Warehouse activities can create endless safety and health risks. With the constant flow of goods, movement of vehicles, and heavy traffic, workplace mishaps can happen. As an employer or manager, you need to understand common warehouse hazards as they can result in serious injuries and fatalities. If you fail to implement proper warehouse safety measures, your warehouse may face legal issues, employee turnover, injuries, underperforming staff, lost working days, or even fatalities. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 16 fatalities occur in the US warehousing every year. The bureau also reported an illness and injury rate of 5 in every 100 storage and warehouse workers.
Warehouse safety procedures must protect your workforce from warehouse hazards and dangers to ensure they perform their work safely. Promoting warehouse safety measures facilitates compliance as well as helps maintain good practices. Furthermore, maintaining proper safety measures shows you care and value your employees, which can motivate them and increasing trust. Here's how to implement employee training strategies with 12 workhouse safety tips to remember in order to minimize workplace mishaps.
1. Slips, Trips, and Falls
Warehouse Safety Statistics indicates that about 5% of all warehouse staff will experience on the job injury, every year. Slips, trips, and falls have been highly associated with work-related injuries in the world. Several studies also indicate that falls from height cause most workplace fatalities. According to the Health and Safety Executive, approximately 40 workers die from falls, while almost 118,000 people suffer injuries resulting from slips and trips. A lot of measures to prevent slips, trips, and falls involve common sense as well as implementing a pro-active approach. Some of these procedures include;
Routine cleaning – you should implement employee training on how to conduct proper housekeeping. They don’t have to wait for an accident to happen so they can prevent it. So workers should keep their workplace tidy and organized. They can achieve this by cleaning up spillages, keeping cables away from aisles, and removing any obstruction from paths.
Make floor levels even- Uneven flooring is a major contributor to slips and falls. This is especially dangerous if people are carrying heavy loads. That is why it makes sense to keep the warehouse floors even.
Display appropriate warning signs – Ensure cleaning staff display warning signs where everybody can see them. You can also schedule cleaning off-working hours to reduce the risk of injuries.
2. Fire and Emergency
Fire tragedy is one of the biggest warehouse risks. It not destroys goods but also damages the warehouse structure. Additionally, it can harm people and lead to lost production time and resources. So whether it happens through sabotage or natural means, it pays to understand appropriate steps to take in the event of a fire. Here is how you can ensure fire safety.
Test fire alarms regularly – All fire-related equipment should be checked regularly to ensure they are in good condition. You should test fire alarms at least weekly and smoke alarms once a month. It's also best to implement a routine check for sprinklers and extinguishers.
Install emergency lighting – Fire exits, signs, and escape routes should be properly-lit so people can spot them from afar. This makes navigation easier and safe.
Conduct employee training drills at least once a year – The best way to tell if employees can properly handle an emergency is by conducting occasional drills. Drills can also notify you if the fire exits are up to the task. It can also help you know if your workers know the location of the assembly point and escape routes.
3. Vehicle Safety
Warehouse vehicles refer to motorized trolleys, forklift trucks, and pallet jacks. All these types of machinery facilitate the daily movement of goods in a warehouse. If not well-handled, these vehicles can cause crush injuries and damage the warehouse structure. According to OSHA, about 38% of the 100,000 forklift accidents in 2015 resulted in serious injuries and fatalities. To minimize fatal accidents in your warehouse, you need to maintain vehicle safety measures including the following;
Allow only trained staff to drive the vehicles – You should implement strict policies on who should drive the warehouse vehicles. To discourage joyriders, only licensed workers should be allowed to move the vehicles.
Ensure staff observes speed limits – Make sure workers maintain the recommended speed limits. You can use signs to display the required speed limits in the warehouse.
Keep paths free of obstructions – Workhouse safety involves workers observing the best housekeeping practices. They should know how to dispose of packaging materials and make passages free of obstructions.
4. Handling hazardous equipment
When it comes to handling dangerous chemicals in your warehouse, a hazard communication plan should be established. Your program needs to involve training on personal protective equipment (PPE), proper handling, disposal, and storage of chemicals. For instance, workers must be knowledgeable in handling hazardous goods like batteries to ensure workhouse safety. Here are some of the battery safety procedures to follow in the warehouse;
Wear approved safety goggles – Workers should wear approved safety goggles and face shields when coming into contact with the battery.
Use gloves when lifting – Staff should be trained on how to lift the battery. They should also wear gloves and use specified equipment to avoid damaging the battery.
Avoid touching battery fluids – Workers should be careful not to come into contact with battery fluids. And if it accidentally gets in the eye, they should ask for assistance if they are not sure how to handle it.
The battery should not come into contact with metal – Metal is a good conductor of electricity and coming into contact with the battery can result in electrocution. Additionally, your warehouse should be well-ventilated to allow for proper air circulation.
On the other hand, workers should also observe appropriate battery watering safety guidelines. These guidelines involve workers wearing gloves, face shields, and a rubber apron when watering the battery. This task should also be performed by trained staff to minimize the risk of injuries. Similarly, you should discourage your staff from watering a batter in an open flame. Inappropriate battery watering can lead to underwatering or overwatering.
Underwatering: This happens when the battery receives less water than it requires. Insufficient water can make the batter to overheat and produce violent gas when charging. It can also result in sulfation, hence compromising the battery safety.
Overwatering: Too much water in the battery is not good news, either. Overwatering can make electrolyte to overflow when the battery is charging. The result could be a diluted electrolyte, which can reduce battery capacity.
Racks and pallets are commonly used in warehouses. They take up substantial space and would easily cause accidents. Typically, they involve vehicle and mechanical movements. It's best to figure out ways to prevent this equipment from causing harm or damage.
Racks – It can help to get racking systems inspected routinely. This can be done by a professional or your staff to ensure the systems are in good condition. You can also install heavy-duty netting around the back to prevent goods from falling.
Pallets – Pallets structure require regular inspection. Timber pallets may need proper maintenance and replacement. You should also encourage your workers to observe weight limits.
Training staff on health and safety not only helps them be aware of their environment but also complies with the law. Workers should know how to protect themselves in the warehouse and uphold safety measures. The best way to achieve this is;
To train yourself first – As an employer or manager, you need a higher level of training than the workers. This will equip you with the necessary education to help guide them.
Provide technical and practical training to employees – Provide the workers with the basics and technical knowledge on health and safety essentials. Ensure they understand different types of risks in the workhouse and how to handle them. You should also offer practical lessons, including how to use different equipment in the warehouse.
7. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Each worker needs personal protective equipment to help protect them against potential accidents at work. This includes appropriate clothing to allow for free movement in the workhouse and protect them from bumps, cuts, and scrapes. Other PPE includes work gloves, eye goggles, recommended footwear, hard hats, and respiratory masks. All these personal protection gears are essential. However, you need to conduct a risk assessment for different tasks to determine what each worker needs.
8. Manual Lifting and handling
At some point, workers may be required to conduct manual or machine-aided lifting activities. These tasks put them at a higher risk of accidents if proper safety measures are not implemented. That is, you need to implement safety procedures to minimize lifting risks.
Train workers on manual lifting safety – Your staff ought to know their manual lifting weight limits and how to reduce strain.
Ensure workers use store chains appropriately – Inspect chains regularly and make sure workers use them properly to prevent metal rusting, fatigue, and bending.
Make sure lifting equipment operators understand the maximum safe working load- the safe working load comes with the manufacturer’s instructions. Observing these limits is crucial to minimize equipment strain.
Conveyors play an important role in transporting goods from one warehouse to the other. If not well handled, they can pose great harm to workers, including being struck by falling goods and getting caught in the machine. To promote safety in the warehouse, ensure you;
Safeguard the conveyor – Proper safeguarding helps create a safe gap between the equipment and the worker to prevent entanglement of hair, body parts, and clothing.
Follow proper maintenance and repair procedures (lockout and tag-out measures)
10. Charging Stations
Charging stations are critical areas as they are used to recharge powered machines to function. All the functional equipment may be powered by battery, liquid petroleum gas, or gasoline. Without proper safety guidelines, explosions and fires can occur in the charging stations. To avoid these hazards observe the following;
Proper ventilation system – Your workhouse should have adequate ventilation to disperse harmful gases. Works should also wear appropriate PPE. Additionally, remember to install a shower and eye-washing facilities to help should workers get exposed to chemicals.
Place charging stations away from open flames – Smoking should be done away from charging stations. Also, ensure fire extinguishers are available and working should take a fire break out.
11. Storage of Materials
Improper or careless storage of loads on shelves can lead to trip and fall for other workers. Follow the following tips to minimize these hazards.
Clear aisles and passageways – Aisles should be kept clear to prevent workers from slipping and falling.
Report injuries immediately – Workers should be trained to report any kind of accident as soon as it occurs.
Loads should be well-positioned – Loads should be stacked evenly in an appropriate position. They should also be removed carefully to avoid falling on other objects.
Follow OSHA guidelines –All employees should also observe the OSHA guidelines, and any non-compliance should be reported.
12. Hazardous Chemicals
Hazardous chemicals pose a significant risk to employees. You should train workers on how to handle various chemicals in the warehouse. This means that you need to implement an effective program to train them on handling, storing, and disposing of hazardous chemicals. To ensure warehouse safety, workers need to;
Wear appropriate PPE – Chemicals can be highly reactive. That is why workers need to use proper PPE when handling hazardous chemicals. These can include gloves, eye shields, masks, apron, and proper footwear.
Training – You should also ensure workers are trained on the best ways to handle chemicals and understand what to do in the event of an accident.
Keep the warehouse clean – Spillages should also be cleaned right away. Some chemicals are highly corrosive and can damage the floor if they are left for a long time.
Provide first aid kits – First aid kits are essential in any warehouse. Provide them and ensure they have all the tools needed should an accident happen. It can help provide basic care to workers if they get injuries.
Your workhouse needs to provide a safe warehouse safety working environment for workers. Without which, workplace injuries and fatalities could mean legal liability, insurance paperwork, workers compensations, medical bills, and other problems. You can minimize these issues by implementing proper health and safety programs and following OSHA guidelines.