid, or rigid?;
- The capacity of the barrier to absorb the impact;
- The efficacy of the anchorage points of the barrier including the strength of concrete footings, the types and ratings of anchorage devices (such as dynabolts) used.
- The conditions that are likely to exist including environment, weather, lighting, fatigue of operators;
Our experience has shown that many people fail to understand the importance of fixed barriers in protecting pedestrians from interactions with plant.
While many personnel recognize that defining walkways is important for effective traffic management, many fail to identify and assess points where fixed barriers are required to shield personnel from traffic. Some even believe that an installed handrail will be enough to prevent an interaction between people and plant operating at higher speeds…by the way it wont.
There are many factors to consider when selecting the right safety barriers for your warehouse and developing an effective traffic management plan that mitigates the risks of interactions. If you need professional help to minimize the risk of injury or illness in your warehouse, give us a call on 1300 087 888 or chat below and let our expert work health & safety consultants help you to assess your risks and define the requirements around effective traffic management. We can help you gather a deeper understanding of the right warehouse safety barrier to protect your most important warehouse assets – your people.