Best Practices for Traffic Management in Food Manufacturing Plants
Changing requirements in food and beverage manufacturing facilities create an ongoing struggle for plant / site managers to produce an effective traffic management plan. With constantly reallocated areas, updated standards, and new traffic management solutions being introduced regularly, it’s a battle to figure out what will work in each situation.
Suggested practices include a basic outline of what obstacles to use, when and where to put up walkways, the types of signs to display, and potential hazards to include in a traffic management plan. While useful, without a clear guide to managing traffic in this industry, plant / site managers have had to create their own innovative solutions to tackle risks and dangers in these demanding environments.
Ensuring the proper separation of pedestrian and forklift traffic is vital in fast-paced food manufacturing environments. In large companies, standard practices tend to be:
- The operating areas of motorized mobile power plants are limited to clearly demarcated areas. Ideally, a motorized mobile plant should not operate in an area where pedestrians are present.
- Areas where pedestrians must not enter under any circumstances are marked as exclusion zones.
- Shared areas where pedestrians must access areas used by motorized mobile vehicles require special attention. Paths indicating the safest route may beclearly marked in green and yellow. As a general rule, the layout of these paths will be safer if they are highly visible and, where possible, bypass the perimeter of the area rather than crossing it.
- The Site Traffic Management Plan (PMP) is a key document that should be used for the instruction of all personnel at a site. Needless to say, the colors (and patterns / designs) used must exactly match the TMP site. Effective and often used colors for footpaths are golden yellow Y14 for edges / borders and, where applicable, emerald green G13 in border lines. Another example of specifically colored paths is a shared area where equipment and vehicles take priority. In this case, a path painted in yellow and black (ideally a chevron) is advisable, again with hinged doors installed to force pedestrians to stop before entering the path.
- High visibility pedestrian barriers are installed in areas where forklifts operate beside the path. Swing doors are also installed so that pedestrians can only enter the area after stopping to open the door. It also means that in the situation where a pedestrian is in the forklift zone and needs to get out quickly, their route is intuitive and without barriers opening in the opposite direction.
Stepping away from standard practices, there have been inspiring innovations that have significantly helped traffic management and increased safety in this industry.
One of these is a leading food company that installs paths with “chased” edges to allow for significant “build-up” of through color and to maximize the effective life of installed lines / paths. The body of the path has been completed with a multi-layer finish, each layer being Emerald Green G13, to maximize use for years. Then, on both sides of the path, a 3mm deep channel was cut and filled with fluorescent yellow reflective 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 recently noted modernization at a leading food company was the use of a flashing red light at every crosswalk. This flashing light is activated by a switch on the gate and flashes for 10 to 20 seconds after opening the gate, depending on the length of the crossing. This means forklift operators are warned of the possibility of pedestrians in the area and extra caution is required.