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Building Products April 2017

FINAL WORD SAFE WORKING ENVIRONMENT During the initial design stage of industrial buildings, it is vital to consider the function of the facility and how operations will run to allow safety to be ‘designed in’, and ensure that the environment is fit for purpose. James Smith explains. Naturally, while going through the design and construction process, architects and site managers will adhere to many health and safety rules, ensuring the safety of everyone entering the site. Problems can arise however, when health and safety needs of the new building’s owners and their workforce are not taken into consideration at the initial planning stage. Several important elements of health and safety should be considered when designing industrial buildings. For example, warehouses employees regularly use industrial vehicles as part of their daily job function. There will also be pedestrians in the same warehouse, who require segregation from vehicle traffic to reduce the risk of injury. Shockingly, an average of 50 people are killed, and 5,000 injured every year as a direct result of accidents involving workplace vehicles – according to the Health and Safety Executive’s Workplace Transport Safety guide. One important factor to consider is employees’ desire lines within their working environment; this is the fastest route to walk from A to B, and naturally, the most likely route to be taken. Inevitably, if employees follow their desire line, they are much more likely to wander into the path of an oncoming vehicle than they would be if they were required to take a designated pedestrian route. In order to segregate pedestrian and vehicle traffic, specific routes should be created and steps taken to clearly define the two paths. Pedestrian routes should also have a raised kerb where possible to highlight the path. White lines can be painted on the floor to mark out the routes, as long as there is a gap of at least one metre between pedestrian and vehicle routes to create a ‘buffer zone’. For environments where that additional space is not available, extra precautions are recommended, such as the installation of a safety barrier to segregate people from oncoming traffic. It is important to select a safety barrier with a performance rating designed to match the vehicles in operation and the facility itself; consideration should be given to the vehicle type, weight and height, as well as operations and the amount of traffic. Safety barriers are designed and manufactured very differently, so the performance level of the barrier should be considered depending on a facility’s individual health and safety needs. When a safety barrier is the appropriate choice, pedestrian routes should be at least 600mm wide to give employees enough space to pass safely. When creating this ‘safe zone’, you will also need to factor in the deflection distance – this is how far the barrier will flex backwards once impact has occurred. Sufficient space should be left to create a safe deflection zone. If you are placing barriers along a 600mm wide walkway, for example, and the deflection space is 150mm, you should add the 150mm deflection distance onto the initial 600mm walkway to ensure a safe pedestrian area. This deflection space will vary depending on the speed and weight of the vehicle used in that area, as some industrial vehicles can pick up speed quickly when travelling on a long, straight run. To further reduce risk, vehicle and pedestrian crossing points should be eliminated or reduced to an absolute minimum. These are very important areas where pedestrian and vehicle routes come into direct contact, and appropriate control measures should be put into place to eliminate risks. When planning for traffic crossing points you should ensure that they are not positioned directly opposite an entrance. Employees entering the factory will need to make a conscious effort to pass a crossing point if they are slightly offset from the entry door. Again, this encourages a slight pause and gives pedestrians time to see any hazards. For optimum safety within industrial facilities, overhead walkways are the preferred pedestrian route, but not always possible from both a cost and space point of view. Generally, they are the safest option as they eliminate the need for crossing points all together and stop pedestrian and vehicle traffic from coming into contact. Company owners can face several widereaching consequences should a serious accident occur in their factory or warehouse. As well as operational downtime if something goes wrong, there are also fines and unnecessary expenses to consider. In worst case scenarios, entirely avoidable incidents can lead to costly injury compensation or even personal prosecution. Employers and business owners have a duty to protect staff from harm by ensuring the health, safety and wellbeing of employees at work. Accidents of this kind are absolutely preventable if the correct safety measures are followed from the start. It is our responsibility as employers to do everything in our power to protect employees and prevent these accidents from occurring. James Smith is Co-owner of A-Safe 66 BUILDING PRODUCTS | APRIL 2017


Building Products April 2017
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