Health and safety in the workplace shouldn’t just fall to one appointed person. Everyone involved should have a hand in ensuring that everyone is safe, especially when working around or using heavy machinery. Should an accident occur involving large, robust equipment, it could cause severe injuries or, in some extreme cases, death.
Oe of the most common workplace accidents involving heavy machinery involves being struck by or becoming caught up in a moving vehicle. Electrocutions are1 also considered to be another common cause of fatal accidents or serious injuries when working with large pieces of equipment.
Therefore, it’s imperative that your workers and/or your colleagues are protected from harm when operating throughout a warehouse, yard or another setting. This is regardless of whether they’re the ones operating the machine or just completing tasks on the shop, warehouse or construction floor, for example.
In this article, we’ll be explaining exactly how you can make your workplace as safe and secure as possible, giving you absolute peace of mind at all times that your employees will be able to carry out and complete tasks with complete ease, but also with their safety at the forefront of everything they do.
Pre-operation procedures to consider
Safety should be of the utmost importance at all times, especially when your operations mean working around or operating heavy equipment. Although, it shouldn’t just be a quick reaction to prevent hazards as and when they occur or be implemented following on from an accident that’s already happened. These safety rules and regulations should be in place right from the very start to mitigate hazards and to ensure that accidents don’t happen at all.
To make sure that all of your safety regulations are being adhered to at all times, and also to make sure that those rules will be as effective as possible in keeping your employees continually safe, you should plan, prepare and maintain your health and safety procedures to ensure the smooth running of your business.
Some of the things you should consider when it comes to workplace safety before operations begin include:
Make sure your operators are fully-trained
piece of equipment has its own controls to operate which, subsequently, comes with some associated risk. As such, it’s important that your workers have been fully-trained to operate the heavy equipment they’ve assigned to. You should train or retrain your employees when:
- You buy or rent new equipment
- New workers have been hired
- Existing employees haven’t operated heavy machinery for a while
- Seasoned workers need a refresher course
Thoroughly inspect your machinery
Inspections should be carried out at least once a day prior to using the machinery. One of the most efficient ways to ensure this is done is to draft up a maintenance checklist. This will allow you to spot and rectify any issues you find before they become major, potentially expensive, problems.
Some of the items you could include in your checklist are as follows:
- Checking that all moving parts are in good condition
- Making sure all alarms function properly
- Whether or not interior and exterior lights are in fully working order
- Tyres aren’t bulging, cut or damaged
- Tread on the tyre is sufficient
- Check that seats are fixed securely and don’t wobble
- Seatbelts should be securely fastened when in use
- Have a look at all fluid levels, where applicable
As well as a maintenance checklist that should be followed on an extremely regular basis, you should also look to check handrails and the shop or warehouse floor for any damage, obstructions and spillages to help prevent slips, trips and falls.
, durable machine guarding will also help when it comes to preventing employees from acquiring a more serious injury, especially when operating heavy-duty drills, saws and other high-powered, large pieces of machinery.
Be aware of workers operating throughout the warehouse floor
While workers need to focus on operating the equipment as safely as possible, whilst also keeping themselves safe, it’s also important that they give a thought to those on the ground who may be nearby. To help emphasise the importance of workplace safety, especially on the ground, communicate the risks clearly to your employees using signs and audio alerts.
It would also be worth restricting access to certain areas when you know that machines are due to be operated, just to make doubly sure. Safety fences should also be put in place, but check that those fences pass machine guarding standards, just for extra peace of mind and reassurance.
Identify, rectify and mitigate potential hazards
There are a number of things you can do to either mitigate hazards or eliminate them altogether. Some of the ways you can do this is by doing the following:
- Identify any obstructions – this can be done by making observations yourself or simply ask your employees to report any obstructions they find on their travels
- Flag any hazard and restrict access to them – display warning signs or mark them out with brightly coloured tape. Putting up physical barriers will also be effective to keep employees and passersby from coming across the hazard and potentially hurting themselves
- Effectively manage surfaces and any fixtures – environmental factors have the ability to influence safety on the shop or warehouse floor. Also look for potholes, bumps, cracks or uneven floor surfaces and ensure they are repaired immediately
- Keep all floors and surfaces clean and free from debris – this is simply to prevent slips, trips and falls in and around the workplace. It will also prevent machines and vehicles from bumping into anything also, which could cost a considerable amount to put right if damage is done
- Remind employees of safe practices – display signs and put warning notices out using a tannoy system, if possible. It might also be worth mentioning safety procedures in weekly meetings just to jog everyone’s memories
Factors involved during operations
There are things that can be done throughout the working day, even while operations are being carried out, to ensure safety in the workplace at all times. Some of the action you’ll be able to take immediately include the following:
Ensure protective gear is worn by your employees at all times
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is designed specifically to protect people from harm. Even if an employee isn’t operating a machine directly, they could still be open to many dangers, like being struck by a vehicle or being hit by a flying object. Some of the PPE you could make compulsory for your employees to wear include:
- High-visibility vests
- Non-slip boots
- Steel-toed boots
- Heavy-duty, thick gloves
- Hard hats
- Durable overalls with long sleeves
- Dust masks
Make sure that a seatbelt is worn at all times
Seatbelts have been specifically installed to save lives, whether it be in a car or a heavy piece of machinery. It’s of paramount importance that you make sure your employees are wearing their seatbelts at all times when the vehicle is in operation. Wearing a seatbelt will protect the driver even if the machine tips over.
Look into installing a rollover protection system
This is a major hazard when it comes to using heavy machinery. Although the likelihood of it actually tipping over is slim, it’s important that measures are in place, just in case it happens. Rollover Protection Systems (ROPS) will help to ensure the safety of everyone involved, even if the equipment overturns.
Communication is absolutely paramount
Make sure that your workers understand what safety rules are in place and why they’re so important. Look to give employees the job of being spotters, for example, to ensure all blind spots are covered. This will ensure machines can navigate around freely, but also safely, in the process. Although, the operator still needs to remain vigilant and this needs to be highlighted.
Mounting and dismounting vehicles should be done with care
Handrails and steps down or up to the machine should be sturdy and stable. They should also be in good condition and not damaged, uneven or bent in any way. Employees should strictly adhere to safe practices when entering or exiting a vehicle. In addition to the aforementioned, employees should also:
- Use designated steps, handholds and footholds
- Never use door frames, levers, steering wheels or hand brakes as footholds or handholds
- Not use wheels or tyres as a foothold or step into the vehicle
- Refrain from jumping out of the vehicle at any point – always wear a seatbelt
- Face the machine when climbing into it out out of it
- Keep hands and feet free of dirt, oil and other debris
Equipment should be loaded and unloaded properly
Although heavy machinery has the ability to load and unload heavy loads effectively and efficiently, they do still have their limits when it comes to this. Make sure that you read the manufacturer’s handbook to check how heavy the load can be so that it doesn’t tip or roll over.
The training your operators undertake should also detail how to safely load and unload goods, no matter what type of machine you have. For example, stock should be loaded and unloaded on even or level ground. The area should also be free of people to make it doubly safe for all of your employees.
Overexertion should be prevented as much as possible
Ensure that workers aren’t being overworked, regardless of whether they’re brand new to the team or an experienced employee. This will help to prevent physical injuries as a result of repetitive movements. This will save you money in the long run as fewer employees will need sick leave, but it could also prevent any lawsuits from being filed against you for negligence.
Take into account post-operation procedures
Once tasks have been completed, or if the working day is over, then there are some simple steps you should follow to ensure absolute safety in the workplace, particularly for the next working day. A couple of things you can do to make sure your business is as safe as possible for all of your workers are as follows:
Ensure all equipment has been shut down correctly
Disconnect the power to all of your equipment once you’ve finished using it. This will help to significantly reduce the risk of electrocutions occurring. The brakes should also be applied, the engine switched off, attachments should be lowered or removed and the transmission needs to be put in neutral for good measure before you leave for the night.
Store equipment properly
Equipment should be cleaned thoroughly before storing, especially if you’re looking to hold it for a long period of time. Barriers should be put up around the machine when not in use to prevent non-trained workers from getting close to it, therefore protecting employees should the vehicle roll and also preventing any damage being done to the machine itself.
If you need to move your heavy machinery into storage or to another site, then get in touch with us here at Emcon Services. We have a highly-skilled team of professional specialists at the heart of everything we do, so you’ll always be able to count on us to deliver a sterling service that’s a cut above the rest – we’ll be on hand, at all times, to move your heavy machinery to exactly where you need it to be.