Vehicles such as powered mobile plant, forklift and trucks are increasingly familiar and essential in countless workplaces. Yet managing the safe movement of these vehicles is something that many employers can easily overlook.
Vehicle accidents are frequently linked with injuries and death to pedestrians in the workplace. In 2019, Safe Work Australia reported that 46% of bystander fatalities in the workplace were due to collision with a vehicle*. The Transport, Postal and Warehousing industry, workplaces where vehicles and mobile plants are frequently used around pedestrians, accounted for almost a third (32%) of all fatalities in 2019**. Therefore it is very important for your business to have a detailed traffic management strategy that is specific and customised to your workplace, to improve pedestrian safety around vehicles.
An experienced traffic management consultant should work with your business to develop a Traffic Management Plan (TMP). The consultant should conduct a detailed site inspection to identify and record traffic processes, vehicle flows and pedestrian movement, as well as conduct discussions with staff and frequent visitors (such as delivery truck drivers) to identify traffic management hazards and risks.
Forklift accidents in the workplace can be prevented with a Traffic Management Plan.
The movement of vehicles in and around a workplace, including reversing, loading and unloading, pose a great risk to pedestrians on foot, including both workers and members of the public. The most common areas of traffic management hazards are:
- Areas where pedestrians come near vehicles, typically in car parks
- Any delivery loading/ unloading areas
- Areas where bulk goods are transferred to/from storage using mobile powered plant
- Around building corners or traffic blind spots
Eradicating and reducing vehicle risks to pedestrians in the workplace
The key issues for managing traffic around the workplace are:
- Keeping pedestrian safe as the main priority
- Types of vehicles used in the workplace (including cars, trucks and powered mobile plant such as forklift and motorised pallet trucks)
- Consideration of worker behaviour when operating vehicles
- The layout of the work area
- Signs, warning devices and visibility
The most effective way to protect pedestrians is to eliminate traffic hazards. This can be done by designing the layout of the workplace to eliminate the interactions between pedestrians and vehicles. Some examples include:
- Preventing access of pedestrians into areas where vehicles and mobile powered plant are in use
- Preventing access of mobile powered plant into areas where pedestrian can congregate (such as walkways near the lunch areas or outside the amenities)
- Keeping vehicle and pedestrian traffic routes separate. This could mean barricading vehicle access to pedestrian walkways using fencing and bollards or building a pedestrian bridge over the staff carpark so pedestrians can cross above vehicle traffic
If it is not possible to completely separate pedestrians and vehicle traffic, the risks must be minimised so far as reasonably practicable. This can be done by careful planning to control vehicle operation and pedestrian movements around the workplace. This could involve:
- Ensuring all workers and visitors wear high visibility clothing when entering areas where vehicles and mobile powered plant are in use
- Enforcing the Three Metre Rule – where pedestrians must maintain a three metre separation at all times between themselves and vehicles used in the workplace
- Fitting a forklift light guard where the forklift light will shine a three metre exclusion zone around the forklift. Thus no pedestrian is to enter the lighted exclusion zone whilst the forklift is operating.
- Marking out designated pedestrian walkways to direct pedestrians to areas of safety, including pedestrian crossing. This involves marking and painting pedestrian walkways in easily visible colours to ensure vehicle drivers apply extra caution when coming near marked walkways
- Setting out areas where vehicles must give way to pedestrians and/or areas where pedestrians must give way to vehicles
- Ensuring vehicle drivers sound their horn when approaching a blind spot and use the reverse beeper when reversing
- Designing safety protocols for whenever pedestrians must come near vehicles. Examples include creating safe procedures for a pedestrian to approach a powered mobile plant, or for a truck delivery driver to safely move to or from their truck whilst it is being unloaded by a forklift
Managing the risk of vehicle collisions in the workplace
Another factor that must be considered when managing traffic hazards is eliminating and reducing the risk of vehicle collisions in the workplace, such as between two cars in the staff carpark, or between a forklift and a truck in a loading area.
Ideally, the workplace loading and unloading area should be separated from the staff carpark. This is crucial, not just in preventing vehicle to vehicle collision, but in preventing pedestrian accidents. Delivery vehicles (including trucks and vans) and mobile plant should not be allowed access to the staff carpark. If possible, the skip bins and garbage facilities should be stored separately or away from the main car parking areas. Your work site should also have a separated vehicle entry and exit lanes, to prevent entering vehicles from colliding with departing vehicles.
When designing a safe carpark, consideration should be given for:
- Safe access for pedestrians and people with mobility to enter and exit the carpark. Pedestrians should be assigned a marked walkway on the carpark, ideally on a curb away from the main vehicle traffic.
- Which direction will the carpark space be angled: parallel, 90oC or 45oC
- Which direction will the vehicle enter and exit the parking space: rear-in or nose-in
- Whether there is safe access for pedestrians to enter and exit from the car
- How one carpark bay will be separated from the next carpark bay. Ideally cars in one bay should be physically separated from the next bay to prevent vehicles accidentally colliding into another parked vehicle opposite whilst parking
- Installing a wheel lock device in every carpark space to prevent vehicles not braking and crashing into another parked vehicle opposite
Ideally car parking should be designated as “Rear to Kerb Parking Only”, which has the following benefit:
- Maximising the field of vision of the vehicle drivers as they move forward out of the carpark space into the main traffic stream.
- Loading/ unloading safety – putting things in and out of a boot is much easier and safer when done from the kerb rather than next to the main traffic stream.
- People who alight from a rear to kerb vehicle are more likely to be forced by the angle of the doors to walk towards the kerb, rather than back onto the main traffic stream
Refer to the AS/NZS 2890.1:2004 standard as a guide for off-street car parking facilities.
Once again, when planning your traffic management controls, it is important to ensure pedestrian safety always takes priority over ease of vehicle movement. As the employer, achieving a safe workplace is not an accident, but can only be achieved with your commitment and vision for safety.
The above information is intended as a general guide only. For more information, please contact our qualified WHS consultants to discuss your specific needs and create a customised Traffic Management Plan for your workplace.
* Safe Work Australia, 13 Jan 2021, “Australian Workers’ Compensation Statistics 2018-19”, accessed 26 July 2021, https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/collection/australian-workers-compensation-statistics
** Safe Work Australia, 20 Nov 2021, “Work-related Traumatic Injury Fatalities Australia 2019”, accessed 26 July 2021, https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/collection/work-related-traumatic-injury-fatalities