Warehouses are an integral part of the shipping and logistics industries, but unless you maintain and update safety standards, everyone in the facility could be at risk. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the warehouse worker injury rate is 5.1 per 100 full-time employees. This is equal to what you’d see in the farming industry. What do you need to do to keep your warehouse up to date on safety standards?
Invest in Skilled Workers
To the outside observer, warehousing might look like it’s steeped in entry-level positions that don’t require any training, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The industry is in the midst of a skilled labor shortage. The growth of e-commerce has led to increased demand it may not be prepared for. Between 2018 and 2019, it’s estimated there will be a need for an additional 452,000 skilled warehouse and distribution workers. That’s a number that’s not even close to being met.
One of the easiest things a warehouse owner can do to keep their operation up to date on safety standards is to invest in skilled workers and take any necessary steps to retain them. Having skilled workers, instead of a constant influx of new entry-level hires, will improve safety in the long run.
Continue Training Beyond Onboarding
Regardless of the details of your business, training shouldn’t stop at onboarding. Safety standards are constantly changing and evolving as new information and techniques emerge. Ensure everyone in your facility is undergoing continual training from the moment they enter the building for the first time until they leave your employ.
You don’t have to let training compromise your efficiency or productivity. Make time for regular education and refresher courses, especially as new safety techniques come down the pipeline. If taking an entire team off the floor for continued learning isn’t an option because of staffing issues, consider using virtual training options that each individual can complete, one at a time, without worrying about lost productivity. You may even want to incentivize anything completed on the employee’s own time with monetary bonuses.
Organize and Optimize Your Workplace
Optimizing and organizing your workplace will help keep employees safe, as well as improve productivity and efficiency. This includes anything from reorganizing your existing products so the most popular ones are located closer to your packing area to repainting your flooring lines to outline areas for forklift or pedestrian traffic. Consider implementing some aspects of lean manufacturing to reduce waste and help your employees make the most of their time on the job.
Take a closer look at your current procedures. How could you improve them while staying in compliance with safety standards? This isn’t the place to cut corners. Whatever you do, don’t trade safety for efficiency.
Stay on Top of OSHA Updates
OSHA standards might be the law of the land when it comes to workplace safety, but they are not set in stone. These standards are continually changing and evolving as the agency gathers new information and discovers better and more efficient ways to keep employees safe on the job. They can change as often as every 30 days, or linger for months or years before they need an update.
Use whatever tools you have available — such as the internet, mailing lists and industry networks — to stay on top of new OSHA standards updates. Don’t get caught off-guard the next time an inspector graces your facility with their presence. Ignorance of the safety standards won’t protect you from a hefty fine.
Provide and Maintain PPE
Personal protective equipment or PPE is non-negotiable in many circles. In the warehouse industry, you might not need some items, but you will need everything from gloves and ear protection to hard hats and fall arrest equipment. Provide sufficient PPE to your team members and ensure you maintain it, discarding and replacing it as necessary to keep users safe.
With that in mind, make sure you are also providing fitted PPE for the women on your team. Most one-size-fits-all personal protective equipment is designed with the male body structure in mind. It may not adequately protect a female worker. Gloves don’t fit snugly, goggles leave gaps that put the eyes at risk and hardhats don’t sit properly on the head. If you’ve got women on your team, make sure they’re safe by providing PPE designed to fit their body types.
Update Safety Signage as Necessary
Safety standards aren’t the only thing you need to update if you’re trying to keep everyone safe on the job. There are copious amounts of safety signage you’re required to hang in an easily accessible and visible spot within your workplace, but when was the last time you updated that bulletin board? Some things might not change much over the years, but you’ll need to update others once or twice annually to ensure you’re in compliance.
Check the expiration dates on all your safety signage, and update it as necessary. If a sign is damaged, replace it as soon as possible. You’ll want to ensure no one accidentally gets hurt or killed because of a missing poster, which would leave the company liable. Check with OSHA and other safety and governmental organizations to make sure everything is up to date and you’re not giving your employees data that could be putting them at risk.
Be Vigilant to Keep Everyone Safe
Whether you’re a business owner, floor supervisor or entry-level warehouse worker, safety standards are an essential part of keeping everyone in the facility safe on the job. Constant vigilance is going to be your most valuable tool when it comes to maintaining safety standards. Don’t cut corners, and ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes to safety.
Maintaining safety standards is everyone’s responsibility, but it starts at the top. Therefore, stay current on regulations and personal protective equipment, and make sure your workers know and follow all the rules. It’s for the good of all.
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