Every single workplace, no matter the industry or type of location, comes with risk. However, it shouldn’t go unnoticed that manufacturing and shipping have the biggest risks of them all. Warehouses can be dangerous places to work in and it’s not just because of the sheer space that is covered with machinery and storage shelving. Warehouses are filled with activity, and when hundreds of employees are doing different jobs in one place, there are bound to be conflicts. Maneuvering past people and around machinery can be dangerous, and it’s why warehouse business owners often have such strict regulations and rules surrounding health and safety.
People can often be naive to the dangers of working in a warehouse. Sometimes, the injuries here can lead to deaths, and it’s why so many people who run manufacturing businesses are hot on safety training and signs to keep people healthy on the job. It’s why you’ll rarely find people operating heavy machinery alone – they need a person to be watchful for any mistakes made or any accidents occurring. Given the level of hazards that can occur in the workplace, especially in the US where statistics show that there is an average of 16 deaths in the workplace each year in the warehousing sector. This number is 16 too many, but if you are taking the right precautions, you can avoid injuries and fatalities as much as possible.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the common hazards you’ll find in the warehouse environment, and how you can keep your employees safe.
Forklifts. You wouldn’t think that forklifts are so popular in a warehouse environment, but they’re a crucial piece of equipment to the manufacturing industry. They’re especially popular in storage facilities, as they are able to lift and move heavy loads under control. When they’re operated incorrectly however, they can cause some serious damage to those operating the machinery as well as those nearby. The last thing that you need is your forklift going through your inventory or being left unattended with the handbrake off. The money you would need to replace any of the stock plus replace the forklift is big enough, but then you could potentially be dealing with a lawsuit if anyone is injured because of it.
Every single one of your operators needs to be trained to your standards, even if they hold a forklift license. Certifications are a must, and you should ensure that this training is refreshed every few months to be sure that they are knowledgeable about how to control and use a forklift. Continuous evaluation of their practice with a forklift is also a must, as you can then pick up if there are any health and safety issues of which to be concerned. Finally, you can help your staff to remain safe by checking controls and performing equipment checks daily to make sure that they are in good working order before the day begins.
Flooding. Did you know that you could be at risk of flooding in your warehouse? Given that most warehouses are situated in wide open locations, there is a chance that you could be in an area that is at risk from flooding. The good news is that there are steps that you can take. In the same way that you have a cast iron sewer cover to protect the pipework access, you need to protect everyone and your machinery from the potential flooding you may deal with. You can sign up to flood warning notifications, raise all of your electrical points, sockets and fuse boxes to stop water from getting into your electrical systems and you can invest in more drain covers for areas you want to protect. You should also ensure that you keep your paper records away from the floor, so that you can save yourself the money on paper restoration.
Loading Docks. The loading docks at a warehouse are some of the most dangerous places people have to work. Forklift operators working on the docks have to be particular about how they operate their machinery. Forklift trucks at the loading docks are a crush hazard, which is why all drivers must be sure and slow as they work. You should ensure that you have warning signs all over your docks so that people know what to expect at every turn. Signage warning people of the hazards are just as important as the health and safety training that you have to have for each of your employees.
Conveyors. You may already know what a conveyor belt is, so you’ll know the dangers of conveyors. These pieces of equipment are common in warehouse environments, as they move goods from one warehouse to another. They are also known to be particularly dangerous as people can be caught up in the equipment if they are not using them correctly. Not only should you provide training and health and safety notifications in the area, but you should ensure that you are using safeguarding equipment. Both the worker and the equipment must be protected from clothing and hair and body parts being caught up in it. Every single person who deals with conveyors should know how to go through the proper lockout procedures, know how to recognize a need for basic repairs and also know how to act around conveyors to remain as safe as possible.
Storage. Warehouses are notorious for their storage options. Huge metal shelving units stretch to impossible heights without ladders and equipment to help you to see the top. Improper stacking of materials and deliveries can lead to huge accidents, trip hazards for workers and a lawsuit in the marking.
Manual Handling. If you want to make sure that your warehouse is as safe as possible, you need to reduce the risk of physical injury on the floor. The actual rate of warehouse injuries is higher than fatalities, and most of the injuries are down to improper handling and lifting. Awkward postures, motions and overexertion can all lead to pulled muscles, broken bones and even worse in some cases. By ensuring that you run proper manual handling sessions, planning ahead and determining whether lifting techniques are needed for your staff can help you to keep your warehouse a safe place to be. Knowing how people are carrying and moving loads with continual assessment will get you further with your insurance payments, too, as you won’t be paying out for expensive lawsuits.
Chemicals. Some warehouse environments store or deal with hazardous chemicals. When you have to handle them in your facility, a whole new level of safety is needed. Hazard communication programmes need to be implemented into warehouses that receive or ship hazardous chemicals, and you have to teach your staff the risks, too.
General Safety. No matter what you do in your warehouse facility, safety has to be your number one priority. Some of the things that you should be doing include:
- You must ensure that those in the warehouse are using ergonomic furniture and chairs at all times. They may do a lot of heavy lifting, so covering ergonomics is important. Proper posture during lifts is vital, and the right training and insurance will keep you covered and your staff safe. Manual lifting requires bending at the knees, but most people don’t know to do that – training and seminars are important.
- Fire hazards around the warehouse need to be managed and minimized as much as possible. You need to have alarms, extinguishers, fire blankets and sprinklers in appropriate areas of the business. However, all of this is good to have on paper, but if your staff don’t know how to operate any of it, then there’s no use! You need to make sure that anyone you hire has the appropriate fire safety training and knows how to use an extinguisher to put a fire out!
- Schedule regular classes and training exercises to know that your staff are knowledgeable in all areas of safety and training. Inspections don’t have to be scheduled; often, impromptu ones can show you where the errors are. You need to ensure that your staff are working as safely as possible.
- Where possible, you need to minimize the danger of cutting and handling sharp objects. Pallets are often used, as are boxes for unloading and loading, and you can ensure that your staff are using the right protective equipment and safety knives to avoid slips. No one wants to deal with losing their fingers in the workplace!
You may think that it’s a good idea to save money by slowing down how many safety sessions that you are doing per year, but consider it to be an investment in your staff and in your business. The correct safety measures DO save you money in the long term, as you won’t have to pay compensation to workers for injuries – you’ll be looking after them instead. Consider your current health and safety plan today, and make the right changes for your warehouse to remain safe.