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Coca-Cola safety initiative boosts warehouse performance

Coca-Cola warehouse

In 2016, Coca-Cola Canada launched an initiative to assess and improve pedestrian safety at its largest manufacturing warehouse and distribution centre in Canada. At over a million square feet, the facility is a 24-hour operation with 1500 employees.

National Environment and Safety Manager David Roberts expected the initiative would have positive safety results, but it also improved operational efficiency and reinforced a company-wide commitment to the Internal Responsibility System.

David was already aware of near misses involving pedestrians and mechanized equipment and had reviewed past approaches to prevention. He found that most of these approaches were mainly behavior-based, such as expecting pedestrians to stay within painted walkways.

David's first step was to bring in a set of fresh eyes to update the facility's existing hazard assessment. A team under WSPS Consultant Norm Kramer toured the facility, reviewed related documentation, interviewed internal stakeholders (managers, lift truck operators, joint health and safety committee members, and others), and proposed solutions.

The next step was to involve employees. David created multi-level functional work teams of supervisors and employees, reviewed the identified hazards and proposed solutions, and asked them to respond in a project management framework with controls they would like to see that would also maintain efficiency and avoid introducing new hazards.

The facility eventually implemented a number of solutions, including:

  • physical separation of pedestrians from high risk areas (e.g., removal of walkways in areas where pedestrians did not need to access - about one third of all walkways)
  • application of high-visibility paint to edges of loading/unloading bays
  • installation of enhanced physical controls (e.g., bollards, guardrails, gates) and safeguards (e.g., mirrors, stop signs, forward and reverse activated projector lights on powered mobile equipment, and enhanced crosswalks, especially at blind turns and intersections)

"Our goal was to move away from behaviour-based controls and towards physical barrier separation and other engineering controls, which are critical for success when you're talking about pedestrian safety in a mechanized material handling environment," says David.

But this isn't all the initiative achieved. "The work teams also helped improve the way we operate. Forklift operations are now safer and more efficient - a win/win situation. Plus, we were able to increase the volume of product in the warehouse."

Actively engaging employees in the process also helped them to better understand and appreciate the value of the Internal Responsibility System, an ongoing corporate goal. "Coca-Cola has been making a great effort to move our culture to a higher level of maturity so that the employees at all levels actively embrace the framework of internal responsibility," explains David.

David and his colleagues are now sharing lessons learned with the company's 50+ distribution and warehouse operations across the country.

How WSPS can help

  • WSPS safety experts like Norm Kramer are on hand to help warehouse and distribution centres of any size conduct hazard assessments, identify opportunities, and implement solutions. Speak with an on-duty consultant about what would be involved in assessing safety in your operation: 1-877-494-WSPS (9777).
  • Check out our other warehouse safety offerings, including training courses, free downloads, and four downloadable videos.