Workplace Traffic Management
Workplace traffic is an important subject, not least because it is easy to develop an existing system, as needs change, without ever fully appreciating the consequences. It is rare, except for new workplaces, that the traffic routes have been designed with all of the necessary risk controls in place to ensure that vehicles and pedestrians in a workplace are capable of using them safely and efficiently.
When designing traffic system layouts, there are a number of aspects that need to be considered to ensure that traffic flows can be undertaken efficiently, with minimum disturbance and controlled adequately to ensure safe operation.
Traffic routes must be sited in such a way as to minimise potential interaction between pedestrians and vehicles. They must also be designed to ensure that they take into account the needs of users with disabilities, i.e. those with mobility or sight impairments.
Purpose of Traffic Routes
Although it may seem obvious, it is important to determine the expected purpose of the traffic route as they may sometimes be used in unexpected ways e.g. short cuts or as temporary loading or storage areas.
In general, it will be sufficient to know whether pedestrians, vehicles or both will use the traffic route. If it is used by both pedestrians and vehicles, it is then necessary to determine if the two are intended to interact – e.g. during loading and unloading – or if more care is required to separate them. At times of high pedestrian traffic, it may be necessary to prohibit any vehicle movement in particular areas, as it is highly likely that crowds will overflow from footpaths onto roadways.
Volume of Traffic
An effective traffic system layout should always take into account the expected volume of traffic that the route will need to support, including the normal traffic load and expected variations e.g. rush hour or
set delivery times.
Emergency situations should also be considered e.g. ease of access for emergency vehicles and alternative routes should one be blocked.
Wherever any two (or more) traffic routes intersect, there is the potential for collisions so it is important to design any crossing points to have the maximum visibility.
Where crossing points are necessary, they should be suitably marked and signed, with barriers in place to prevent crossing at dangerous points in the vehicular roadway. In some areas, the use of mirrors at blind corners can help.
If any blind corners exist at crossing points such as at entrances to buildings then warning signs and the use of audible indications (such as horns) must be used to control the risk of collisions.
It is important to ensure that pedestrians do not step out into the path of vehicular traffic. To prevent this, a suitable gap of at least one metre should be placed between the entrance or exit and the vehicular traffic route, providing pedestrians with an adequate view to see oncoming traffic. Where this is not possible, a barrier can be used to prevent pedestrians from stepping out directly into the path of traffic.
Areas of High Activity
Areas of high traffic activity, such as loading and unloading areas must have special consideration given to them, particularly if pedestrians are necessary as part of the operation.
Where pedestrians must work in the same area, the use of high-visibility clothing will assist in their safety. In addition, pedestrians not working in the area – particularly if they are not aware of any dangers – will also be at risk to themselves and to the drivers of the vehicles, and should be prohibited.
In areas where it is likely that vehicles will be reversing into bays, it is necessary to make provisions to prevent people being trapped and crushed behind the vehicle, e.g. an alcove or refuge, large enough for the person but small enough to prevent the vehicle coming into contact with them.
Protection of Vulnerable Items
In many premises there are likely to be items that would cause a significantly high level of danger if they were struck or damaged by vehicles e.g. storage tanks, pressurised cylinders and flammable stores. It is important that, if traffic routes cannot be laid out to avoid these areas, these vulnerable items are adequately protected from impact, or steps are taken to mitigate any consequences, such as adequate bunding.
Traffic Management Systems
Suitable traffic control systems should be in place to minimise the likelihood of collisions or unwanted interaction between vehicles and pedestrians. Where there are areas on narrow roads (such that two vehicles cannot pass safely or there is a greater possibility of pedestrian presence), one-way systems should be implemented, or traffic management systems – such as traffic lights or passing places – must be provided.
Throughout the premises, suitable and sensible speed limits should be applied. If these change, there must be adequate signage, with the possible use of roadway markings to warn drivers.
Traffic calming systems, such as chicanes or speed humps, can be particularly successful to ensure the enforcement of speed limits. However, it is important to consider the danger to laden vehicles such as fork-lift trucks or manual handling trolleys, which may not be able to negotiate speed humps without shedding their loads.
Any traffic control system (including routes, hazards and restrictions) must be adequately signed or marked to ensure that drivers are aware of their presence. Areas segregated for pedestrians or protected areas should also be clearly marked to ensure that drivers are aware of and respect them.
Obstructions and Overhead Clearance
Traffic routes – both vehicular and pedestrian – must be kept clear of obstructions of any kind. In particular, there should be sufficient headroom for expected vehicles to pass safely through. In any cases where the headroom is restricted (taking into account possible use by emergency vehicles) this must be clearly marked. Where overhead obstructions are of a hazardous nature – such as steam or high pressure pipes or those carrying hazardous or flammable materials – they should be adequately protected from possible impact and damage.