Safety First: Managing traffic in the yard

by Inside Logistics Online Staff
Norm Kramer is a Canadian Registered Safety Professional
with over 25 years’ experience. Norm
provides expert,
in-depth health &
safety consulting
services for WSPS as
a Warehouse Specialist
in the GTA region.

A mix of trucks, mobile equipment, pedestrians, bad weather, traffic jams and other potential hazards in your yard can spell disaster in the form of collisions between vehicles or vehicles and pedestrians. If traffic is left haphazard or unpredictable, you’ll often see problems.

Reining in the chaos means putting an exterior traffic management plan in place. An effective plan will help improve traffic flow, maximize capacity, minimize delays, keep people safe, and more.

Since a lot of factors come into play, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. But there are best practices that can help you design your own solution.

Start with a hazard assessment. Sometimes companies will focus on hazard assessments inside the facility but overlook the outside.

However, the legal duty to protect employees extends into the yard. Having a traffic management plan in place will also help your workplace avoid fines, penalties and other liabilities.

Consider using “PEMEP” as a guiding principle to identify the unique hazards in your yard. In other words, “How could People, Equipment, Materials, Environment and Process contribute to hazards?”

Here are 10 suggestions to help you produce a comprehensive exterior traffic management plan.

1. In your hazard assessment, consider these factors:

  • trafc flow where, when and how vehicles access and exit site
  • pedestrian routes and potential vehicle/pedestrian collision points
  • yard design and layout
  • impact of weather, such as icy or slushy conditions, or water accumulation
  • quality of road surfaces and lighting
  • signage and pavement markings
  • pedestrian program, communication, training, monitoring and

2. As part of the assessment, talk to anyone with insights on what happens in the yard. These people can include the shunt driver, gatehouse staff, delivery drivers, workers and other pedestrians, and the joint health and safety committee.

3. Review and, if necessary, reconfigure the yard’s design and layout. Should traffic in the yard be two-way or can traffic be routed one way only to avoid congestion in restricted space? Observe what happens when congestion occurs. Is space permitted for overflow traffic or a truck waiting area, if necessary? Should cars be driving in the same area as trucks or can they be kept separate?

4. Check whether loading zones and parking and reversing areas meet traffic requirements. Is there enough space for parking and reversing, including painted lines to guide drivers to park squarely at the loading dock? Monitor scheduled and unscheduled pick-ups and drop-offs. If necessary, use signalers. However, ensure they are well trained and in a safe position where they can be seen by drivers.

5. Develop a traffic system that mimics what’s used on outside roadways. Drivers are programmed to follow line markings governed by the Highway Traffic Act – stop signs, solid yellow lines, crossing areas, driving on the right, etc. If you install a similar system in your yard, drivers will automatically follow it.

6. Determine the safest places for people to move from point to point and create pedestrian paths so people move predictably, stay at a distance from trucks, and don’t walk in a driver’s blind spot.

7. Ensure potential danger areas where pedestrians and vehicles intersect are well marked. The primary goal is to separate vehicle traffic from pedestrian traffic. Use signs, lights, and a crosshatched border, similar to roadway crosswalks.

8. Boost visibility. Ensure all pedestrians wear high-visibility reflective vests. And with trucks often moving in early morning and after dark, keep the yard well lit.

9. Make sure everyone entering the workplace knows and understands the traffic management plan, including their personal obligations. To help workers and pedestrians understand what drivers can and can’t see, have them sit in the driver’s seat. Include temporary workers and contractors in the training.

10. If you’ve identified other hazards through your assessment, put systems in place to control or minimize the hazards (e.g. preventing contact with electrical lines, or arranging for snow removal or de-icing in winter).

Once you’ve updated your exterior traffic management plan, review it regularly to ensure it remains effective and takes into account changes in the workplace.