Heavy objects, machinery and human beings. Wherever these three elements meet, accidents are bound to happen. The warehouse is such a place! Warehouse managers are responsible for ensuring that the warehouse is a safe place for pedestrians, machine operators and visitors. To do that, managers need to review the traffic management plan regularly, thus keeping risks and hazards at the lowest level possible. This blog aims to provide ideas and solutions on how to implement safety precautions (particularly safety barriers) to lower those risks.
Risks & Hazards of Warehouse Traffic
The efficiency of a warehouse is directly linked to the flow of its traffic. Truly, the art of being in the right place at the right time depends on how fast and how safely you can get there. The whole process of a warehouse includes activities where employees must interact with machinery and heavy loads, such as unloading goods from trucks and transferring goods onto pallets; storing onto racking or other specialised storage areas. After orders, preparing deliveries by picking goods and transporting to packing bays, then loading onto vehicles for transport.
During any of these tasks, operators, pedestrians, and assets are at risk. These hazards are:
- Low visibility at junctions, bends, and corners
- Elevated floors, excavations, and platforms at different heights
- Collisions with pedestrians, loads falling onto them
- Collision with machinery, pallet stacks or racking
- Exposed pipes, columns, tanks, and cylinders
Make sure you have assessed all the risks and hazards beforehand. For example, view this handy checklist to cover all the risks and hazards that could be present in your workplace. Ensuring you address these risks and hazards head on will raise the safety of your employees and assets in the warehouse, and increase its efficiency!
Separating Warehouse Traffic
Ideally, your warehouse would only be using low-speed, lightweight loadshifting equipment for a safer working environment. However, forklifts are generally required for larger loads, and are one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment in a warehouse! According to the HSE, being struck by a moving vehicle accounted for around 20% of workplace fatalities in 2016. Avoid using forklifts if your workload permits it. Try using alternative loadshifting equipment such as lift tables, ride-on pallet trucks, stacker trucks (powered) or trolleys, pallet trucks, sack trucks (manual). If using forklifts cannot be avoided, extra measures must be put in place to prevent collisions and accidents. One sure way to minimise this risk is to physically separate and regulate the traffic of pedestrians and machinery, and protect vulnerable assets.
Managing Warehouse Traffic with Barriers
- First, review your traffic management plan and any accident or near-accident reports for hazardous areas.
- Review the warehouse layout, so that pedestrian traffic and machinery traffic interact as little as possible.
- Demarcate work areas with heavy forklift traffic, and keep them away from pedestrian routes, specifically.
- Clearly mark pedestrian crossings and install inward opening gates. This ensures pedestrians pause and check traffic before crossing.
- Install physical safety barriers. Couple with line markings for walkways, roadways and work areas.
- Add bollards and railings to protect equipment, columns and prevent falls from platforms.
- Use a mixture of permanent and temporary barricades at entrances and exit points, thus regulating traffic.
- Make sure pedestrians and forklifts have dedicated entrances and exits. If not possible, provide windows on doors to check oncoming traffic.
- Couple physical barriers with visual or audio cues such as signage, flashing lights, proximity alarms, etc.
This blog aims to focus on safety barriers as a solution to segregating warehouse traffic. Make sure you review other areas of your traffic management plan, such as PPE, signage, line marking, speed management and training.
Warehouse Safety Barriers: Types & Uses
Assess the space available to you before considering safety barriers. In problematic areas where forklifts and pedestrians might cross paths, insert walkway barriers to separate traffic. Or install gate barriers to control crossings. Asset protection guards include all barriers designed to protect physical assets such as pallet racking, static machinery, fragile pipework or columns and corners. For impact-prone areas, install guards with flexible mountings or wall protection to cushion impacts and prevent damage. Finally, temporary expanding barriers can control traffic at entrances and exits of loading bays.
A. Traffic & Walkway Barriers
Modular safety barriers are great for walkways and separating types of warehouse traffic. Likewise, warehouse barriers with fixed posts and lift out barriers make for a complete flexible solution. Similarly, install barrier units with optional mesh for protection from oncoming vehicles and loads.
B. Asset Protection Guards
Pallet racking protectors (with optional guide rollers) prevent any damage to shelving corners. Install wooden beams in addition to barriers for shelf protection, that are replaceable if damaged or broken. For stacked goods, pallets or fragile machinery, low level barriers or protection bars are a strong, otherwise discreet solution that stop oncoming wheels.
C. Wall & Impact Protection
Protection guards with flexible mounts help cushion vehicles in the event of impact. Couple them with foam surface or edge protectors for cushioning impacts on walls, fragile barriers or edges. Protect columns and corners with bollards or hooped guards for prevention.
D. Loading Bay Barriers
Protect corners, entrance and exit points with bollards and posts. Hoop barriers with steel under-runs are a great physical barrier to prevent fork damage to assets. For temporary jobs, belt barriers or retractable cone barriers enable quick deployment whenever vehicles might pose a hazard.
E. Temporary Expanding Barriers
Large expanding barriers are useful for cordoning off entrances and exits when roller shutters are up. They enable the control of inward and outbound deliveries. Barricades as a temporary measure, can help prevent pedestrians from entering restricted areas.
Remember that each warehouse (and warehouse traffic) is unique, and has its own specific set of hazards and risks. Each solution should be tailored to your needs so that your unique production flow is optimised. If you’d like some help in figuring out which solutions would fit your budget, live chat with us for a quote or request a site visit!