Warehouses typically have a wide variety of traffic. That warehouse traffic can include forklifts and pedestrians. It may also include large tractor-trailer rigs, pickup trucks, and cars. It may even include bicycles, “gators,” and golf carts. With this varied mix of traffic, warehouse traffic safety becomes a critical issue.
Hierarchy of Warehouse Traffic Safety
There are three general ways to address warehouse traffic safety hazards.
- Engineering Controls - They involve making changes such that the hazard is designed out of the system, or it is not accessible (guarding) and is no longer a hazard
- Administrative Controls - These are safety rules and work practices that eliminate or make the hazard inaccessible
- Provide Personal Protective Equipment - Commonly known as PPE, these are measures that protect each person individually
In the hierarchy of safety, removing a hazard is more effective than guarding it; and guarding it is more effective than using rules or procedures.
At times, warehouse traffic injuries involve collisions between a powered vehicle and a pedestrian. A safe site will separate heavy vehicles from lighter vehicles, and separate pedestrians from all types of vehicles.
The ideal option is to physically prevent powered vehicles and pedestrians from being in the same area at the same time. This can be accomplished by using overhead walkways, for example. However, in most cases physical separation is not possible, and even when it is, there are times when powered vehicles and pedestrians need to work in the same areas.
Where vehicles and pedestrians interact, guarding can be used to keep people and motorized traffic separate. Guarding includes things such as walls or bollards that place a physical barrier between people and the hazard. These types of physical barriers are often not practical.
The best approach to warehouse traffic safety is often the use of floor marking and safety signs. When it is not practical to keep pedestrians and vehicles in separate areas, floor and pavement marking provides the necessary demarcation of pedestrian and vehicle areas. Floor marking and signs control movement within the warehouse such that everyone remains safe. In addition, using floor marking to identify hazardous areas, such as the edges of loading docks, is critical.
Administrative controls involve establishing safety policies and procedures. Examples of administrative controls are the normal rules of the road. These "rules of the road" should apply to all site traffic movements. They include rules such as:
- Speed limits
- Right of way standards that clearly define who must give way
- Establishing and clearly marking areas in which vehicles may not operate
- Not permitting non-essential workers into areas where vehicles are operating
- Requiring all workers, and drivers, to be clear of vehicles being loaded or unloaded
- Have a designated a safe area where drivers can wait
- Have safety procedures for drivers who need to remain near their vehicles during loading or unloading
In addition to training drivers, and other workers on your safety policies, visitors should be informed about safety policies, and their access to areas where safety training is required should be restricted. Contractors or vendors who are regularly in your workplace should receive your normal safety training.
Personal Protective Equipment
Warehouse traffic safety also means protecting workers from hazards such as high noise levels and the dangers of hazardous materials as they are loaded or unloaded. In some cases, personal protective equipment is the only option. For example, ear protection may be required in areas in which traffic causes high noise levels.
Visual Communication for Warehouses
Signage and floor marking in warehouses is used to keep pedestrians and vehicles separate, and to guide people safely to their destinations.
Examples of common warehouse safety signs include:
- Pedestrians Prohibited – Forklift Operating Area
- Forklift and Powered Equipment Prohibited
- Pedestrian Safety Zone
- Warning Forklifts Operating In This Area
- Pedestrians Must Give Way to Vehicles
- Warning Vehicles Have The Right Of Way
- Temporary “No Pedestrian Access” signs and barriers used during loading and unloading operations
Other important visual communication steps include:
- Use floor marking to designate separate areas for pedestrians and vehicles, including designating lanes and areas for powered industrial trucks
- Where separate areas are temporary, use temporary floor marking or barriers to restrict pedestrian access
- Have separate doors that are clearly marked, for pedestrians and vehicles
- All workers and pedestrians, including visiting drivers, must wear high-visibility clothing
Effective Warehouse Floor Marking
Using high visibility, durable floor marking tape to establish travel lanes, unsafe areas, restricted areas, and to direct people to their destinations, helps keep a warehouse both safe and organized. For example, yellow floor marking tape can be used to identify pedestrian areas and exclude all motorized vehicles. Other areas that should be marked include:
- Mark off designated areas used for forklift parking and re-charging
- Use striping to mark areas near the edges of loading docks such that forklift drivers are warned that part of their vehicle may be near the edge (create a warning track)
- Mark floors to show areas where hazardous materials are located or stored
- Any locations where pedestrian and vehicle traffic lanes cross should be marked with striping to make them highly visible
- Use floor markings to keep traffic away from areas where there are overhead hazards
- Mark areas at ends of aisles to indicate safe clearances for making turns
- Place striped warnings along the edges of holes, depressions, or bumps in the floor
- Use color coded floor marking, and phosphorescent marking, to guide people to emergency exits
Overall the goal is to use various colors of floor marking tape to control warehouse traffic to keep pedestrians separate from motorized traffic, and keep motorized warehouse traffic within safe areas. Color coded floor marking has the added benefit of providing an effective means of organizing a warehouse and improving productivity.
Types of Floor Marking Materials
Be sure you always have the right floor marking tape for the job. For example:
- PathFinder Heavy Duty floor marking tapes are designed to handle heavy traffic and provide long life even in high-traffic locations
- Tread can prevent the most common workplace injury—slips and falls—by adding traction to potentially slick areas such as entryways or stairs
- PathFinder Reflect floor marking tapes are ideal for low-light conditions
- PathFinder Glow floor marking tapes help guide the way to exits in emergency outage situations
- PathFinder Print floor marking tape can be used to identify routes, aisles, or specific storage areas through text, numbers, and symbols