Many businesses today wouldn’t be able to function without a warehouse. The success of the supply chain depends on these facilities. However, the workers running these vital processes can be at higher risk of injury than other professionals.
If you manage a warehouse, you need to make every employee’s safety a priority. This work can be dangerous, but you can handle a lot of the risks through proper planning and provisions. Here are 10 ways you can keep your employees safe.
1. Understand Potential Risks
The first step in making your warehouse safer is knowing what things pose a risk. Before developing any kind of safety measures, take note of all potential hazards. That way, you’ll know what to address and what’s not as crucial to your specific situation.
Common warehouse hazards include uneven surfaces, exposed wires, inadequate sanitation, and limited space. Be sure to pay attention to minute details. When you’re working with heavy equipment, even small issues can cause major problems.
2. Provide Thorough Safety Training
After you understand all the risks your employees face, design a training program. You can’t expect your workers to stay safe if they don’t know how to avoid danger. Thorough safety training ensures they know how to work safely and what to do in an emergency.
It also helps to hold regular safety briefings on top of the initial training. That way, you ensure no one forgets any critical details. Employees who work with heavy machinery like forklifts should have to go through extra training.
3. Inspect Equipment
Modern warehouse equipment is built to last, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take precautions when using it. You should regularly inspect all equipment before use to make sure it’ll run safely.
If workers don’t inspect machinery first, they run the risk of it breaking while they use it. This could put people in danger. Taking the time to make sure everything is up to standards before the workday starts is essential.
4. Use Extra Safety Accessories
Most equipment should come with built-in safety features, but you can go a step further. Providing extra safety accessories helps you offer the highest level of security for your employees. Ensuring the safety of your workers is worth whatever the added equipment may cost.
Things like extra scaffolding rails and outriggers provide an added layer of safety. These features are particularly valuable for areas where employees are at higher risk, like working at heights.
5. Store Things Safely
Thoughtful organization doesn’t just improve warehouse efficiency — it can also remove potential hazards. If you don’t have a system to put items away neatly, things could be left in walkways, which could trip employees.
If objects are stacked too high, they could fall over and hurt workers. Stacks should also be even and bottom-heavy to further reduce the risk of them toppling over. Be sure you know how much weight your storage racks can support, too, so you don’t overload them.
6. Keep It Clean
Cleaning and safety may seem unrelated, but they’re more connected than you might think. Cleaning up debris like sawdust or spills can reduce the risk of an employee slipping and falling. Since falls account for 32% of preventable injuries, this is an important step.
You should have policies and schedules for workers to clean up after themselves, especially with spills or loose material. If you work with hazardous items in the warehouse, have specific cleaning protocols for these substances.
7. Consider Your Clothes
You probably already know to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) like hardhats and safety goggles. However, you should also consider other things, like loose clothing and dangling jewelry. Items like these can get caught in moving machinery.
Create a dress code that mandates things like well-fitting clothes and closed-toe shoes. Accessories like watches may be permissible in some areas, but be hazardous in others. Consider what each warehouse job entails and what equipment is used to determine the proper regulations.
8. Ventilate Properly
It’s easy to forget about adequate ventilation. When you’re so focused on more prominent safety factors, you can overlook air quality. However, with trucks moving in and out and machines stirring up particles, efficient ventilation is a necessity.
Without proper airflow in a warehouse, you run the risk of lung damage. Dust from moving pallets and carbon monoxide from trucks can pollute the air. To protect everyone’s health, you need to have an effective ventilation system in place.
9. Automate Where Possible
One of the best ways to keep employees out of danger is to remove them from risky situations. If you have the budget, you should consider automating some warehouse processes. Having machines take over the more dangerous tasks keeps workers out of harm’s way.
Automation doesn’t have to mean letting robots take people’s jobs. It could be something as simple as using electric pallet jacks instead of manual ones. Even on a small scale, automating some processes can help prevent injury.
10. Post Clear Signage
OSHA requires that you post signs wherever there’s a possible hazard. However, you should think about where and how you place these warnings, not just meeting the minimum standards. Make sure you use easily readable signs that are free from any obstructions.
On top of hazard warnings, you should also clearly mark things like fire exits and first-aid kits. Labeling these resources will help employees in the event of an emergency. Without clear signage, accidents could quickly turn into disasters.
Safety Is Everyone’s Business
Safety impacts everyone, so make sure workers understand your safety measures. Communicate all standards and keep employees informed of changes or additions to your policies. By creating a well-informed culture of safety, you’ll avoid a lot of potential dangers.
Some measures or equipment may seem excessive, but you can’t be too safe. The extra time and funds you spend on safety will help protect people’s lives. The warehouse can be risky, but none of these dangers are impossible to manage.
By: Scott Huntington, BOSS contributor