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The key to site safety and good traffic management is to make the systems and processes as simple as possible

Site and facility traffic management – By Keith Robinson

In this, the last of a three-part series of articles on site safety and traffic management, Keith Robinson looks at the issue in relation to trucks, worksites and facilities.

According to WorkSafe NZ, 31% of all vehicle-related fatalities between 2013 and 2017 involved trucks – and 12% involved trucks ‘off-road’ (i.e. in site yards and within facilities). Driving in, getting loaded, strapping down and getting out – why is it so hazardous? There are a number of considerations.

Communication onsite

You may only have one site, but a truck driver can visit more than a dozen sites in a single day. Every site will be different, and drivers are usually under some time pressure, especially in cities where traffic affects profitability. The ‘flow’ on your site must be as easy to follow as possible, with signage clearly marking where to drive and stop.

Driver induction

You may get 50-plus truck movements a day on your site. Do you have to induct everyone? The short answer is ‘yes’. Everyone working on your site must be made aware of the hazards that they could interact with on your site. If your site is complex, you may have to formally induct a driver. Ideally, your site will have been simplified and therefore signage/lines will be sufficient for communication. Remember: elimination, substitution, isolation and engineering controls are much better than administrative ones.

Trucks and pedestrians

There must be marked and clear pathways indicating where trucks and pedestrians can move. The unmarked spaces are for forklifts. In the same incredible way that cars will drive across level crossings in front of speeding trains, people will walk in front of trucks and forklifts while in operation, if you allow them to. Consider isolating the job of loading trucks from pedestrians.

And don’t forget that truck drivers are pedestrians too! From the moment a driver exits their vehicle to the time they return, they are a pedestrian on your site. You need to consider the route they will take to get to the office, and the route they will return to their vehicle.

Safety while loading

Bearing in mind that drivers must supervise the loading of their vehicles, where will the drivers be while they are waiting and while the vehicle is being loaded? How will they get there and back again? I visited one site last year that required drivers to put on PPE when outside the vehicle. In case they didn’t have any, it was provided – on a board 60 m away. Think about that silliness. Don’t forget that drivers are people too – they too have bladders and may need to relieve them.

Multiple vehicles

Do you have more than one vehicle in the yard at a time? Where will the second, third and fourth vehicle wait for their turn? Will you load/unload more than one vehicle at a time? If vehicle two is faster to unload than vehicle one, how will vehicle two overtake vehicle one to exit the site?

What about when a driver is strapping down a load and closing the curtains? This can take time and cause delays for the next truck that’s waiting to be unloaded. I know of one site that makes drivers strap down off-site on the road outside their facility. That way, any injuries will not affect their health and safety figures. Go figure that one!

Human factors 

People can’t get hurt on your site if they are not there. Be ready and organised. Don’t make drivers wait. The less time that a vehicle is on your site, the less moving parts you have to manage. According to WorkSafe NZ, 11% of fatal vehicle accidents involve the driver being hit by their own vehicle! Mechanical issues will be a factor in some of these, but the majority will be human error.

Review, review, review

Consider getting someone from outside your system to come in and document how things are going. Are the controls in place ample? Are they being adhered to? Continuous improvement is the key. Humans will make mistakes – always have, always will. Don’t blame the inevitable – work with it. The key is to make the systems and processes in relation to health and safety as simple as possible. 

Consider the lean tool of ‘poka-yoke’ – it’s a Japanese term that means ‘mistake-proofing’ or ‘inadvertent error prevention’. A poka-yoke is any mechanism in a process that helps an operator avoid mistakes. Most of our systems and processes are harder to get right than wrong. Poka-yoke is about making the process easier so that someone will do it right rather than wrong. That way, when a person is rushing or distracted for any reason, the effective process will still prevent harm.

Keith Robinson is the principal of Dharma Advisory Services which runs a number of courses in supply chain management, including warehouse design and risk management 
www.dharmaadvisory.com


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