Practices for Warehouse Safety
Warehouse environments present a magnitude of potential safety hazards.
Due to the activities that employees perform and the equipment they
handle, they are particularly prone to accidents and injuries. For an
employer, unnecessary accidents and injuries can get costly, and place
your business in jeopardy.
Luckily, employers have a ways and means of protection. By enforcing
safety standards and routines, most employers can reduce if not eliminate
accidents and injuries altogether. Follow the steps below to ensure
best safety practices for your warehouse:
Housekeeping. May accidents can easily be avoided
by performing daily housekeeping tasks. Most housekeeping items are
common sense: keep work areas clear of garbage and debris, clean up
spills immediately, remove items that can cause tripping, such as cords,
do not leave sharp items lying around, etc. If every employee contributes
to a clean and tidy environment, many accidents can be prevented.
Falls. Maintaining a clean and orderly work environment
is a good way to avoid slips, trips, and falls. It should go without
saying that any spills, such as water or oil, should be cleaned up immediately.
Also remember to apply slip resistant materials to avoid falls due to
slippery conditions. Daily housekeeping (see above) tasks will also
help prevent falls and tripping hazards. Remind your workers of how
to avoid falls, slips, and tripping hazards by posting the Slips, Trips, and Falls Poster in your workplace.
Lifting. Using proper lifting techniques is an easy
way for workers to protect themselves. Proper techniques include: planning
the lift, deciding on your route, properly balancing the object between
your arms, and asking for help or using material handling equipment,
Proper lifting techniques are simple to learn, and can easily become
habit. Employers can remind workers of lifting safety by hanging the
Lifting Safety Poster
in their warehouse. For more information on lifting safety steps, read
Tips to Lifting Safety.
Ergonomics. OSHA identifies ergonomic injuries as the
most common hazard for workers. For warehouse workers, this is primarily
due to the high volume of manual tasks performed on a daily basis. All
workers should understand how to minimize stress on the body while performing
certain tasks, such as lifting and shelving objects. To remind workers
of ergonomic safety, hang the Workplace Ergonomics Safety Tips poster in your workplace. Also, make sure
all workers understand Tips on Lifting
Equipment handling. Many tools are utilized in a warehouse
to help simplify work processes. For example, when objects are too heavy
to lift manually, workers should utilize material handling equipment,
such as a forklift. All workers should be trained on equipment handling,
whether they handle the equipment themselves, or if they work in proximity
to where the piece of equipment is operated.
Forklifts are one of the most common pieces of equipment used in a
warehouse environment. To help enforce forklift safety, hang the 10 Steps to Forklift Safety Poster in your workplace.
Fire Safety. Employers need to determine how susceptible
their warehouse is to a fire. If you think fire may be a threat, have
the property examined by a professional. Oftentimes the expense required
to make fire safety improvements, such as a sprinkler installation,
is well worth the investment.
Harmful Substances. It is not uncommon for workers
in a warehouse to handle harmful or toxic chemicals. Make sure workers
are properly training to handle harmful substances, and know what to
do in case of emergency. Harmful items include toxic chemicals and metals,
lead, asbestos, asphalt fumes, and so forth.
Emergencies. All workers should know what to do in
the event of an emergency. This includes having quick access to after-hour
telephone numbers, knowing where to locate emergency equipment such
as fire extinguishers, and how to exit the building in case of a fire.
Workers should also understand the protocol for reporting incidents
to managers, and other emergency resources, such as 911.
Reporting Mechanism. Encourage workers to report unsafe
working conditions. Designate multiple employees to intercept worker
concerns, and also consider creating an anonymous reporting mechanism,
such as a hotline.
Loaded trucks. Serious accidents can occur with loaded
trucks. There needs to be communication between the driver, and the
workers loading the truck. All too often, a driver will start driving
the truck while there are still workers inside. The can result in fatal
accidents, either because the worker has fallen out of the truck, or
is crushed from the contents shifting inside. Make sure to chain off
all trucks that have been loaded. All workers must understand the severity
and importance of not entering loaded trucks.
Striping. “Striping” is often used in a warehouse
environment to mark off areas where various activities are occurring.
Make sure all workers understand what each marking represents. For example,
a green taped area or marking may represent an area open for general
traffic, whereas a red taped area should not be crossed. Knowing how
to effectively mark areas is an important as communicating the meaning
of marking to workers.
training should occur on a frequent basis, and not just for new-hires.
Workers need to thoroughly understand safety rules and regulations,
how to operate equipment, and how to identify and prevent hazards. Get
workers involved in the training process: ask for feedback and suggestions
on what safety topics matter most. Both managers and workers should
receive training, and in many cases it may be necessary to offer training
is both English and Spanish.
Regular inspections. To ensure your workplace is safe,
plan to conduct regular inspections. Whether you plan for daily, weekly,
or monthly inspections, establish a routine to set a standard for the
importance of safety.
Third party evaluation. To help improve the safety
in your workplace, consider bringing in an outsider. The outsider does
not necessary need to be a consultant or OSHA representative, but may
be a business associate, or peer. The point here is to have a fresh
pair of eyes evaluate your warehouse. Sometimes what is seen in plain
sight every day may be an overlooked hazard.
No smoking. Do your workers a favor and outlaw smoking
in the workplace. Lit cigarettes are a fire hazard, and bad for your
workers’ health. Prohibit smoking and post No
Smoking Signs or Posters in prominent workplace areas.
Employers should fully dedicate themselves to warehouse
and employee safety. Do more than the minimum, and make safety part
of the workplace climate so it becomes routine. Doing so will result
in fewer injuries, accidents, time off, and rising insurance premiums.
Despite your best efforts, accidents will happen. Investigate what
caused an accident, and use it as a ways and means for future prevention.
And, pay attention to near misses – near misses help identify new areas
of vulnerability that may be problematic in the future. Make safety
a priority, and remember that the majority of accidents and injuries
can easily be avoided.
This article is designed to provide a guideline for warehouse safety.
For more precise information on individual circumstances, seek the appropriate
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