Can the logistics industry make warehouses safer for pedestrians?

Almost a fifth of deaths in the workplace over the past five years – and a large number of injuries – were caused by people being hit by moving vehicles. Unsurprisingly, many of these were in the logistics sector, where pedestrians and vehicles share workspaces on a daily basis.

We have a wealth of legislation governing health and safety at work. As HSEQ, warehouse and operations managers, we know the importance of having separate vehicle and pedestrian routes, of physical barriers, warning signs, designated crossing points, appropriate PPE, and well-communicated safety protocols.

So, where are we going wrong?

Why are people still being seriously injured, and worse killed, in these kinds of incidents?

And what can we do to stop that from happening?

In this blog, we draw on our many years of experience to offer some advice to help minimise risk on site.

 

Revisit warehouse routes

Separate pedestrian walkways and vehicle zones may once have been clearly demarcated in your warehouse, but is that still the case? Take time to regularly walk pedestrian routes and be a passenger on your vehicle ways and notice if anything is missing, obscured or obstructed.

Some things to look out for in particular:

  • Are your floor markings still clear? Both painted markings and floor tape can wear and fade over time, especially if they are driven over repeatedly or in a high-footfall area. Make sure warnings and markings are clearly visible.

  • Are walkways and vehicle routes being kept clear? Any obstructions may hide important signage or floor markings, or create a barrier that causes either vehicles or pedestrians to stray into one another’s designated areas.

  • Has anything changed? Have you created new walkways, or stopped using older ones - and would this be clear to someone new to working on your site? Do your walkways follow people’s natural ‘desire lines’, or is there a different ‘short-cut’ they might be tempted to use? Can you mitigate that risk with a barrier, or by moving the walkway?

  • Is your signage clear? Replace faded or damaged signs with new ones, and consider introducing bespoke signage to reinforce company protocols, policies, procedures and values. Remember that outdated branding or information might lead to assumptions that signage is not current and no longer to be observed.

 

Guard against complacency

In a busy warehouse, with forklifts working 24/7 and constant loading and unloading of trucks, it can be easy to become complacent and pay less attention to safety protocols, especially at night when there may be fewer pedestrians or vehicle movements, or a few hours into a shift. Pedestrians may be tempted to dart across vehicle ways away from designated crossing points, and drivers may pay less close attention to their surroundings.

Ensuring your walkways and vehicle routes are free from obstructions, clearly marked and appropriately signposted will help to reduce the risk of accidents, but it’s also important to ensure your staff keep safety in front of mind.

Engaging your staff with the importance of keeping themselves and others around them safe will not only help to reduce workplace accidents, but could also improve productivity and reduce sick days. Workplace safety is a partnership between you and your employees, so talk to your staff and let them know what you want to achieve and why it’s important. Use all communication channels open to you to regularly remind them of the importance of following protocols, and employ different methods to get the message across to ensure it’s heard and understood.

Finally, ensure any changes that might impact employee safety are clearly and regularly communicated. This might include changes to your warehouse layout, or to vehicle or pedestrian routes. This is seen quite often in peak periods where warehouses become very busy. Any changes will need to be very clearly conveyed through physical signage and barriers where necessary, as well as verbally, to ensure they are absorbed by your staff and not forgotten in the midst of busy shifts. 

 For more advice on keeping your employees safe at work, give our team a call on 0121 749 4433.