Gary Escott (above), Managing Director of SiteZone Safety, emphasises that keeping your transport logistics workers distanced from vehicles in the COVID-19 transport logistics rush is just as important as keeping them distanced from each other.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has left its marks on UK industry, most of them negative. The logistics sector had to ride the storm of the impact in ways that it had not really prepared for, nor foreseen. And while it created employment and met an inflated public demand, was it possibly at the expense of occupational safety?
The effects of the quarantine were varied across UK industry. By June 2020, nearly 9.5 million people in the country were put on furlough and everything halted.
For transport logistics, it was a different story. It didn’t have time to dwell, but only to react. As supermarket shelves emptied at break-neck speed, the supply chains were working overtime trying to keep the panic buyers stocked. The sharp rise in online shopping added to the pressure, as procurement of supplies, or comfort buys were sourced remotely from the internet. At the peak of the quarantine 60% of non- food related purchases were executed online, 30% more than that of 2019.
However, relying on one overloaded sector to deliver all we require, surely puts a lot of pressure on its processes, including work-related safety?
Keeping a distance isn’t new in the safety world
When we talk about anti-collision safety in logistics, we refer to those activities involving vehicles in the workplace. These working environments include depots and warehouses and far too often employees are injured due to collisions with work vehicles. There are lorries in and out, and forklifts constantly moving around in warehouses; this occurs under normal circumstances, without the staggering load added by the COVID demands. According to the Health & Safety Executive, in 2018-2019, 36% of all injuries in the transport and storage sectors were caused by being struck by a vehicle. In fact, they have a rate of fatal injury twice that of other industries.
Imagine now, where workers may be working longer shifts, there are more people on site, and more vehicles moving around, arriving and departing at more rapid rates. The exacerbated rush to meet the retail demands of a desperate nation creates a hotbed for accidents.
This is no time to drop the ball on occupational collision risk
This is why I think it’s so important not to lose sight of the other kind of physical distancing – the one between people and machines. Stretched workers, driving large vehicles with blind spots, or navigating stuffed warehouses where personnel and forklifts don’t always see each other, can result in injury and fatalities. Keeping on top of safety protocols and using precision safety technology to assist should be a top priority.
Regarding businesses with specific safety risks, that means adapting and ensuring that procedures keeping up. For the over-taxed logistics sector, why not use solutions that are data driven, with high-spec tech performance on the ground and change safety-related behaviours on site? Being able to capture data with telematic options can inform more targeted safety benchmarking and training across whole fleets.
Training is going to be of significant importance henceforth, because so many occupational practices will have to be completely revised. Therefore, we must be one step ahead, 1m apart, and alert to the amplified dangers of collision risk – especially in transport logistics, as it moves faster than it ever did before.