8 Important Measures
Employee safety is a leading concern for any industrial workplace. Warehouses, in particular, should take safety seriously, considering the hazardous nature of their work.
The shipping and transportation sector has the second-highest number of workplace injuries of any industry. These incidents do more than endanger workers — they can result in lost productivity, unnecessary expenses and declining morale. Boosting safety standards will improve warehouses as a whole. Here are eight ways management can do that.
1. Automate Where Possible
Eliminating hazards entirely is the most effective way to prevent injuries in the workplace. One way warehouses can do that is by automating the most dangerous tasks. Automation removes humans from the equation, keeping them at a safe distance from materials or processes that could injure them
Many of the most hazardous tasks in a warehouse are also the most easily automatable. Material handling can cause repetitive strain injuries if manual, but automated movers are widely available today. Employing robotics in these strenuous, redundant roles will prevent common accidents.
Of course, not every task is automatable, and automation can be expensive. Warehouses should start with the most cost-effective options, applying robotics to the workflows with the most injuries first before expanding.
2. Implement Fall Protection
One specific safety standard warehouses should address is fall protection. OSHA cites companies for improper fall protection more than any other issue, and falls account for 20% of all workplace injuries. Given how common these safety violations are, it’s best to review fall protections and standards instead of assuming they’re sufficient.
Supplying workers with the right equipment is one of the most important steps. Anyone working from heights should have helmets and safety harnesses. Warehouses should ideally use scissors lifts and other elevating platforms instead of ladders since they offer more stable ground. Some facilities may be able to implement robotic systems to reach higher shelves, removing workers from fall hazards.
3. Make Vehicles Easier to See and Hear
Vehicle-related injuries are another common safety issue in warehouses. Forklifts alone caused 9,050 nonfatal injuries and 74 fatalities in 2017. One of the reasons these injuries are so common is because the machines can be difficult to see or hear in a busy warehouse. Consequently, businesses should improve vehicle visibility and audibility.
Adding flashing lights to all vehicles, especially forklifts, can help nearby workers notice them as they draw near. Similarly, beeping or other loud noises can attract attention. Protecting workers’ hearing so they can hear approaching vehicles and warning signals is crucial, too. Employees in noisy environments should have ear protection and take regular breaks.
4. Emphasize Proper Techniques in Training
Some studies suggest that human error plays a part in almost all workplace incidents, so warehouses can avoid many injuries through training. Trainers should emphasize proper safety procedures when onboarding a new employee, regardless of their experience. That includes OSHA-regulated things like using fall protection and company-specific guidelines.
Some operations, like heavy machinery, are obvious points to hit in training, while others are more overlooked but still deserve attention. Proper lifting techniques are one of the most crucial of these. They may seem less important, but ignoring them can lead to musculoskeletal disorders with long-term health effects.
5. Don’t Overlook Employee Engagement
Another aspect of warehouse safety standards that often goes overlooked is employee engagement. People who don’t buy into their day-to-day work may become less attentive and more easily distracted. That can quickly become dangerous in a busy warehouse full of heavy items and moving machinery.
Engagement can be hard to gauge or hold to a standard, but several steps can improve it. Giving fair compensation, providing flexible work schedules, especially for workers with families, and offering career advancement opportunities can all help. Making workflows less repetitive can also keep workers engaged.
Specific steps can vary between workplaces and their employees. It may be best to survey workers to see what they feel the company isn’t providing for them.
6. Consider Using IoT Sensors
New technologies can help make warehouses safer than ever before. One promising safety tech is the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT sensors can maximize visibility throughout the warehouse, preventing accidents and catching potential hazards early.
Some warehouses used IoT proximity sensors to alert workers when they got too close to another, enabling easier social distancing. Similar solutions can help avoid collisions with forklifts and other vehicles. Alternatively, IoT wearables can monitor body temperature and heart rate to alert workers when they’re getting exhausted. They can then take a break before suffering an injury.
7. Keep Workspaces Clean
Other steps to improve warehouse safety standards aren’t quite so high-tech. Keeping the facility clean can make a considerable difference, however insignificant it may seem. Clean, organized workspaces make it easier for employees to see hazards and minimize the clutter that could cause employees to trip or run into obstacles.
Keeping floors clear of debris is one of the most important steps for safety-minded cleanliness. Tape down any wires that have to travel across walking spaces and consider running brightly colored plastic shields over them. The goal is to eliminate hazards that could trip workers and maximize moving space.
Tackling visibility and clutter will prevent slips, trips and falls and material handling accidents, two of the top three warehouse injuries. Cleaner workspaces can also improve morale, leading to higher engagement.
8. Review Safety Data Regularly
It’s important to remember that the job isn’t over even after making safety changes. Workplaces that experience any injuries in a year still have room to improve. Warehouses must monitor their safety data to look for any trends. They can use them to inform future adjustments to help create the best possible safety standards.
Some accidents decrease after a change, and similar adjustments in another workflow could result in the same type of results. Alternatively, warehouse managers know to try something else if accidents don’t happen after an adjustment. In both cases, swift action creates the most effective results, so warehouses should review their data regularly.
A Safe Warehouse Is a Productive Warehouse
Warehouses are often dangerous, but they don’t have to be. Facilities that adopt these eight measures could eliminate some hazards and mitigate others, letting their workers be as safe as possible.
Safe warehouses are more productive, and workers who know they are in a good environment will be more likely to stick around. Fewer costs and disruptions allow them to reach their full potential.