The Health and Safety Executive report that there were 49,000 cases in the storage and transport industry of ill-health relating to work in 2018-19. There were 29,000 non-fatal injuries and tragically there were 16 fatal injuries.
To ensure your facility is running at optimum capacity, consider these warehouse safety tips to create a healthier, more productive environment.
The statistics on injuries at work demonstrate that warehousing and transport are potentially dangerous workplaces. No one should have to suffer an injury or die simply because they went to work. Everybody in the workplace has responsibility for their own safety and that of their work colleagues.
Managers and especially top managers have a particular responsibility to make the workplace a safe place to be. The law on health and safety and on corporate manslaughter make this clear.
More than ever, an unsafe workplace and injuries at work can cause you reputational damage. This can impact your ability to attract and retain good employees. It can also damage your credibility with other stakeholders including customers.
Forklift trucks are often key to the effective and efficient operation of a warehouse. They are highly dangerous pieces of machinery in the wrong hands. They feature in 25% of workplace transport injuries.
All forklift truck operators should receive training, certification, and re-testing. The operator should always use the forklift truck in line with their training for that specific truck. They should not lift loads that are greater than the truck’s stated capacity.
Use all provided safety equipment including seat belts, guards and personal protective equipment. Take extreme care in traffic areas, in areas where pedestrians operate and around docks and dock plates. Always follow speed restrictions.
Train warehouse workers who may come into contact with forklift trucks so they are aware of the dangers of working near trucks. It’s especially important to be aware of the risks of crossing aisles, traffic areas and near loading docks.
The nature of warehousing means materials are often moved around and stored. Poor stacking and unstable loading of pallets is a potential hazard. Train employees to stack and store safely.
It’s important that materials are not stacked so high that they cannot be safely stored. Also, it should be possible to safely remove cases from stacks without making the stack unstable.
Aisles and walkways are areas where untidy practices can result in accidents. Keep them clear and don’t use them for storing goods. To aid the safe movement of materials, lighting should be adequate and any faulty lighting reported and fixed.
All employees should receive instructions on how to handle goods. Poor lifting practices are a common cause of injuries.
Use ergonomic lifting practices. Anybody found not lifting safely should be retrained.
If a load is too heavy for one person to lift, then either two workers should work together or mechanical means used to lift it. Use personal protective clothing such as non-slip boots with toe caps whenever lifting.
Slips, Trips, and Falls
Regular cleaning and tidying of the warehouse can help avoid slips and trips. Clear waste materials and spillages away. Keep trip-hazards such as hoses or cords away from pedestrian areas.
Provide anybody working at height with the appropriate safety equipment and ensure they are trained to use it. Guard rails, handrails, and anti-slip tape can minimise the risks of slips and falls.
Only use ladders on suitable surfaces and secure them to stop them slipping. The treads should be sound and non-slip.
Most warehouses have combustible materials in them. A fire in a warehouse can have devastating consequences. Both smoke and fire can easily spread and lead to damage to the building and materials as well as serious harm to people working there.
Have effective procedures in place to give all employees and visitors instructions on what to do in the event of a fire alarm. Make sure extinguishers are available and maintained and that people know how to use them.
Smoking must be strictly prohibited. Heightened fire risks, such as charging stations, must not have any open flames near them.
Mark fire exits and routes with suitable signs.
It is essential that all employees are trained in safety procedures before they are allowed to work in the warehouse. The employee induction process should cover safe working practices, how to use safety equipment, and what to do in the event of a fire.
It’s not sufficient for training to take place on a once and for all time basis. Refresh training and keep it updated. Anybody who changes their role should have the safety training that applies to that new role.
All employees should be supported in applying the training and their attention drawn to any deficiencies in their application of the learning. They should also be advised that failure to apply safety standards in their work can constitute grounds for disciplinary action.
The effective maintenance of equipment and plant is important for safety. A maintenance schedule that identifies the frequency and nature of any maintenance will help keep everything in good order. It may also be necessary to demonstrate due diligence in the event of an accident investigation.
Any defects in equipment must be reported and acted on urgently. Equipment that cannot be safely used should be withdrawn from use until it is repaired or replaced.
Personal Protective Equipment
Any protective equipment that is deemed a requirement as a result of a risk assessment must be used. Gloves, hard hats, goggles, safety boots or any other required protective equipment must be supplied and operatives should be required to use it.
Any visitors to the warehouse, including contractors or temporary workers must be subject to the same requirements to wear protective equipment.
Instruct all warehouse workers that they have a duty to report any potential safety hazards. This includes the reporting of any failure to apply the safety procedures or training whether it be by a member of management or by a colleague.
Warehouse safety does depend on effective training and management. But it’s not just management’s responsibility. A safe warehouse is one where everybody is vigilant and takes responsibility.
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