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Traffic management plans should not be complicated, but they should be complete

Site and facility traffic management – By Keith Robinson

According to WorkSafe NZ, traffic management was a factor in 14% of fatal work-related vehicle accidents between 2013 and 2017, mostly involving pedestrians and heavy vehicles or equipment. In this, the first of a series of articles on traffic management, we look at sites and facilities.

We are all familiar with the ‘hierarchy of controls’ (see below) as detailed in the Health and Safety at Work (General Risk and Workplace Management) Regulations 2016. The pyramid is inverted for a reason – we should look to eliminate hazards first, rather than substitute them for lower-risk hazards, and clearly isolation and engineering controls are much better than administrative controls or steel-capped boots and a high-vis vest.

The ‘hierarchy of controls’ from the General Risk and Workplace Management Regulations

The best time to practise good health and safety management is in design. If we can eliminate hazards at the beginning, when we are setting up a site or facility, we won’t have to deal with them throughout the life of that system. Work area zones, pedestrian zones, site one-way systems and standardisation of processes can play a big part in the elimination of issues.

Too much focus on lower controls

The trouble is that most organisations focus on administrative and personal protective equipment (PPE) controls. Let’s look at an example.

There are typically three different types of pedestrians in a logistics workplace:
  • • Occasional – including office staff and external visitors
  • • Workers working in the facility
  • • Pedestrians in relation to trucks being loaded.

In this article we’re going to look at occasional visitors. Facility workers and pedestrians in the loading yard will be covered in later articles.

Pedestrian barriers and walkways

Rather than using training (an administrative control) and high-vis vests (a PPE control), we should strongly consider elimination or isolation. We need to decide upfront why occasional pedestrians might visit a factory or warehouse – maybe it is to talk to the people at the dispatch desk or just to see what is going on.

By placing occasional pedestrians behind a barrier, they can interact with the facility safely without the need for PPE – and if we don’t need them to wear PPE, it will save the time and supervision required to ensure that it is being worn.

A fun way to ensure that office people wear their PPE is to enforce a ‘chocolate catch’ – where the office worker has to provide a chocolate bar to the warehouse person who catches them not wearing their PPE!

Walkways should be laid throughout the building – all the way to the emergency evacuation point – and adhered to at all times. They need to be kept clear – allowing product to be placed on them degrades the entire concept and sends the wrong message. Remember that forklifts are colour blind, so a painted yellow line intended to exclude forklift entry is unlikely to be successful. Install barriers instead. 

Frequent and documented checks are required to ensure compliance – at least until the workplace safety ‘culture’ changes. Often the health and safety culture is what the workers do when the boss isn’t watching!

Site traffic management 

Traffic management plans should not be complicated. However, they should be complete and include the site address, the route that vehicles should take, any one-way systems and pedestrian routes, the location of emergency equipment, and where vehicles should be loaded/offloaded.

Another way to reduce the risk of harm is to ensure that trucks are on a site for only a short time. By having loads packed, labelled and ready to load before vehicles arrive, vehicles can come, load and go, removing the hazard from the site as soon as possible.

Having time slots for regular movements can ensure the above and makes it easier for forklifts and drivers to be ready for when the truck arrives – this also reduces stress. 

A waiting truck driver tends to wander, have a look around and chat to other waiting drivers. We want them gone – and they want to be gone. Once they are out of our gates, they can’t get hurt on our site – and we all get to go home safely.

Keith Robinson is the principal of Dharma Advisory Services which runs a number of courses in supply chain management, including warehouse design and risk management www.dharmaadvisory.com

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