Warehouse Management: Best Practices for Improving Warehouse Safety
Posted: Mar 02, 2021
Warehouse workers need to follow a set of strict health and safety regulations since warehousing comes with some inherent risks that, if not properly managed, can lead to serious injuries.
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 stipulates that the responsibility falls on the employer to carry out the necessary measures to provide employees with a safe working environment. Having said that, warehouses are complex and often hectic, so it’s not uncommon to lose sight of safety standards.
Because substandard safety practices can lead to injuries and lawsuits, they’re also very costly to the employers. Furthermore, accidents can cause property damage, involve a lot of documentation and can sometimes require shutting down sections of the warehouse.
Even with proper training, accidents can still happen, but the risk is much lower. Warehousing is a market sector where there are more jobs than applicants. Younger generations are not interested in warehousing long term, and workers from previous generations are retiring, leading to a shortage of people qualified for middle-management positions.
When it comes to entry-level positions, we have to keep in mind that the work can be very physically demanding, and wages tend to be low. As a result, there’s a high turnover rate. Now that the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a shift towards online shopping, this shortage has become even more pronounced.
Warehouses are filling up with more inventory, but there aren’t enough workers which gives to rise to hazardous working conditions. We see this reflected in the higher numbers of accidents and injuries.
Even when properly managed and under safe conditions, warehousing is a difficult line of work. You have to be on your feet almost constantly, and there’s a lot of bending and lifting involved. Not only that, but the workload varies drastically throughout the week and even throughout the day. Then there are environmental factors such as extreme temperatures, noise and lighting that can put the workers’ health and safety at risk.Staff Training
It’s the employer’s legal obligation to make sure that the staff goes through health and safety training to learn how to protect themselves while performing their work-related tasks such as operating warehouse equipment. The employer also has to choose a training program that’s relevant and comprehensive.
When deciding between options, first look for the programs that cover information relevant to all employees and secondly look for more specific programs. For example, your forklift operators need to go through a specialized forklift training program, but all your employees need to know how to use personal protective equipment.
You will also need health and safety training. In fact, since there are different standards for management, your program will be more rigorous than those designed for the workers.
You should already have established safety protocols such as guidelines concerning the training of new hires and the safe use of warehouse equipment. But as we said before, these practices tend to be followed less closely during busy periods. That’s why you should promote a positive safety culture and encourage your staff members to report hazards so that you can take action and avoid accidents.Warehouse Equipment
You also need to ensure that the workers operating forklifts and other warehouse heavy equipment are certified and respect the safety guidelines. They need to check the equipment for any potential safety issues before using it. When it comes to forklifts, they should wear seatbelts, not exceed the speed limit and avoid reversing.
This significantly reduces the risk of accidents, but you can also take measures such as setting up one-way systems, planning routes and using mirrors to increase visibility.
To mitigate the risk of injury for the other workers, forklift operators have to sound the horn when approaching crosswalks, intersections or busy areas in the warehouse.
The warehouse layout has to provide forklift operators with designated paths and well-defined routes. Any potentially hazardous misuse of forklifts should have stringent disciplinary repercussions.
The risk of damage can be reduced through additional measures like equipping the dock areas, columns and racking with bumpers.
All warehouse equipment needs to undergo regular inspections in accordance with regulations and the manufacturer’s recommendations.Personal Protective Equipment
According to legislation, you have to provide your staff with personal protective equipment and training, so they know how to use it and take care of it. The staff’s responsibility is to attend the training session, wear the equipment and inform the management team if it’s damaged and needs to be replaced or repaired.
The personal protection equipment can vary, so the management team has to evaluate the risks and find the most suitable options. You can get more information by reading through the legislation and undergoing health and safety training.
PPE usually includes hard hats that have to conform to manufacturing standards. Be very careful where you buy from because you can find cheaper versions that offer substandard protection. Workers will also need high visibility jackets which help prevent forklift accidents. Anti-slip shoes minimize the chances of slips and the steel toe caps protect the workers from impact or crush injuries. To protect their eyes from debris, they will need safety glasses. Lastly, warehouses can be very noisy, so hearing protection is usually provided in the form of earplugs or ear defenders.Shelving and Racking
Warehouse workers need to load and unload items of various sizes, weights and shapes on the racking either using equipment or manually. This can lead to injuries or property damage, so they need to know how to do it safely. Improper shelving or racking can stem both from poor quality, poor maintenance or improper use.
Just like with the forklifts, you need to have the shelving and racking regularly inspected to minimize the risk of accidents and injuries. You can increase safety through bumpers.
Staff members need to learn how to stack the items and distribute the weight on the shelves and racking. They also need to be aware of the maximum safe weight a rack or a shelf can support.
Instruct your staff not to use the pellets or forklifts when they need to reach higher shelves and to use ladders or other suitable equipment you provide instead.
Cynthia Madison is a young blogger and economics and marketing graduate. She writes about home, lifestyle and family topics and is a senior contributor to popular niche publications.