Traffic Management in Food Manufacturing Facilities
The changing requirements in food and beverage manufacturing facilities creates an ongoing struggle for plant/site managers to produce an effective traffic management plan. With areas constantly being repurposed, standards updated and new traffic management solutions introduced regularly, it’s a battle understanding what will work in each situation. Suggested practices include a basic rundown of what barriers to use, when and where to implement walkways, types of signs to display, and potential hazards to include on a traffic management plan. Although this is helpful, without a clear guide on traffic management in this industry, plant/site managers have had to create their own innovative solutions to combat the risks and hazards in these demanding environments.
Ensuring the proper separation of foot and forklift traffic is vital in fast-paced food manufacturing environments. In leading corporations, standard practices tend to be:
- Powered mobile plant operating areas are restricted to clearly marked zones. Ideally, powered mobile plant shouldn’t operate in a zone when pedestrians are present.
- Areas where pedestrians must not enter under any circumstances are marked as Exclusion Zones
- Shared areas where pedestrians need to access zones used by powered mobile machinery need special consideration. Pathways indicating the safest route may be clearly marked in green and yellow. Typically, the course of such paths will be safest if they are highly visible and as much as possible, skirt the perimeter of the area rather than traverse through it.
- The site traffic management plan (TMP) is a key document that needs to be used for instruction to all personnel on a site. Needless to say, colours (and patterns/ designs) used must correlate exactly with the site TMP. Colours that are effective and often used for pedestrian paths are Golden Yellow Y14 for edges/ borders, and where required, Emerald Green G13 within the border lines. Another example of specifically coloured paths is a shared zone where equipment and vehicles have right of way. In this case, a yellow and black painted path (ideally in a chevron pattern) is advised, again with swing-in gates installed to force pedestrians to stop before entering the path.
- High visibility pedestrian barriers are installed in areas where forklifts are operating next to the path. Swing-in gates are also installed so that pedestrians can only enter the area after stopping to open the gate. This also means that in the situation where a pedestrian is in the forklift zone and needs to exit quickly, their route is intuitive and unimpeded by gates swinging conversely.
Moving away from standard practices, there have been some inspirational innovations that have significantly assisted traffic management and increased safety in this industry.
One such is a leading food corporation installing paths with ‘chased-in’ edges to allow a heavy ‘build’ of through colour, and to maximise the effective life of the installed lines/ pathways. The body of the path was completed in a multilayered finish, with each layer being Emerald Green G13, to maximise the years usage. Then, on both sides of the path, a 3mm deep channel was cut out and filled with a fluorescent, reflective yellow non-slip paint. This meant that the company had a highly visible path that would last as long as the concrete it was installed on.
Another modernization recently noted in a leading food corporation was the use of a red flashing light at every pedestrian crossing. This flashing light is activated by a switch on the gate and flashes for 10-20 seconds after the gate has been opened, depending on the length of the crossing. This means that forklift operators are warned to the possibility of pedestrians in the area and extra caution is required.