Warehouses can be very dangerous places to work. You’re handling heavy loads and sometimes dangerous materials, sharing space with loading equipment and vehicles and there’s a high risk of slips and falls.
In Australia, warehouse operators are legally required to ensure that specific health and safety requirements are met in a warehouse environment. Beyond the legal safety requirements, there are various other things you can do to ensure that your warehouse is as safe as possible.
Ultimately, providing a safe warehousing environment will save you money and increase productivity.
Here are some of the main safety areas you should pay attention to ensure a safe warehouse.
Loading equipment like forklifts and lift trucks present a range of hazards in a warehouse environment. There are a number of steps you can take to mitigate the risks associated with working with this kind of machinery.
Ensure that anyone operating a loading vehicle is appropriately qualified.
In Australia, there are various qualifications needed to drive a forklift. A High-Risk Work licence allows you to work with various high-risk equipment such as forklifts, cranes, scaffolding, rigging and pressure equipment.
Other relevant licences include an LO licence, which qualifies the driver to operate an order picking forklift, and an LF licence, which qualifies the driver to operate a forklift truck.
- Vehicle Maintenance
Properly maintaining all loading vehicles will help to minimise breakdowns and accidents. Ensure all forklifts and loaders are regularly serviced by qualified mechanics. Drivers should also carry out daily vehicle checks to ensure everything is in working order.
- Speed Limits
Clear and appropriate speed limit signs should be posted throughout warehouse and loading areas. Enforce a zero-tolerance policy to ensure these limits are followed.
- Line Marking
Use line marking across the warehouse floor to indicate vehicle areas, pedestrian areas, shared areas and high risk areas.
- Maximise Visibility
Make use of convex mirrors and other visual assistance devices to ensure drivers have the best possible view throughout the warehouse. You can also have a look on Why Line Marking is Important.
Clothing and Personal Protective Equipment.
All warehouse workers should have access to all appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and safe working clothing. This may include:
- High-visibility vests
- Safety glasses
- Breathing masks (for high dust areas or for handling chemicals)
- Hearing protection (for loud environments)
- Steel toe boots
- Gloves and jackets (for cold storage areas)
Ensure that all workers know what PPE is required for different areas of the warehouse and that they are wearing the appropriate gear at all times.
Trips, Slips and Falls
Trips, slips and falls are common accidents in a warehouse environment. Here are a few things you can do to prevent these accidents.
- Thoroughly Clean all Areas
All working areas should be regularly cleaned and any spills or breakages should be cleaned immediately. All cleaning should be carried out using the right methods and cleaning products to ensure safe working surfaces. You should also make use of the appropriate warning signage for recently cleaned or high-risk areas.
- Keep thoroughfares Clear
All aisles, walkways, roadways and shared areas should be kept free from equipment and obstacles. Ensure all equipment is stored in appropriate areas. If cables must run across these areas, use appropriate heavy duty cable covers.
- Use appropriate Surface Coatings
Use anti-slip paint, non-slip tape and tactile markers and stair nosings to reduce the risk of slips and falls.
- Maintain Flooring
Any damage to flooring should be immediately repaired to reduce the risk of trips. Floors should always be level and properly finished. Any areas that are potentially dangerous should have the appropriate safety signage.
Lifting and Manual Handling
Warehouse work usually involves a lot of manual lifting and handling, which can lead to a range of injuries including hand and foot injuries and musculoskeletal disorders. To reduce these risks, you should minimise the amount of manual handling workers have to do.
Ensure that all staff have access to the appropriate lifting equipment and are fully trained to use it. If bulky or awkward items must be handled manually, make sure staff are trained in the proper ways to manually lift and handle bulky items and that they know their weight limits.
WorkSafe Victoria provides comprehensive guidelines for handling large, bulky or awkward items.
Pallet and Racking Loading and Unloading
Most warehouses require workers to regularly load and unload pallets and racks, either by hand or with machinery. Staff should be properly trained on the safest ways to load and unload pallets and racks to ensure no accidents or damage to stock. To minimise the safety risks associated with pallet and racking, you should:
- Load pallets securely using stretch or shrink wrap to keep everything in place
- Following the appropriate stacking pattern according to manufacturer specifications
- Follow all weight and height capacity recommendations for pallets, racks and shelves
- Inspect each pallet or rack before use to ensure it’s not damaged
- Use appropriate access equipment when loading or unloading at heights
Proper training will ensure that all warehouse staff are fully educated about the risks and procedures of warehouse work. Useful training courses and licences include High-Risk Work licences, Cert III or IV in Warehousing Operations, Handling Dangerous Goods licences and Cert III in Logistics.
The better trained your staff are, the lower the risk profile for your warehouse.