Safety Systems for Outside Spaces
Every year, there are over 5,000 accidents involving transport in the workplace (HSE). According to the most recent RIDDOR data, a quarter of fatal injuries to workers was caused by being struck by a moving vehicle. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) requires employers to take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees at work.
Any employer with work transport responsibility, who hires and trains drivers, manages contractors or has visiting drivers, should complete a risk assessment and take reasonable steps to eliminate or control any risks identified.
Safe Traffic Routes
A common cause of workplace accidents that are fatal or very serious involve a deadly combination of both people and vehicles on traffic routes. The Workplace Health, Safety & Welfare Regulations 1999 defines traffic routes as ‘pedestrian traffic, vehicles or both, including any stairs, staircase, fixed ladder, doorway, loading bay or ramp’.
HSE provides the following guidance for safe traffic routes:
- Make sure they are an adequate width for the safe movement of the largest vehicle
- Ensure surfaces are suitable for the vehicles and pedestrians using them, e.g. firm, even and properly drained
- Outdoor traffic routes should be similar to those required for public roads
- Avoid steep slopes
- Avoid sharp corners and blind bends
- Keep them clear of obstructions
- Make sure they are clearly marked and signposted
- Keep them properly maintained.
Any area where vehicles are moving or where traffic and pedestrians cross, should have adequate lighting. Drivers need to clearly see hazards and pedestrians need to see vehicles.
Separating Pedestrians and Traffic
The most effective way of ensuring pedestrians and vehicles move safely around a workplace is to provide separate pedestrian and vehicle traffic routes. Consideration should be made to cyclists who may share pedestrian routes. The number of different users of routes may change at different times of the day, so a way of mitigating risk would be to limit vehicle use during busy periods such as changeover.
Another solution to protect pedestrians and drivers is a one-way system as this reduces the need for vehicles to reverse, a manoeuvre which causes around a quarter of the total vehicle related workplace fatalities and can cause costly damage to vehicles, equipment and property.
Barriers and Line Marking
If total segregation of pedestrians and vehicles is not possible then it is vital to display clear signage to mark out the best route. Where pedestrians and traffic routes must cross, there should be clear signage for pedestrians to cross vehicle routes safely. Traffic barriers are not only a visual guide to pedestrians, forcing them to stick to safe routes, but they can also stop vehicles in their tracks if they lose control, providing protection for anyone in their path.
Traffic cones are also a useful visual barrier used to delineate the traffic route and can also make drivers aware of an obstruction, accident or road work. They should be placed close enough together to give an impression of continuity.
Traffic and pedestrians can also be separated with road markings. Thermoplastic tape is a great solution if you need high visibility of line marking and sprays are a versatile way of marking lines quickly and can be applied to different surfaces. A wheeled applicator is a practical device which ensures the lines are straight.
According to the HSE, 15% of all transport related injuries happen during loading and unloading. Anyone not involved in loading or unloading should be kept away from loading bays which can contain a high concentration of hazards and it is important to consider safe crossing points for pedestrians.
A robust traffic management system should be in place which is well communicated to all and clearly identifies which vehicles will be arriving and when so that the correct loading bay is matched to each vehicle. Safe systems should be in place, for example in case drivers that arrive late and miss their particular time slot.
Loading docks can be more than a metre off the ground, which means loaders are working at height and there is a risk of falling. Platforms or bays can incorporate fencing such as protection guards, which are designed so that goods can be passed safely over or under them, or removable sections of railing.
It is important to carry out regular checks of bay areas, checking that they are free from obstructions as well as other hazards such as potholes or anything which could affect vehicles moving about safely. Traffic light systems as well as barriers can be an effective way of controlling traffic.
When considering what other hazardous areas there could be outside, then spaces where heavy vehicles such as forklifts and trucks carry out specific manoeuvres such as tipping certainly comes high up the list. Employers should ensure that vehicle operators have adequate training to avoid events such as overturning. There should also be clear warning signs to keep workers away from harm.
Where there are elevated areas such as ladders, roofs or stairs, falls prevention is an important consideration, particularly as falls from a height is the second most common type of workplace accident which causes fatal injuries (RIDDOR). Employers should always adhere to the Work at Height Regulations 2005, ensuring that work is correctly supervised and that the right safety equipment is provided. Furthermore, if there is a risk of falling objects, it is important to have the right PPE and warning signs in place.
Contrastingly, confined spaces also pose a threat, due to lack of oxygen or the build-up of dangerous gases and risk of fire or explosion. As with working at height, a thorough risk analysis should be conducted and those who must work in confined spaces should be properly trained and provided with the right equipment.