The lumber industry has been a fixture in the United States since colonial times—as have many of the risk exposures that threaten it. Accidents related to fire, unloading and loading, slips and falls, and (these days) distracted driving continue to pose dangers to lumberyards, distributors, wholesalers, manufacturers and other woodrelated service providers. Not only is it a smart business practice to maintain a safe environment, but owners and operators of these facilities have a responsibility to their employees, vendors, and retail customers to moderate hazards.
Below, we’ve outlined four tips to keep your facility safe from these common exposures.
Wood and fire may be a warm combination in your fireplace, but it’s a combination you want no part of in your lumberyard or wood-related facility. Smoking is a major cause of wood facility fires. To reduce this risk, post “no smoking” signs prominently, allow smoking only in designated areas, and provide ample fire-safe receptacles for cigarette disposal. Ideally, a “no smoking” policy on the premises is the best policy.
Forklift loading and unloading raises significant safety concerns as materials can fall from the lift onto a driver or other bystander. To reduce this risk, forklift operators should be properly trained and that training should be updated every three years or when equipment or hazards change. Additionally, operators should understand what they are carrying, check that the load is secure, ensure no other workers are standing opposite of the truck while the forklift is in motion, and instruct operators to stop the vehicle immediately if another person enters the loading zone. Trailer wheels should be chocked when loading and unloading.
As in all businesses, slips and falls are a common risk and a large liability for wood-related businesses in particular. By law, it is the facility owner and operator’s responsibility to maintain “reasonable care” of their retail and work environment. One of the best ways to mitigate this risk is to keep a regular log of activity to demonstrate that steps have been taken to avoid these hazards. To reduce slips and falls, a designated employee should conduct an hourly survey of aisles and floors for hazards and immediately post signs warning of any identified hazards, including potholes, cracks in pavement and more.
Distracted driving has been a growing problem in recent decades as cell phone technology and vehicle electronics have advanced to not only allow drivers to talk on the phone, but text, use a GPS, watch videos and more. Distracted driving relates to any activity while driving that could divert the driver’s attention and cause an accident including: texting, eating or drinking, talking on the phone, and grooming. To reduce distracted driving incidents, drivers should have a pre-trip routine and that includes powering off their phones or enabling a text blocking app. Further, they should avoid making sales calls and doing other business in the car.