By law, The Workplace Regulations 1992 addressing health, safety and welfare makes all employers responsible for the safety of their workplace and employees. That means all employers have a duty to implement and maintain warehouse safety measurements, from the building itself to workplace procedures. Unfortunately, in a busy warehouse, it can be easy to let certain practices slip or lose sight of warehouse safety.
Why you need to make warehouse safety a priority
As well as being a legal requirement there are other reasons warehouse safety should be a priority for employers, first and foremost being employee wellbeing. Without the right safety measures in place employees can injure themselves at work, whether it’s due to an accident with heavy machinery or through fatigue and burn-out.
Of course, poor safety can also be extremely costly to a business. This includes time off sick and statutory sick pay for injured employees as well as potential damages to the warehouse itself. Accidents usually take up a lot of time, from paperwork to even shutting down a section of the warehouse. These timely consequences are also costly to a business.
How to make a safer warehouse
You should already have defined and formally written safety measures for the entire warehouse including training for new employees and guidance for using equipment, but a busy warehouse can quickly let these practices slip. To help you improve warehouse safety and keep on top of best practices, here are some of our top tips for making a safer warehouse.
Ensure safe vehicle and equipment operation
This is especially important for forklifts which are involved in around 95,000 injuries and 100 deaths every year. To prevent accidents involving vehicles and other heavy equipment around the warehouse, make sure only certified workers use them and follow strict guidelines. You should ensure there is a strict disciplinary procedure if an employee is found to be misusing equipment.
For further protection you should make sure you equip racking, columns and dock areas with bumpers to minimise the damage to the forklift, employees and the warehouse itself. When it comes to the vehicles themselves, make sure to maintain them in accordance with manufacturers recommendations.
Shelving and racking safety
Poor shelving and racking, whether it’s old and broken or just used poorly, can be extremely dangerous. Make sure employees are properly trained to distribute weight along a shelf, assess how much weight a given rack can take and how to stack boxes for effective distribution. All these things should help prevent shelves from toppling or breaking and causing serious injury.
You should also make sure you regularly check your racking is safe and still in working order. If it isn’t, replace it as soon as possible. Using bumpers and special racking protection can help protect it against bumps and general wear and tear so that it is safer for longer.
Personal protective equipment (PPE)
It is the law to provide equipment to prevent people from getting injured. Typical PPE includes protective footwear like steel-toed boots, hard hats, masks and eye goggles depending on the work the employee is required to carry out. You should also ensure all employees wear bright high visibility clothing to help prevent accidents with vehicles.
Improve employee ergonomics
This includes training and awareness as well as other safety measures you should be putting in place as an employer. Human error is responsible for most accidents around the warehouse both with and without the involvement of vehicles. This human error is usually because of either a lack of training or fatigue either physically or mentally. Employees should, therefore, be trained in the proper ways to lift and carry loads, use of ladders, flatbeds and other equipment as well as be made aware of the dangers of fatigue or working when ill.
As an employer, you should ensure that employees are taking enough breaks and not working too long or incompetently. You can also adopt additional safety measures and equipment such as anti-fatigue mats in packing areas or other sections of the warehouse that requires long periods of standing. These specially designed mats help to absorb the impact of standing on employee’s legs and backs, helping to keep them from getting physically tired.
Retraining and refreshing
As well as thorough training for all new employees and formal written warehouse safety standards outlined from the outset, training and safety awareness should be revisited often. Over time even employees that have been in the position or industry for a long time can forget certain safety aspects or best practices. Make sure to give employees refresher courses in their training and safety.
To support safety measures such as first aid training and equipment operation safety ensure you have clear signage around. Maintain proper emergency signage for first aid, eye wash stations, fire extinguishers and other important areas of the warehouse to be aware of. Signs for vehicle and pedestrian traffic are especially important as many accidents involve this traffic.
Keeping your warehouse tidy is much more than an aesthetic benefit. Clear aisles and tidy measures are vital for avoiding slips, trips and other accidents. Ensure that employees always replace equipment, pallets or boxes and train employees to collectively keep the warehouse clear.
You should also mark floors with tape to help distinguish high-risk areas and create a traffic flow system around the warehouse to avoid collisions. Set out clear paths for pedestrians and vehicles and mark key areas such as bay entrances and racking. Anti-fatigue mats can also help with slips and trips as many are specially designed to improve warehouse safety in all types of environments, for example, anti-slip mats for oily areas.
Don’t forget to consider all the above in seasonal terms. Be aware of heat stroke and hydration in the summer and warm clothing that is also safe in the winter. Employees should be able to move around and handle equipment safely while also protecting themselves from the elements.