Traffic Management in the Warehouse

As a safety manager, you are responsible for the safety of everyone in your warehouse: workers and visitors, vehicle drivers and pedestrians. You can train some of these people, but others you can’t. Consequently, it’s imperative you properly direct traffic in your warehouse so everyone can move safely through the space to accomplish their tasks.

To do this, you will need to designate spaces for vehicles and spaces for people. You’ll also need to make sure instructions for where to walk and where it’s safe to stand are clear and self-explanatory so visitors can easily follow instructions, too. In this post we will examine requirements for marking traffic lanes in your facility as well as simple ways to comply with these regulations.

Traffic Marking Requirements

Despite the fact that OSHA issues many citations for improperly or unclearly marked safe pathways, the organization isn’t particularly expansive on the subject. Of pathway marking, OSHA says, “Permanent aisles and passageways shall be appropriately marked.” They have expanded upon this statement outside of the actual standards, however, explaining that yellow paint is not the only acceptable way to mark pathways. Flags, traffic cones, marking pillars and other devices can be used, and floor marking tape can also take the place of paint on many work surfaces. Additionally, OSHA states that adequate space must be left around aisles and loading docks so mechanical equipment can turn safely. Pathways must also be kept clear.

These guidelines may not seem very specific, but if you pay attention to details and clearly mark areas where pedestrians belong and where vehicle traffic belongs, you can keep your facility compliant.
traffic, warehouse

Ways to Mark Lanes

For particularly hazardous areas in your facility (with high vehicle traffic), structural barriers like railings can be used to separate pedestrians from vehicles like forklifts. These barriers can be costly to install, though, and many times are not feasible because workers need to move freely through certain areas.

Floor markings such as floor tape are one of the easiest, most viable options for marking pathways, and unlike paint, tape won’t need to be reapplied frequently. Many kinds of floor tape exist and each type comes in many colors. Yellow is the generally accepted color for marking traffic lanes and aisles (as well as alerting people to be cautious), and yellow tape will keep you compliant with all OSHA and ANSI codes. Straight lines of tape should be applied to the floor to create boundaries for vehicle lanes and pedestrian lanes. In pedestrian lanes, yellow footprints can indicate the direction people should walk. Arrows can also serve a similar purpose.

photo luminescent, SafetyTac

When marking aisles with floor marking tape, you should also consider the lighting in each area. If part of your warehouse is dimly lit or a power outage is possible, photo luminescent tape may be necessary to help guide people to exits, similar to the way emergency lighting along the floor would guide people to exits on an airplane.

Safety signs can also help mark traffic lanes, especially at intersections. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 199 workers were struck and killed by powered vehicles or mobile equipment in 2012. To reduce the risk of a pedestrian unknowingly walking in front of a moving vehicle, try posting signs at all intersections where vehicles and pedestrians cross paths.

safety sign, traffic

In general, visual cues like signs are an effective tool to help move traffic throughout your facility, and you can employ them in many ways. You can post signs indicating only vehicles are allowed in a certain area or you can post signs directing people to exits or emergency equipment. In almost all cases, these signs will serve as a reminder to employees and as a guide to visitors to help them get where they need to go.

Rules for People

Using easy-to-understand visuals to mark pathways in your facility is the best way to communicate traffic information on a daily basis. You should also have your employees follow best practices for navigating the warehouse, too, though. Provide training on what visual markers like floor tape mean and consider posting a sign explaining the color code for tape and other markings (if your workplace uses one). Also make sure anyone driving a vehicle receives appropriate instructions.

Additionally, workers should do the following whenever possible:
• When driving a vehicle, stay in the marked vehicle lane (usually on the right) unless doing so could create a dangerous situation.
• When approaching an intersection in a forklift, sound the horn to alert others of the truck’s presence.
• If mirrors are positioned at intersections (which can help drivers navigate blind spots), check them before proceeding.
• When walking, avoid crossing marked vehicle pathways whenever possible.

By combining simple traffic rules with visual cues, your facility should be compliant, efficient and safe. For more information related to traffic management, check out our forklift safety advice about the topic. To learn more about using floor marking tape, download our free guide.

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