Three Safety Considerations for Warehouse and Shipping Facilities
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, manufacturing leads in serious injuries and deaths. Business owners and managers need to take a serious look at their facilities for potential hazards and either remove these hazards, or train and equip their personnel to reduce their exposure to these hazards as much as possible. Some examples of hazards in the workplace that contribute to accidents are: Overhead hazards such as light fixtures, piping and heaters. Blind corners and intersections, objects and debris on the floors, aisles blocked or congested, pedestrian and vehicular traffic, ramps, inclines, loading docks, inadequate lighting, racking and shelving, high tiered stacking, unstable loads being transported, industrial battery storage areas, chemical storage areas, and wet, slippery walking/driving surfaces.
Forklifts and other powered industrial lift trucks are often used in such facilities and improper use can damage equipment and cause serious injury or death to the operators as well as to the people working in close proximity to the lift equipment. A 2007 study by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) shows that although approximately 25% of forklift related fatalities are a result of operators being killed in a tip-over accident, even more pedestrians are killed when hit by equipment, or crushed by falling loads. Operators must be trained and evaluated on their equipment, in their workplace, but it is the people working around the lift equipment who pay the higher price for improper or unsafe operation of lift equipment.
Most forklift training hardly ever covers training for pedestrians. In 2008, the US Department of Labor Statistics showed the number 1 cause of lift truck related fatalities to be pedestrians being struck by a vehicle. Co-workers often do not understand that: forklifts steer from the rear and that a forklift with a 5,000 lb. lift capacity weighs approximately 9,000 lbs.; that unstable loads can fall from the forks while the lift truck is moving, lifting and lowering a load, even on the opposite side of a rack. Pedestrians and lift truck operators should work together and be able to communicate so that both truck and co-worker can go about their duties safely.
Business owners and managers have an obligation to ensure a safe working environment for their employees. Look at the layout of your facilities. Employers can establish both vehicular and pedestrian traffic patterns, traffic controls and regulations and enforce them. Ensure that both lift truck operators and pedestrians are trained and supervise them. Recognize and support good behavior; stop unsafe practices.