Among the most important concerns in a warehouse setting is making sure that pedestrians are safe. Any employee who operates a large piece of equipment must be able to focus on their tasks without the possibility of hurting a nearby pedestrian. Warehouse pedestrians should also feel safe whenever they walk through one of these areas.
If you aren’t careful, equipment like dump trucks, excavators, and forklifts can start to blend into the warehouse background for the people who work there every day. In this scenario, pedestrians may overlook things and make mistakes as they move throughout the warehouse. In order for pedestrians to remain safe while in a warehouse, they must adhere to specific rules that will keep injuries and accidents at bay.
It’s also up to the warehouse owner or manager to implement safety practices that will task equipment operators with keeping pedestrians safe. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) maintains requirements and guidelines for warehouse pedestrian safety to make it easier for warehouse owners to keep everyone safe. The following guide describes what these requirements are.
What is a Warehouse Pedestrian Safety System?
Manufacturing plants and warehouses are considered to be hazard zones for forklift and pedestrian traffic. Employers are responsible for providing employees and pedestrians with a workplace that’s free from any recognized hazards and to adhere to any regulations, standards, and rules that have been set by OSHA.
A warehouse pedestrian safety system covers all of the safety practices and equipment an employer can implement to conform to OSHA standards. Compliance can include everything from color coded areas to signs that warn of possible hazards. You can also request the services of our general building contractor to provide you with the warehouse solutions you need.
Why are Warehouse Pedestrian Safety Systems Important?
Pedestrian safety systems are essential for warehouses because of their ability to minimize the dangers that pedestrians are at risk of experiencing. Pedestrian safety should be a main concern of safety managers who work in the logistics and warehouse industries.
Why Warehouses Can be Danger Zones?
According to OSHA, warehouses are among the most hazardous sites of employment because of the relatively high fatal injury rate when compared to other industries. When an injury occurs in a warehouse setting, there’s a high possibility that it will be serious or fatal. Some of the dangers that employees need to be on the lookout for when working in a warehouse include:
- Falling loads
- Wide swings from rear of forklift
- Collision from heavy equipment
- Improper use of heavy equipment
- Lack of reporting for unsafe conditions
OSHA Requirements for Warehouse Pedestrian Safety
OSHA understands that warehouses are relatively dangerous environments, which is why they have put certain regulations in place to provide workers with as much protection as possible. For instance, one OSHA standard states that safe clearances must be allowed wherever mechanical handling equipment is used.
It’s possible to overcome the challenges of maintaining safety in a warehouse by having guardrails and impact barriers installed, which will create additional walkways for warehouse pedestrians. Impact barriers are able to absorb the high impact from mobile equipment like forklifts. These barriers provide a safe method for reducing injuries and accidents in a warehouse environment.
Risks and Hazards for Warehouse Pedestrians
Fatal injuries are relatively common in warehouse settings because of the hazards that employees are exposed to almost daily. The main hazards that warehouse pedestrians must look out for include:
- Falls from an upper level
- Material falls
- Forklift traffic
Knowing how to keep these risks from causing injury is essential if you want to improve pedestrian safety.
Safety Tips for Forklift Operators
Forklift operators can enhance safety in the warehouse by:
- Using backup alarms or flashing warning lights when available
- Using spotters for any blind spots
- Stopping the forklift and honking your horn when at corners or intersections
- Looking in the direction that you’re traveling at all times
- Stopping and waiting for someone to pass
- Yielding the right of way to pedestrians
Safety Tips for Warehouse Pedestrians
There are also numerous things that warehouse pedestrians can do to keep accidents and injuries at bay, which include:
- Don’t walk below an elevated load
- Enter the warehouse through the main door as opposed to an overhead door
- Keep the wide rear swing radius in mind
- Use any pedestrian walkways that are available
- Stand far away from any forklifts that are being operated
Fall Hazards for Warehouse Pedestrians
Warehouse pedestrians can fall from mezzanines, ladders, loading docks, and stairways. In many instances, these falls can lead to serious injuries or death. OSHA has guidelines in place that requires employers to make sure that workers on any walking-working surface are kept safe and protected from falling. Keep in mind that these surfaces involve any with an unprotected edge or side that’s at least four feet higher than a lower level. The systems that can be installed to increase protection include:
- Safety net systems
- Personal fall protection systems
- Guardrail systems
Falling Material Hazards for Warehouse Pedestrians
Roughly 20% of all severe injuries and deaths that occurred in 2013 were the result of falling objects, which is why materials must be properly handled and stored in a warehouse. Warehouse employees can prevent falling material issues by:
- Keeping passageways and aisles clear
- Making sure that containers and bags are stored in tiers with height limits
- Making sure that material loads are evenly stacked, which means that heavy loads should be positioned on the lower or middle shelving units
Best Practices for Pedestrian Safety in Warehouses
There are some best practices for pedestrian safety in warehouses that every employer or manager should follow.
First of all, never assume that an operator of a forklift or other piece of heavy machinery knows that pedestrians are nearby. Pedestrians should wave at the operator or make contact when possible. They should also let the operator know when they are clear of the area.
Employees and pedestrians in the warehouse should wear high-visibility clothing. Operators can’t easily see people if they aren’t visible. Muted colors or street clothes can make people blend into the background. High-visibility clothing includes everything from brightly-colored shirts to reflective vests.
Once the right high-visibility clothing has been selected, all personnel should be required to follow the same guidelines. There should also be extra high-visibility gear on hand.
Limited Personnel and Dedicated Walkways
Likely the most effective method for protecting pedestrians in a warehouse is to limit the number of pedestrians as much as possible. If there aren’t a large number of people walking around, there’s much less chance of someone being injured. Work areas should only be accessed by necessary personnel. Try to limit where personnel can travel as well. A permanent barrier can be put in place to delineate different work areas. All delineations should be maintained and easily recognizable.
In areas where operators don’t have as much visibility, spotters should be positioned somewhere that allows them to obtain a good vantage point on everything that’s taking place around the equipment. Spotters should be trained to use specific hand signals that make it easier for them to communicate with equipment operators.
Even if electronic communication is available, electronics are known to fail from time to time. When there’s an emergency, it might be impossible to account for the failure. If an operator ever loses sight of the spotter, they should stop using the equipment instantly.
Consider using backup alarms as well. While these pieces of equipment are only operational when forklifts or other types of equipment are backing up, they allow pedestrians to know that they should get out of the way immediately. The only problem with using backup alarms is that they are extremely common in warehouses, which can cause some pedestrians to ignore them.
Training is among the most important components in a warehouse pedestrian safety system. None of the techniques and equipment mentioned above will be effective if the people who work at the warehouse aren’t properly trained. Even if someone only stops by the warehouse on occasion, they should have a clear understanding of the safety procedures you use in your warehouse. Make sure that they know what type of clothing they should be wearing and which walkways they should go down. No one should walk through your warehouse without having this information on hand.
Why Choose QMH?
At QMH, we have more than 30 years of experience in providing businesses from all industries with the right warehouse solutions. We know what it takes to maintain a safe warehouse regardless of the size of the facility or pieces of equipment that are used. Call us today to get an answer for any warehouse pedestrian safety, permitting, and equipment inquiries you have.