By Thorsten Mauritz, Marketing Manager Europe, Rite-Hite: Industrial safety regulations are constantly evolving as new technology and equipment is developed across the world. Global regulations are also emerging or being updated with an increasing emphasis on the physical and mental health of employees and their wellbeing in the workplace.

Thorsten Mauritz, Marketing Manager Europe, Rite-Hite.

Of course, the warehouse and logistics environment is changing. Manual processes have become fully automated. Doors and levellers that were once operated by levers and pullies are now opened or raised at the push of a button. Things that were once thought of in terms of future technologies are already in the here and now. Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology, for example, is undoubtedly a positive step forward for businesses. The data gathered from multiple connected devices are giving facility managers real and meaningful insight into their operation, which in turn can be used to inform ways of further improving safety and operational performance in the loading bay.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is another area that is transforming how humans and machines interact in a shared environment. The availability of data about how people work, their emotional state while working and how they engage with the equipment and the world around them is also leading us to a whole new level of industrial safety.

Significant Challenge

But despite such innovations, accidents are still a fact of everyday life, and the scale of the challenge should not be under-estimated. In a major study by the European Union (EU) into workplace accidents in 2018, 3,332 employees were involved in accidents in which they lost their lives, an increase (by 60 deaths) on the 2017 figure. In that same year, there were 3.1 million non-fatal accidents that resulted in at least four calendar days of absence from work, 8,137 more than 2017.

While the largest number of accidents are recorded in the construction sector (at 20.5 %), the transportation and storage sector still takes an alarming second place (16.7 %), and actual deaths in the loading area are probably more if accidents in manufacturing (15.2 %) are taken into account.

Local statistics by country also show the scale of the challenge. In a four-year period from 2015 – 2018 inclusive, France recorded the highest number of workplace-related deaths (2,390) followed by Italy (2,031) and Germany (1,754). Spain and the UK were not far behind with 1,280 and 1,041 respectively. Even accounting for different sizes of workforce, all would agree that even one fatality was one fatality too many.

The costs attributed to accidents also make for sobering reading. Not only are there the costs from any public liability claims that may result, as well as the cost of recruiting and training replacement staff, but there are also the more intangible, indirect costs, such as the loss of good will and damage to your brand. One study in the UK put the total cost to a business of a single accident at £45,000, which at a margin of 10%, would require additional sales of £450,000 simply to cover what was lost.

Holistic approach

What all senior executives working in the world of logistics are trying to balance is the need for increased efficiencies in and around the loading bay with the uncompromising need for safety. One can never be at the expense of the other. This is in turn driving safety equipment providers not only to look at individual products to address particular concerns, such as vehicle creep or premature drive-aways, but rather to see safety as an holistic issue that needs to be considered at a solutions level.

TOP TIPS TO AVOIDING WORKPLACE INJURIES

Secure your vehicles – before loading or unloading, ensure the vehicle is restrained, and keep forklifts away from open bay doors.

Distances – while a vehicle is reversing into position, make sure the area around the trailer is clear and everyone within the loading bay area is at least three meters from the door.

Highlight danger zones – clearly mark areas of danger with appropriate warning barriers, signs and brightly coloured paints

Clean environments – keep all work surfaces clean and clear and floor spaces similar clear of any unnecessary obstacles

Create a culture of safety – ensure your workforce is respectful of the people around them. Aware of the dangers in their environment, and actively encouraged to report any concerns to their supervisor

Maintenance – ensure all of your equipment is regularly checked and maintained and in good working order before commencing the loading/unloading process.

 

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