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Accident black spots

11 October 2016

HSE statistics demonstrate that loading bays are among the most dangerous for workplace transport operations. FLTA chief executive Peter Harvey examines the risks and offers advice on how those overseeing operations can reduce risk.

According to the HSE, fork lift trucks, long goods vehicles (LGV) and heavy goods vehicles (HGV) are the three most dangerous forms of workplace transport. 

It’s hardly surprising then, that loading bays, where the three come together – often alongside workers on foot – are where 1 in 4 workplace transportation accidents occur. 

The main causes of injury involving workplace transport are when workers are struck and/or crushed by vehicles; vehicle overturns and falls from vehicles. 

Sadly, many of these life-changing events could be avoided simply through the implementation of simple procedural and/or structural site changes.

Assess the risks yourself

By law, every employer must control the risks in their workplace. Risk assessment is about identifying the risks and identifying sensible and proportionate measures to minimise them. 

By monitoring your loading bay activities – not overlooking visiting vehicles – over a sustained period, you’ll be able to develop a clear picture of how vehicle and pedestrian traffic interact in the loading bay area. 

While observation can be done in person, CC or video footage can provide an effective way of observing current practice and identifying potential issues. 

The importance of segregation

The most frequent type of fork lift truck accident is a collision with a worker on foot (accounting for 57% of all serious injuries). Segregating pedestrians from vehicles by making their routes of movement entirely separate is the number one way of protecting your employees from workplace transport injury.

Effective ways to keep vehicles away from pedestrian areas include:

• Clear markings and signs to set vehicle and pedestrian routes apart;

• Raised kerbs to mark vehicle and pedestrian areas;

• Physical segregation using protective barriers or guard rails.

• In addition, managers and supervisors should consider:

• Excluding pedestrians from loading areas where practicable;

• Enforcing speed limits for trucks working near pedestrians;

• Implementing one-way systems to reduce the need for vehicles to reverse;

• Prohibiting the use of mobile phones;

• Using signallers to direct and supervise vehicle movements;

• Establishing waiting areas for lorry drivers during loading/unloading.

Every loading bay is different and likely to present unique hazards and risks. However, a well-designed and maintained loading bay with suitable segregation of vehicles and people will make a considerable difference.

Case study: Heineken 

Brewer Heineken won the FLTA Safe Site Award 2016 for its team’s efforts to improve workplace safety for 230 employees at its 70-acre brewing site at its Hereford Cider Mills location. 

The company was recognised for a range of improvements, including its work reducing risk in the loading bay. The team leading the project nurtured a culture of reporting which ensured hazards were addressed. Alongside this, blue light technology was introduced to trucks so that pedestrians would be alert to truck movements. 

In addition, managers videoed and reviewed its loading bay operations. This enabled them to identify a range of improvements – including the replacement of old signage and mirrors to addressing communication between fork lift operators and lorry drivers. 

In the loading bays the company opted to segregate fork lift trucks from workers on foot (including LGV drivers) by creating ‘red zones’, using anti-slip paint on the bay floor. When pedestrians are in the ‘red zone’, fork lift trucks cannot enter. Instead, they must until the red zone is clear. Alongside this, holding pens were introduced so that lorry drivers – waiting for their trucks to be loaded – could be kept safely away from lifting operations. 

Help is at hand

If you require assistance on practical measures to improve safety on your site, you should consider the FLTA’s Safe User Group, a special form of membership for fork lift truck end users that includes continual operational support, a help and advice hotline and a treasure trove of vital and essential safety resources.