Developing a Forklift Traffic Management Plan

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part series focusing on forklift safety tips developed by an Australian workplace safety committee. The first article in this series appeared earlier this week.

Police Tape

Photo Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society via Wikimedia Commons

As any military commander can tell you, the key to victory is having a solid battle plan. Providing a safe work environment where forklifts are used is no different.

Developing an Traffic Management Plan for your warehouse, manufacturing facility or work space offers you the best opportunity to help protect your employees, products and physical plants from accidents. Here are some tips from the Transport and Storage Industry Sector Standing Committee for Workplace Health and Safety, from Queensland, Australia, that can help you create a customized plan for your business.

An effective traffic management plan can use a range of devices, including:

• Pedestrian and forklift exclusion zones
• Safety zones for truck drivers
• Safety barriers
• Containment fences
• Reduced speed limiting devices (e.g. smart forklifts), and
• Signage.

Spread the Word

All those at the workplace, including visitors, must be advised of the site’s traffic management plan.

Devise a plan to separate pedestrians and forklifts. Forklift movements, braking distance, stability, environment, height of load and the type of load being handled must be considered when introducing pedestrian and forklift exclusion zones.

The optimum is to eliminate forklifts or substitute them with more pedestrian-friendly load shifting equipment. Workplaces should also be designed to eliminate, or at least minimize, pedestrian access to areas where forklifts operate. This can be done by:

• Studying the frequency of forklift and pedestrian interaction and identifying areas where they come into conflict
• Clearly marking ‘No Go’ exclusion zones for pedestrians and forklifts
• Erecting barriers to protect marked pedestrian walkways and designated forklift operating areas
• Providing designated pedestrian crossings, such as boom gates and overhead walkways
• Implementing and enforcing procedures, such as clearly indicating when pedestrians and forklifts must give way to each other
• Displaying clear warning and traffic management signs
• Using proximity devices to trigger signals, boom gates, warning signs and other ‘smart’ technologies

• ensuring forklift warning devices and flashing lights are functioning at all times

• ensuring pedestrians wear high-visibility clothing (e.g. reflective vests), and
• ensuring all forklifts have high-visibility markings and that the workplace is well lit.

Separate Zones for Vehicles and Pedestrians

Designate exclusion zones for pedestrians and forklifts. A pedestrian exclusion zone has been established for a distance of three yards around the forklift, plus an additional allowance for the nature of the load and the speed traveled. Forklift movements within this zone are stopped before pedestrians enter. If a pedestrian is within three yards of a forklift, employers must do a risk assessment and introduce suitable risk control measures. Forklifts should be prohibited or minimized around break rooms, time clocks, cafeterias, amenities and entrances.

Pedestrian walkways must be clearly marked. Installing physical barriers ensures workstations are separated from forklift travel areas. Audio warnings are just as important as visual ones. Use a mix of high volume alarms, horns and flashing lights to warn pedestrians of approaching forklifts. Flashing lights are imperative in areas with high levels of ambient workplace noise.

Use overhead dome mirrors to improve the safety of pedestrians and forklift operators at intersections and blind corners. Avoid placing bins, racks or storage units in areas that could obstruct a forklift operator’s view.

Crushing is the most common form of forklift-related injury sustained by pedestrians. Even when travelling at low speeds, forklifts present significant risk to the safety of pedestrians. Half the pedestrians killed were crushed by forklifts that were barely moving. Too often, safe forklift practices are only introduced in a workplace after a worker has been killed or injured. Don’t wait until a forklift-related death or injury takes place before implementing forklift and pedestrian exclusion zones.

The driver must be in full view to a forklift operator. All loading or unloading activity must
stop if the driver cannot be seen, or needs to enter an exclusion zone to inspect a load.
Alternatively, if it is safe to do so, the system of work can allow the driver to stay in the truck cabin during loading and unloading.

Only one forklift should operate at any one time in the pedestrian exclusion zone.


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