Working in a warehouse environment can be dangerous if not properly managed. It can be a fast moving workplace with plenty of potential hazards including moving loads, constant pedestrian and machinery traffic, high stacking, heavy lifting and loud noise.
Unfortunately, many warehouses cut corners when it comes to safety processes in an effort to save money, increase productivity or simply due to lack of resources or unawareness of safety procedures. And this can result in serious injury to workers, costly damage to stock, damage and downtime for machinery and equipment, costs associated with absenteeism and increased staff turnover.
Common warehouse hazards and risks include:
- Repetitive strain issues from picking, loading or unloading
- Injuries from lifting, pushing or pulling
- Hearing damage from working in loud environments
- Slips and trips
- Falls from height
- Items falling from above
- Vehicle and machinery accidents
- Fatigue accidents
- Exposure to harmful inhalants (like chemicals or dust)
Sound implementation of safety procedures can prevent all this, ensuring your warehouse runs smoothly and efficiently with the minimal risk of workplace injuries.
Here are some essential warehouse safety tips that should always be followed.
Use of proper safety equipment
All workers should have access to, and use, the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times. PPE may include:
- High visibility clothing
- Ear and eye protection
- Safety gloves
- Face masks
- Appropriate footwear
- Warm clothing (if working in refrigerated areas)
- Safety harnesses (if working from heights)
It’s important to ensure that all PPE is clean and hygienic, well maintained and in good working order.
Safety equipment may also include the appropriate picking and loading equipment and access equipment, like scaffolding or scissor lifts, to reduce the risk of injury, falls or accidents with heavy loads.
Identify and label hazards
There will always be hazards. But the best way to avoid them is to identify and label the hazards so people will be aware and know what to do around them. This could be through the use of signage, lighting, improved visibility, signals and alarms or line marking.
Hazards could include dangerous materials, the presence of electricity or water, shared pedestrian and vehicle areas, extreme temperatures, loud noises, and blind corners, to name a few. Ensure that all hazards are appropriately labelled with clear and easily understood signage or otherwise highlighted as necessary to prevent the risk of injury.
Eliminate hazards where possible
Where hazards are identified, it is important to try to eliminate them if possible. This may involve cleaning up spills, ensuring walkways and stairways are clear from obstructions, promptly repairing damage to flooring, or ensuring equipment and machinery is in good working order. Regular safety inspections should be carried out to determine if any maintenance or repairs are required.
Provide appropriate training
It’s vital to ensure that all staff have received the appropriate health and safety training to be able to safely carry out their work. This may include training courses, refresher courses, machinery and equipment training and licensing, load handling courses and instruction, handling hazardous materials, working from heights or any other training relevant to their work. Make sure that all training is appropriate and up to date and carried out by suitable registered training organisations.
Promote awareness and communication
All the training and PPE in the world is meaningless if you’re unaware of the potential hazards. It’s important to promote constant awareness of all potential hazards and to encourage communication among workers. Vocal communication can help workers avoid collisions, accidents and injuries. Ensure that all workers are aware of hazards at all times, watching out for each other and communicating clearly and quickly to minimise the risk of accident or injury.
Safety should always be a priority in any warehouse environment. By implementing and promoting safe workplace practices you can reduce accidents and injury, reduce downtime and create a safer and more efficient workplace.