Warehouses require hard work that can quickly lead to injury if something goes wrong. Accidents can happen because of human error or a faulty machine. Nonetheless, they can significantly affect the worker with an injury and the company with paperwork on top of reduced efficiency and profits.
However, there are ways to improve employee safety in the warehouse. Here are seven strategies to reduce injuries and ensure warehouse workers stay safe on the job.
1. Emphasizing Safety Standards
Preventing injuries starts at the beginning. Warehouses must adhere to guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). According to OSHA, the fatality rate among warehouse workers is higher than the national average for all industries. OSHA provides excellent guidelines for facilities and workers to follow.
Warehouse managers should pay close attention to their workers and ensure they follow the rules. For example, employees cannot jump into a dock or drive a forklift over 5 mph. Managers should retrain people that aren’t abiding by the rules or need to be educated on new regulations. Governing bodies sometimes create better practices, and teaching them to new and veteran employees is worth the time.
2. Ensuring Break Time
Warehouse employees typically receive breaks of varying lengths during the workday. This time away from work is necessary for them to recuperate for a few minutes, but some workers skip them because they feel pressure from their employers. Staffing shortages in warehouses could lead to stressed workers. A 2019 survey finds that people who take their daily lunch breaks are more effective and satisfied with their job than those who don’t.
Warehouse managers should ensure their workers take adequate breaks and stay hydrated. This is essential when doing physical activity. There may be downtime during shifts, but employees should take time to relax. Taking a rest means relieving the lactic acid that builds up and giving the mind a needed break.
3. Improving Equipment
Lactic acid buildup in the muscles can lead to soreness and an overworked body, leading to injuries. Workers often have to lift heavy crates and boxes. Heavy lifting can cause significant harm, resulting in 30% of injuries in the workplace. Employees can use forklifts and other machinery to relieve the pressure, but warehouses must continue equipment improvements to keep them safe.
For example, warehouse operators should consider what trailers to use for their trucks. Tilt trailers are excellent for worker safety because they allow easy loading and unloading without a ramp. Other options, like step decks, enable employees to transport heavy machinery without needing extra equipment for loading. Workers will benefit from jumping through fewer hoops to get the job done.
4. Using Automation
Technology is constantly evolving in favor of the employee. Innovations allow workers to rely more on machines to do menial or complex tasks and make the workplace more efficient. Recently, warehouses have been investing more in automation. Artificial intelligence (AI) has become more innovative and a way for businesses to increase profits and keep people safe.
Automation can be an effective warehouse tool. For example, facilities could incorporate autonomous mobile robots (AMR). These machines reduce the human workload by carrying stock throughout or between multiple buildings. AMRs can minimize time spent walking and on mundane tasks, making the warehouse more productive, efficient and safe.
5. Maintaining Machinery
Technology is helpful in warehouses and other businesses but also needs maintenance. Minor problems inside machines can lead to downtime, inefficiency and injuries if proper care isn’t taken. Warehouse managers and employees should conduct frequent inspections to ensure everything works properly. Putting machines on a maintenance schedule to check for wear is good practice. Filters, seals and other parts will become loose over time, compromising safety.
Equipment maintenance is smart for worker safety and helps the warehouse in the long run. Detecting minor problems can save thousands of dollars in repairs if a machine continues to break down. Maintaining equipment is another reason for warehouses to consider automation. AI typically detects problems as soon as they occur and faster than a human can. Some intelligent machines may be smart enough to troubleshoot themselves.
6. Providing Physical Health Support
Automated machines significantly help a warehouse, but workers must still engage in physical labor. Employees are on their feet for eight to 12 hours daily, depending on their shift. Managers should devise plans to improve worker safety throughout the workday. Even the small things go a long way.
For example, a warehouse should provide back braces for employees. This device supports a person’s back and keeps their spine aligned while on the job. They’re essential for recovering from and preventing injuries. Another slight adjustment is rubber floor pads. Hard floors cause foot fatigue, affecting workers’ legs and knees. Putting these pads on the ground keeps them comfortable throughout the shift.
Another place managers can help their employees is in the break area. This room serves as an area for workers to rest their minds and bodies, so it should have comfortable seating like sofas and soft chairs.
7. Offering Mental Health Help
Physical health is a significant factor for warehouse workers, but focusing on mental health is also integral. Sometimes, outside forces affect how productive and attentive employees are during the day, but the workplace can also take a toll. Disengagement often leads to less productivity and more accidents on the job. A Gallup study found that disengaged workers have safety incidents 64% more often than engaged employees.
Managers must foster a warehouse environment conducive to mental health. It starts by having open conversations with workers about the state of the workplace. Managers should listen to their employees’ concerns and find practical solutions to mitigate them.
Stress is a common problem in warehouses, especially during the holiday season. Workers may pick up extra shifts to earn more money but end up harming themselves due to overworking. Managers should adequately fill staffing needs and hire early to prepare more employees for high demand. Nearly 75% of warehouses have reported challenges in attracting talent to their workplace.
Finding Ways to Reduce Injuries
Workplaces across industries deal with employee injuries — no business is perfect. However, the physical nature of warehouse work can easily lead to accidents if facilities don’t take the proper precautions. These seven strategies help warehouses reduce injuries and emphasize worker safety, leading to improved morale, higher productivity and a strong reputation.