Though working in warehouses and distribution centers might look like an easy, straightforward task to visitors, it involves many factors that require careful planning and efficient operations. While most companies tend to focus their safety efforts on construction sites and transport vehicles, warehouse safety is often neglected.
Yet the key to optimizing productivity, cost savings, and ensuring a smooth supply chain flow requires serious dedication to warehouse safety. There is always danger when working with shelves, pallets, and boxes. Read on to learn more about best practices for enabling a happy, injury-free working environment for your warehouse employees.
1. Establish warehouse safety standards and mandatory training.
The first step to make warehouse safety your top priority is to have a safety manual in place. In addition, make training mandatory. Employees come and go and since new hires face more risks than existing workers, it is important to give them every safety tool possible.
A common problem develops as people are on the same worksite every day: they can easily become immune to safety practices. Providing periodic training, signs, and alarms is crucial to ensuring safety rules not only stay written and recognizable, but also become a mindset – a norm where co-workers are looking out for each other.
2. Choose the right ladder for the job.
Working in distribution centers means you have to handle materials at different heights. It is important to both provide appropriate ladders for various jobs in your warehouse and make sure your workers can identify the right ladder for a specific task. This can greatly minimize serious injuries and enable effective use of your available space.
For instance, fixed ladders are ideal for work that is done in the same place, while mobile ladders are versatile and suitable for a wide range of tasks in the warehouse, from picking stock to getting something down from a high place.
If you need extra stability while functioning at different heights, working platforms are a good choice as they provide the steadiness and balance needed to perform a job without worrying about slipping.
3. Forklifts are not for everyone.
Forklifts are one of the major causes for warehouse-related accidents. According to a study by OSHA, the estimated number of forklifts in the U.S. is 855,900 – and more than 1 in 10 forklifts are involved in an accident every year.
Heavy, unbalanced loads could fall over. Insufficient knowledge can lead to misuse of forklift controls, thus paving the way for injuries, even fatal ones. As a result, only trained employees should use such equipment.
4. Ensure your loading dock area is outfitted with efficient safety equipment.
It’s easy to overlook loading dock areas and not think about the special circumstances surrounding them. Not everyone spends time in these areas of the warehouse and as such, may not be familiar with how dangerous they can be. It’s important to ensure all workers are aware of fall protection measures around them.
5. Always clean up spills and remove materials from aisles if a warehouse worker needs to temporarily leave the area.
Distribution centers usually involve a lot of narrow aisles, huge stacks of supplies and inventory, and poor lighting. This makes visibility a big safety concern when working in a warehouse.
Cleaning up spills as soon as possible can minimize slipping and tripping over materials. That said, avoid rushing into unknown situations – you need to firstly identify the spilled substance.
Training is very important – it ensures your workers don’t accidentally inhale or otherwise mishandle the spilled material. If the worker cannot identify the spill, contact the personnel who can.
Workers should also put visible signs around the spill area. Likewise, if a staff member needs to temporarily leave the area, it is important to keep the lights on and move any unnecessary materials away from the aisles.
6. Know how to handle empty pallets properly.
Pallets are a major component of most distribution centers. With their splinters and protruding nails, they can cause serious trouble at your facility. As a result, make sure your workers understand the danger of empty pallets and know how to deal with them in the safest ways possible.
Here are a few tips:
- Say no to vertical pallet stacking. Pallets can lean against anything, creating a perfect trap that can injure anyone who tries to pull at or accidentally brushes against them. Always stack pallets horizontally.
- Don’t stack pallets too high as they can easily lose the stability needed to prevent sliding and collapse.
- Avoid stacking pallets of varying sizes together. This is a poor practice that is inevitably an accident waiting to happen, especially if the pallets are not in great condition.
- Recycle damaged pallets as they can break anytime – under heavy loads or while being transported – and cause injury to your workers.
7. Give your employees a sense of ownership over their actions.
Adequate training is critical in building a safe working environment. However, it is recommended that you take an extra step and hold your employees accountable for following safety practices.
As your business grows and thrives to achieve agility and efficiency in warehouse operations, making your workers own their actions is crucial. It ensures that everyone is treated and disciplined equally, regardless of their rank.
A good rule of thumb is to document everything that happens in detail. This allows you to make well-informed decisions, especially when a worker fails to comply to safety rules even after they have been previously warned.
8. Seek advice from experts if needed.
It is never the wrong time to ask the experts for help. Since identifying and managing warehouse hazards can be a difficult task, bringing in experts from outside can help you evaluate and solve many current issues as well as long-term problems within your facility. They may also offer fresh perspectives on how you can better operate your warehouse and improve your bottom line.
Making warehouse safety your priority can be a game changer in boosting the productivity and profitability of your business, as well as the happiness of your employees. With a lot of planning effort and an unwavering safety mindset, you’re sure to properly address and prevent accidents in your distribution center.
Need further help with protecting workers at your distribution center? Contact us today for a consultation.
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