3 min read

6 steps every employer must take to avoid a forklift catastrophe

Forklift accidents due to poor traffic management are an ongoing problem in Australia.

Despite the huge penalties that can be imposed for not implementing suitable traffic safety measures, this is still an issue that many employers are failing to address.

Below, we outline 6 steps every employer must take to identify traffic hazards in the workplace and determine what controls to put in place to manage the risks from those hazards:

Step 1: Consult your workers

When identifying traffic hazards, you should consult with:

  • site managers;
  • mobile plant drivers;
  • health and safety representatives; and
  • other workers who are familiar with the worksite.

This will help you comply with your consultation obligations under health and safety legislation. It will also help you to acquire accurate traffic movement data, which can be useful for developing your traffic management plan.

Be sure to consult all affected workers, particularly if there are some who work different shifts.

Step 2: Identify all collision points

Map out all movement of mobile plant and vehicles inside the premises, including:

  • entry and exit points;
  • the number of daily movements by mobile plant; and
  • pick-up and drop-off points.

Then, map out pedestrians’ regular routes to identify possible collision points with mobile plant or vehicles.

Step 3: Identify the safest routes on the site plan

Determine the requirements of pedestrians, mobile plant and vehicles in your workplace. Then identify the safest routes and mark them on the site plan.

You must display your site plan in a clearly visible place.

The safest route may not be the most direct route. You will also have to account for the fact that workers may try to take shortcuts.

Using physical barrier to separate mobile plant from pedestrians may help to prevent dangerous shortcuts.

Step 4: Consider the effectiveness of current controls

Consider whether the current arrangements for separating pedestrians from mobile plant and vehicles are effective, or whether better options are available.

To make this assessment, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How many collisions or near misses have occurred on the premises? Where did these occur?
  • What controls are currently in place? Are these effective at minimising the risk?
  • Does your workplace have an existing traffic management plan? If so, are your workers adequately trained in it?
  • Would upgrading the mobile plant help to reduce risks, e.g. new forklifts that allow speed limits to be controlled?

Step 5: Determine additional controls using the hierarchyof control

Once you have identified the hazards and their associated risks, use the hierarchy of control to determine appropriate risk controls.

The hierarchy of control is a risk control method that sets out approaches you can use to control risks and hazards in the workplace, in order of implementation.

Elimination is the most effective control. If this is not reasonably practicable, minimise the risk as much as possible by working through the other alternatives in the hierarchy, in order of effectiveness.

The following table lists some examples, using the hierarchy of control, to minimise traffic hazards:

Hierarchy of control   Examples
Eliminate the hazard   Eliminate the interaction between vehicles and pedestrians by designating exclusion zones.
Substitute the hazard with something safer   Substitute mobile plant with other suitable load-shifting equipment, such as a walker stacker or an automated conveyor system.
Isolate the hazard from pedestrians   Reduce the frequency of pedestrian and mobile plant interaction by physically separating them, e.g. use sturdy barricades or isolate a delivery area from other pedestrians or work activities.
Re-route traffic to avoid collisions   Schedule the operation of mobile plant to times when pedestrians are not allowed to enter the area.
Use engineering controls   Use proximity devices to trigger signals, boom gates and warning signs. Use alarms, horns and flashing lights to warn pedestrians of approaching mobile plant. Install designated pedestrian walkways and crossings with physical barriers to ensure workstations are separated from vehicle routes. Use speed-limiting devices on mobile plant.
Use administrative controls   Install or improve signs, including clear warning and traffic signs. Enhance visibility at intersections and blind corners with overhead dome mirrors and convex mirrors. Require workers and visitors to get approval from the plant operator before entering a designated exclusion zone. Require light vehicles to give way to heavy vehicles, e.g. have forklifts give way to trucks. Require passengers to wear seatbelts whenever they are in a vehicle. Enforce one-way traffic flow, e.g. require all vehicles to keep to the left. Use flagmen or spotters in high-risk areas. Create and clearly mark ‘no-go zones’. Implement a zero-tolerance drug and alcohol policy.
Issue personal protective equipment   Provide high-visibility clothing to workers who are at risk of collision, and ensure it is worn whenever necessary.

Step 6: Communicate controls to workers and visitors

Communicate controls and display the new site plan in prominent locations throughout the workplace. You should require all workers and visitors to the site to comply with it.

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