Loading bays are the riskiest setting for workplace transport operations. FLTA chief executive Peter Harvey examines the risks and offers advice on how those responsible for safety 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.

So it’s hardly surprising that loadings bays, where the three come interact – often alongside workers on foot – are where 25% of workplace transport accidents occur.

These accidents often have lifechanging results with workers being crushed, trapped or falling from vehicles.

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

Assess the risks yourself

As an employer, you have a duty – by law – to control risks in the workplace. Risk assessment allows you to identify the risks, as well as 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, we have heard from some companies who have found video footage provides an effective way of observing current practice and identifying any potential issues.

Who is most at risk?

Workers on foot are most at risk in fork lift truck accidents: accounting for 57% of all serious injuries.

So, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a manager, supervisor, fork lift truck driver, warehouse operative or an office worker on a site where lift trucks operate, this statistic is directly relevant to you and your job.

It is one you should always bear in mind when going about your daily tasks… whether you’re looking at ways to improve safety such as designing new routes, operating lift trucks themselves or simply walking close to those areas where lift trucks operate.

Segregation is key

Segregating or physically separating lift truck routes from workers on foot or pedestrian traffic on site is the number one way of improving site safety and reducing risk.

There are a number of effective ways that site and vehicles can be adapted to keep those on foot safe.

These include:

• Painting segregated traffic routes on the loading area floor

• Using raised kerbs to separate the two traffic routes

• Installing elevated walkways

• Using crash-proof barriers

• Installing blue light warning systems on trucks or doorways

• Introducing proximity alarms on fork lift and pallet trucks

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

• Establishing waiting areas or holding pens for lorry drivers during loading/unloading (See Best Practice: Heineken)

Alongside this, managers could consider changes to practice such as:

• Safety awareness training courses for operators and other site staff

• Excluding pedestrians from loading areas where practicable

• Enforcing speed limits for trucks working near pedestrians

• Prohibiting the use of mobile phone

• Using banksmen direct and supervise vehicle movement

But regardless of changes made, managers should restrict workers on foot from lift truck traffic routes and enforce these rules strictly and consistently. By doing this, the message is reinforced and instils a culture of safety on foot.

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.

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.

The Fork Lift Truck Association is the UK’s independent authority on materials handling vehicles. For more guidance and information on any of the above, or to view the Association’s publicly available fact sheets, visit www.fork-truck.org.uk or call 01635 277577.