Following best practices and OSHA rules for warehouse pedestrian safety can help any bustling workplace run more safely and smoothly. The top hazards for pedestrians in industrial environments include forklifts, slips, trips, and falls, and falling materials; every employee—especially those on foot—should be trained to recognize and avoid these workplace risks. Learn the best ways pedestrians can support facility safety and how to improve compliance with OSHA requirements to make walkways and work areas safer.

Modify Facility Markings to Create Pedestrian Paths

Separating forklift traffic from pedestrians is a safety measure that any facility manager should consider. Depending on the layout of the warehouse or production floor and the proximity of mixed-use areas, there are a few different methods for creating physical and visual barriers between machines and people. Warehouse safety products to help prevent collisions and struck-by accidents include:

  • Caution Floor Tape: Floor marking tape highlights perimeters and zones where machines operate to warn pedestrians.
  • Floor Signs: Enforce pedestrian safety rules in warehouses with visual cues that remind staff to use marked paths, allow right-of-way, keep clear, or watch for forklifts.
  • Safety Barriers: Use cones and traffic control tape to create a temporary physical separation between lift trucks and pedestrians, or install permanent dividers or partitions to create a traffic flow that directs pedestrians away from vehicles.
  • Warehouse Pedestrian Safety Gates: Regulate access to different areas of the facility and prohibit unnecessary or unauthorized traffic.

Include Walkway Safety in Training

Employee onboarding should explain the differences between a pedestrian path, which is a marked route free of machine traffic, and a mixed-use walkway which may include lift trucks, hand trucks, and foot traffic. When aisle traffic includes forklifts and pedestrians, employees should be instructed to walk on the right side of the lanes where it is safest and always keep several feet between them and any machines. Encourage the use of pedestrian-only paths when possible—and ensure those pathways are clearly marked—and ensure all employees know how to navigate standard walkways and understand right-of-way signs, warning lights, and other safeguards. By following these safety requirements, accidents and struck-by hazards may be reduced.

Increase Pedestrians’ Understanding of Lift Trucks

Dedicate a portion of safety training to learning risks related to forklift traffic: Pedestrians who understand drivers’ visibility and turning limitations and the inherent risks of working near fork trucks are more likely to use appropriate caution. While OSHA does not require a set distance to be maintained between forklifts and foot traffic, pedestrians should allow several feet of clearance to prevent run-ins or close calls.

OSHA recommends that warehouse owners teach staff basic pedestrian safety rules around forklifts, including:

  • Giving lift trucks room to stop—these machines cannot brake suddenly
  • Standing clear of lift trucks in motion
  • Avoiding any area or path where a load may fall
  • Explaining the limited visibility and blind spots forklift drivers experience
  • Describing risks posed by the wide rear swing radius of forklift trucks
  • Using pedestrian walkways whenever possible
  • Deploying warehouse pedestrian walkway safety methods in shared aisles (keep to one side, remain alert, make eye contact, etc.).
  • Reminders to never walk, stoop, or reach under an elevated load
  • Reminding staff that warehouse entrances are only through pedestrian doors and never via the dock or vehicle access points
  • Wearing high-visibility safety clothing to help machine operators see people on foot
  • Setting speed limits for forklift drivers and requiring flashing lights to indicate oncoming traffic
  • Prohibiting headphones or earplugs except in required areas so backup alarms and other audible warnings are easily heard

Strengthen Injury Prevention Methods Around Fall Hazards 

Management can add warning signs, grip tape, and railings to help foot traffic navigate safely, but pedestrians can also play a part in protecting themselves from common workplace hazards. Train employees to recognize situations that pose risks when they are working on foot. These prevention methods can help stop injuries from slips and trips, falls from heights, and falling objects.

Keep Pedestrian Walkways Clean and Clear

OSHA requires walking-working surfaces to be kept clean, dry, and orderly. A warehouse manager may consider implementing 5S to make compliance with these standards easier. When staff follows this organizational system, pedestrian walkways can remain free from slip and fall hazards. Pedestrians should also follow any requirements for anti-slip footwear and pay attention while walking to reduce slips and falls. To reduce injury from falls or slips, pedestrians should take shorter steps at a slower pace in areas with ice or moisture, keep hands free to help maintain balance or catch themselves if they do fall, and never walk while distracted by a mobile device—especially in mixed traffic areas or locations where changes in elevation could contribute to a fall or twisted ankle.

Recognize the Risks of Falling Materials

Loads falling from shelves or bins in a warehouse or tools falling from overhead platforms or work on elevated stations can severely injure a pedestrian walking or working below. Employees can prevent these hazardous situations by understanding materials storage guidelines for stacked items and how to keep tools and gear properly secured when working at heights. Employees must promptly alert management to any safety concerns, and management should take action to correct any concerns immediately—including potentially shutting down the location until an acceptable solution has been implemented.

To reduce falling material or storage hazards, encourage employees to always:

  • Scan aisles for unsafe conditions
  • Assess whether materials and tools are properly stored
  • Respect any aisle or area closures marked with physical or visual barriers
  • Follow all required stacking methods
  • Verify whether a forklift load or pallet is stable before moving
  • Review racking load limits and report and/or adjust any potential overloads

When pickers, packers, forklift operators, and management are trained to identify hazards and take extra steps to protect themselves, the workplace is a safer environment for all. Provide regular safety training for forklift operators and pedestrians and display visual reminders of speed limits, right-of-way, and storage rules. For more tips for improving industrial environments with visual cues, visit our Resource Center.