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When do exclusion zones work?
Some occupations and work activities are naturally more dangerous than others.
In 2018, 69% of all workplace fatalities occurred in
three high-risk industries
: transport, postal and warehousing; agriculture; and construction.
And over one third (39%) of all workplace fatalities involve people being
hit by falling or moving objects
Exclusion zones are a useful strategy for preventing workplace injuries and minimising the risk of many occupational hazards just like these. By creating dedicated “safe spaces” around high-risk activities exclusion zones can help to keep workers and bystanders out of harm’s way.
Here we look at four situations where
Loading and unloading
Loading and unloading is a dangerous task that many businesses have to undertake. As Coates Hire’s
we understand the many hazards this activity presents and invest in performing it safely – using exclusion zones as a primary safety strategy. By separating people from vehicles and other mobile equipment, dedicated loading and unloading exclusion zones help to prevent accidents from happening.
According to Adam Welch, Group Manager - Transport Logistics at Coates Hire, having physical barriers around exclusion zones makes a big difference. “Any physical barrier we can create – even as simple as a line of tape strung between witches hats – means people have to make a conscious decision to step into harms way” Adam explains.
Whilst physical exclusion barriers for exclusion zones work really well for loading and unloading in fixed environments, these zones can be much harder to enforce on client sites and in public places. “Many drivers can feel pressured when they arrive on a client site, busy street or other public place to get the job done quickly”, explains Adam.
“This is where Job Safety Environmental Assessments (JSEA’s) are really important – ensuring drivers take the time to stop and perform risk assessments, to mark out exclusion zones and engage a spotter wherever possible, prior to commencing work.”
Hazards up above
Working at height carries extensive risks – not just for people undertaking this work, but for other workers and bystanders below too. Exclusion zones can reduce the risk of working at height by:
Preventing mobile equipment on the ground from coming into contact with access equipment – where any impact could
destabilise the equipment and workers up above
Creating safe zones around access equipment to protect workers and bystanders from being
hit by falling items
. People working at height have a responsibility for the safety of the people below them in the “drop zone”.
In addition to marking out physical exclusion zones, safe work can be promoted by the use of adequate signage and placement of spotters to maintain exclusion zones on the ground.
In some industries, working at height exclusion zones are even more critical, due to the high-risk nature of the work environment.
In the energy sector “
No Go Zones
” are necessary when working near power infrastructure, including performing scaffolding work, agricultural work and transporting high loads near overhead electrical lines.
In construction, work that involves
lifting or suspending loads
carries considerable risk – making designated lifting areas, landing areas and load travel corridors essential for safety in the air and on the ground.
Hazards down below
Exclusion zones are also vital tools for protecting people against hazards below the ground. Safe Work Australia’s
code of practice for excavation work
recommends adequate measures be taken to prevent authorised access to excavated work areas 1.5m (or greater) deep.
Using physical exclusion zones can prevent accidental access, and avert nearby workers and bystanders from dislodging earth and rock into work areas below ground.
Physical barriers like wheel stoppers can also be used to restrict access for mobile equipment, and prevent excessive loads from affecting the integrity of trenches and excavations.
Reflecting on the effectiveness of exclusion zones, Adam recalls spending time watching the tarmac whilst waiting for a recent flight. “There are always so many high risk activities happening simultaneously at airports” recounts Adam. “Planes are coming and going, being refuelled, loaded and unloaded; baggage trucks and food vans are moving around; and sometimes passengers are guided across the tarmac amidst all of these hazards.”
“When you watch a scene like this unfold it becomes apparent that almost all of these risks can be minimised through exclusion zones” he continues. “And if complex environments like airports can use these zones successfully, surely any workplace can.”
As an RTO, Coates Hire can provide training and assessment around the effective use of exclusion zones in
loading and unloading
How effective are exclusion zones in your workplace? What implementation challenges do you face? Please share your thoughts and feedback via LinkedIn.
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