Is your warehouse a safe environment?
Managing a smooth and successful warehouse operation hinges on many important factors. As material handling logistics, and the timely movement of products from point A to point B is at the front of your mind most of the time, it’s easy to lose sight of some of the most important aspects of your operation involving warehouse safety and remaining in compliance with OSHA – Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards.
Warehouses can be very hazardous places to work. According to OSHA the fatal injury rate for the warehousing industry is higher than the national average for all industries. They summarize potential risks as:
- Unsafe use of forklifts
- Improper stacking of products
- Failure to use proper personal protective equipment
- Failure to follow proper lockout/tagout procedures
- Inadequate fire safety provisions; or
- Repetitive motion injuries
According to them, the 10 most frequently cited warehouse safety violations include:
- Hazard communication
- Electrical, wiring methods
- Electrical, system design
- Guarding floor & wall openings and holes
- Mechanical power transmission
- Respiratory protection
- Portable fire extinguishers
Forklift injuries or deaths dominate the top of the list as about 100 employees are killed each year in accidents. Most of them from being crushed by falling loads, and others from the forklift tipping over. Additionally, 95,000 injuries are reported annually, so it is certainly a focal point for evaluating your safety plan.
As a warehouse industry professional, it’s important to brush up on your warehouse safety standards, so you are in direct compliance with OSHA requirements that impact your business. You can read more about common OSHA citations and view a very helpful guide and checklist to assist as a guideline for your processes.
General Warehouse Safety Tips & Recommendations
Aside from the OSHA standards set forth for the industry, your safety plans needs to be unique to satisfy your overall goals, and reduce accidents even further. Here’s some simple key areas and suggestions we’d like to highlight as effective safety tips and procedures for your warehouse operation.
Clean Environment – At that top of our list sits probably one of the most important and obvious factors, yet the tendency to be loose on warehouse cleanliness standards tends to be a lingering problem. This is evidenced by OSHA’s documentation on citations handed out for common violations. As previously noted, some of the most common safety issues involve hazard communication. But whether it’s spilled fluids or chemicals in the aisles, sharp items like box cutters left around carelessly, or loose electrical cords on the floor, there are many causes for warehouse accidents causing injury that can be avoided.
Surely, you have a system in place to manage a schedule and rotation to cover your facility frequently looking for potential problems. However, we suggest maintaining a level of communication that can address the concerns almost instantly by using a system of employee accountability, and team leadership that can tackle the problem right away. Have a rigid cleanup system in place, stick to it, and make sure protective equipment is used at all times.
Ongoing Training – This leads into the next topic, consistent employee training. Most operations use an orientation for new hires to get them up to speed on all of the important safety procedures they needs to follow. As an overall crash course on your facility’s guidelines, some of these rules tend to lose some of their importance on the floor when production requirements are trying to be met.
We recommend ongoing training not only on safety standards pertaining to the employee’s direct job duty, but cross training so they understand the different safety procedures that impact other jobs. A great example of this is someone who works mostly on conveyors. An effort to expand their knowledge by slowly exposing them to safety procedures a forklift driver must maintain can create an overall safer environment through productive cohesion.
Equipment Maintenance – Maintaining and replacing equipment is not only a production concern, but it’s also very important in maintaining a safe environment. When machine parts become worn or aged with constant, repetitive work, they need to be inspected on a very regular basis to ensure proper operation, and identify potential problems that could pose safety risks.
We advise having an organized, documented maintenance schedule that can be accessed and maintained by many people in the facility. Additionally, maintenance schedules are not a one size fits all solution. Different material handling equipment has different sets of needs and required repairs, so make sure your plan takes into account a schedule tailored for individual equipment needs. Proper maintenance of equipment serves to greatly reduce accidents and minimize safety hazards in your warehouse. Seek the advice of a material handling specialist if you have questions about the best ways to make sure your equipment is being maintained properly.