Start at the bottom – check the floor

5 ideas for a summer makeover

While we are writing this article, many warehouses are getting ready for the summer holidays.

In some cases, this may mean activity is slowing down, giving you a chance to reassess safety issues in your materials handling and warehouse operations.

Take it slowly and tackle one area at a time. The well-known concept of Kaizen teaches us that continuous improvement in a step-by-step process can get you further than the most ambitious management plans.

With this in mind, here are five areas where you may find opportunities to address hazards:

1. Re-evaluate your traffic plan

Accidents involving pedestrians still happen too often. Consider your vehicle routes carefully. Look not only at where vehicles drive but also at where they stop, where they park and where passing and reversing take place. Are the aisles wide enough? Should only smaller or narrower vehicles be permitted in them?

Once the routes are defined, go ahead with choosing the right signage, lights and floor marking, ensuring pedestrians have their own safe lanes. Minimising traffic encounters between pedestrians and forklifts is one of the most rewarding things you can do. Add protective features like guard rails. Much of your layout may have already been well organised, but even if your fresh efforts improve just a single crossing they may prevent an accident.

2. Tackle the loading dock area

Loading docks are always a dangerous working environment, due to their fast-paced traffic and the difference in height between the dock and the trailer area. There are various simple changes that can be made to prevent falls, like putting temporary safety barriers in place when the dock doors are open.

Make sure trailers are well secured during the loading process, so they cannot creep away. Even a small gap might be enough to allow a dangerous fall. Make sure your lights are good enough to give your forklift operators clear overall visibility.

3. Prepare a safety course

Continuous training is paramount for a safe work environment. Perhaps you can use the summer to prepare a one-off refresher course and deliver it to all employees just after the holidays. You can also use the course to announce improvements resulting from your safety assessments during the holiday period.

4. Start at the bottom – check the floor

A clean, flat floor is vital for safe materials handling operations. Over the years, it may deteriorate little by little. Cracks or potholes appear, while oil spills or other contaminants make things worse.

Bear in mind that lifting pallets to more than 4 metres can be risky when a poor floor makes your materials handling equipment less stable. Also, remember that debris and dust can affect your forklifts, leading to unexpected repair needs. The summer period is a great time to seek out all those bad spots and have them repaired and cleaned by professionals.

5. Retrofit your forklift with safety lights

Along with their regular work lights, there are add-on safety lights which can help a forklift to operate much more safely by warning other traffic and pedestrians of its approach. While amber strobe lights and reversing alarms are useful, you may also want to consider blue spotlights, which project a bright blue light onto the floor 3 or 4 metres in front of or behind the forklift.

Another alternative is red zone lights, whose illumination highlights areas (aka the ‘safety zone’) on each side of the forklift which pedestrians should avoid. Go through your whole fleet and see which trucks could benefit from some extra… ‘enlightenment’.

  • Action points
  • Create a survey form inviting your co-workers to write down their suggestions
  • Take a ‘Gemba Walk’ through the warehouse and yard every morning with a different co-worker and discuss improvement opportunities
  • Invite your local forklift expert to join you in conducting a safety assessment



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