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Pedestrian access: take a walk on the safe side

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When many managers think about forklift safety, the focus is often those inside the cab. But 57% of forklift-related injuries are sustained by those who work alongside them, on foot… and these are often life-changing or even fatal.

Tragically, just last week there was another case in the news, in which a pedestrian was struck by a lift truck whilst making their way around site. According to the prosecutor, the accident was “entirely foreseeable and entirely preventable” had more rigorous risk assessments and preventative measures been carried out.

Unfortunately, in busy areas like loading bays, you’ll often find forklifts and pedestrians working in close proximity. Clearly that’s not ideal. Indeed, a quarter of all workplace transport accidents occur here. In a perfect world, sites would be fully segregated but in many cases this just isn’t feasible due to the nature of the work. Also, bear in mind that even an operator is a pedestrian until they are physically sat on their truck.

Practical steps to pedestrian safety

That said, as a manager, there are some simple steps you can take to help forklift operators and pedestrians work safer side-by-side. After all, it’s a management responsibility to not only minimise the risk of these accidents but to establish and nurture a safety culture in the workplace: somewhere where everyone understands how to work safely and efficiently in their role, how their actions can affect the safety of others, and vice versa.

There are many elements that make up a safe workplace but considering the following three is a good start for any managers looking to improve pedestrian safety on site:

1. Site design

Layout is key. Think carefully about points where pedestrians enter the working area; once through the doorway, are they adequately protected against oncoming MHE? Do they have safe access to the areas they need to go to? Segregation should be applied in all areas where it is practical. Regardless of how you choose to do this – barriers, painted walkways, etc. – it should be clear to everyone, including visitors.

Also consider your traffic management procedures; could a one-way system reduce risk on site? Are sensible speed limits in place?

2. Training

It’s not enough to simply introduce the above measures, for them to be truly effective they must be monitored and enforced. This means your managers must have the knowledge to enable them to recognise unsafe practice and give them the confidence to stop it in its tracks. Specialist training courses are available designed specifically for those managing forklift operations.

Equally, those working in the area must be trained to use their designated access routes and to understand the importance of sticking to them. This is just as important for those on foot as it is for those operating the trucks, after all, they are most likely to be injured as a result of a forklift accident.

If you’re looking for support with this, there are dedicated training courses aimed at pedestrians as well as operators, such as our Safely Working with Lift Trucks course, that provide delegates with a clear understanding of the risks and consequences of an accident.

3. Communication

A key problem is the lack of standardised communication between drivers and operators. In a move to remedy this, we launched our ‘Show Your Hand’ campaign, which equips managers with an easily implemented system for clear communication that limits the risk of an accident or serious injury.

It’s a simple 3-step process. If an operator sees a pedestrian approaching too closely, then:

  • The operator stops their truck
  • They raise their hand to signal to the pedestrian to stop
  • If the pedestrian does not stop, the operator turns off the ignition until the pedestrian is safely out of the way


By following the process a safe distance is maintained and risk is reduced. If you’re interested in implementing this at your site, we have free campaign packs available containing everything you need to implement the system on your site, including exclusive videos, posters and presentations. Get your pack now! Unfortunately, these packs are no longer available. 

Remember, the majority of accidents are preventable. By taking just a few practical steps, you can dramatically reduce the risk of an accident or serious injury for you and your colleagues. Start today! And if you need any help along the way, please just contact us.

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