Preventing struck-by injuries

by Norm Kramer

A lift truck operating in reverse strikes an unsuspecting pedestrian, a transport truck backs up to a loading dock and pins a worker against the wall, a pedestrian walking in the yard without high-visibility clothing is struck by a driver during low light conditions. These are just three examples of incidents involving employees struck by vehicles and mobile equipment in motion.

Norm Kramer is a Canadian Registered Safety Professional. He
provides expert,
in-depth health &
safety consulting
services for WSPS as
a Warehouse Specialist
in the GTA region.

Incidents like these could take place anywhere – in warehouses and distribution centres, manufacturing facilities, big box stores, convention centres, and any other workplace with active storage, shipping and receiving areas or loading docks.

Four causes

These injuries are often linked to four causes: rolling, falling, swinging, or flying objects.

Rolling objects are the most common cause, and include vehicles or mobile equipment that move materials in the workplace. These include walkie riders; manual pallet jacks; electric pallet jacks; lift trucks; cranes; and trucks.

Typically, these incidents occur because of limited visibility, operator and/or pedestrian distraction, loss of control, inadequate separation of pedestrians and mobile equipment, and poor traffic controls, training, and enforcement.

A traffic management and pedestrian safety plan can help protect employers and workers from incidents involving mobile equipment inside and outside the workplace, by establishing traffic routes and rules, maximizing visibility, adding markings and signage, providing training and enforcement, and more.

How to prevent struck-by injuries

These six tips can help your workplace prevent injuries.

1 Conduct a hazard assessment. When performing the assessment, review incident reports, identify root causes, and look for gaps in your existing program or training.

Tour the workplace to identify high-risk areas where people and mobile equipment are mixing. Take photos.

Watch ground-level traffic, overhead obstructions, and how operators drive. Are they following policies, procedures and training guidelines? Have areas been cordoned off where overhead work is taking place?

Consider yard design, visibility and line of sight. Are pedestrians wearing high-visibility clothing?

Check for adequate floor spacing. Do equipment operators have the space they need to manoeuvre safely? Do loading zones, parking and reversing areas meet traffic requirements?

Meet with staff, joint health and safety committee members, and mobile equipment and truck operators. Ask about issues of concern. Is visibility adequate? Are close calls occurring? Are people following safety rules?

2 Identify gaps. For example, the assessment may identify that floor lines are fading, signs are obscured, trucks and trailers aren’t secured, housekeeping isn’t up to snuff, the workplace culture doesn’t support following safe practices, enforcement efforts are lacking, and productivity is more valued than safety.

3 Consider the effect of PPE. Equipment operators, pedestrians and other workers must be able to use their senses to respond in a safe manner. Account for unintended effects of wearing standard hearing protection and Covid-related personal protective equipment (PPE). Wearing masks may muffle speech or cause glasses to fog up, so it could be harder for operators and pedestrians to see or communicate with each other.

4 Take staffing levels, and worker and supervisor experience, into account. The pandemic has left many facilities short staffed. New staff may be inexperienced, and supervision may be less than optimal.

5 Explore ways to engage employees. They’re a source of rich data that can be used for applying controls, correcting unsafe practices, and coaching and training. The best way to mine this data is to create an environment in which people feel safe speaking up, even when reporting potential hazards and incidents.

It’s critical for a workplace to know about them so that it can assess risk and if needed take preventive action. Encourage reporting with a clearly set out and communicated process, so that when an incident occurs, such as improperly stacked products falling, the response is constructive rather than punitive.

6 Develop and implement solutions. For example, if employees are unclear who has the right of way at intersections, use familiar roadway markings – red lights/green lights, stop signs, and crosswalk markings.

If Covid PPE is a problem, ensure that equipment operators and pedestrians use more caution and wear the right PPE, such as fog-proof lenses. Clearly communicate your “safety first” culture to all employees, and provide supervisors with additional training.