Operating a warehouse with multiple staff and equipment like forklifts whipping around is cause for concern for any sober-eyed manager. After all, management is legally liable to ensure staff are well protected from the many dangers of warehousing operations.
To help you in your efforts, we’ve compiled this list of the top ten warehouse safety tips that you, as a responsible manager, would do well to take into account.
According to the National Safety Council, transportation and warehousing could be the most dangerous of all industries, depending on how you rank the most dangerous. The industry experienced the highest injury and illness rate per 10,000 workers. The rate was determined by days missed from work due to injury.
Let’s dive right into the top X warehouse safety tips so you can start taking actionable measures to improve not only safety in your warehouse but also your liability exposure. Let’s get started.
The 10 Top Warehouse Safety Tips For Management
Although the transportation and warehousing industry faces many challenges, with some smart pre-planning, safety awareness, and risk exposure management, you can make some small changes for big results.
Rapid and actionable measures to improve work environments are essential to easing the transition into a modern and safe work ecosystem. The tips we’ve compiled for you are divided into a regional approach to warehouse management, with headings for easy organization of where the key focus on improvement lies.
- Facility Layout And Traffic
- Safety Equipment And PPE
- Equipment And Vehicle Awareness
- Incident Reporting And Documentation
Facility Layout And Traffic
The facility layout and traffic division focus on the warehouse floor layout and the paths of traffic. Here are our top tips to help you navigate your facility layout and traffic flow:
- Generate a layout plan.
Using your warehouse flooring layout map (if you don’t have one yet, now is a great time to make one), you need to look at where pedestrian and vehicular traffic locations within the facility reside. And you need to create a plan of paths that best lead the form of traffic efficiently and safely to their desired destinations.
The reason for creating this plan, if not apparent, is to understand how traffic flows within your facility. When you understand the needs, you’ll understand how best to direct the flows of traffic.
Keep in mind that you need to keep the different types of traffic separated as much as possible. By limiting pedestrian crossings of vehicular traffic lanes, you minimize the exposure of pedestrians to potential vehicular accidents.
Many facilities post traffic lanes exclusive for forklift use and similarly create paths exclusive to pedestrian foot traffic. Creating and imposing these paths and lanes upon the facility layout maximizes your chances of reducing accidents within your workplace.
- Install physical barriers.
Much like you would put a handrail on a staircase, adding a guard rail between a pedestrian path and a forklift laneway is not just a smart idea; it’s a great way to prevent accidents between pedestrians and tow motor traffic.
- Install visual barriers.
Similar to the physical barriers, utilizing visual barriers and warning signs and symbols allows for another element of prevention. For example, a warehouse might use motion sensors and warning beacons on the end of racking laneways. When a forklift enters the laneway, it triggers the sensor and sets off a warning light at the end of the lane. This way, a pedestrian or another forklift operator will know that a forklift is operating live within the laneway and exercise extra caution if the open end of the lane between racking requires crossing.
Another common and less technical visual barrier utilizes reflective brightly colored paints to paint lines on the warehouse floor to show designated paths or laneways.
Safety Equipment And PPE
The expense to set up and maintain proper, even over-prepared PPE stations is minimal compared to the costs of paying for accident reparations. Here are a few ideas to help you get your warehouse in the green.
- Determine your need and add one.
The add one rule is straightforward: Do what is needed, and then add one. So, if your warehouse requires three eyewash stations, install four. It may seem like a lost expense, but when you consider a company doing their due diligence, you limit your exposure by a lot by doing that little bit extra.
Most companies do the bare minimum of what is legally required. The companies that go that little bit extra care not only winning awards for best-managed firms but also are places where people want to work. When people want to work somewhere, you get a better pool of candidates to choose from for your team. It’s a win-win that costs a minimal amount and encourages safety and a safe working environment.
- Ensure PPE is always readily available.
We mentioned doing what is needed and doing a little extra, but what about ensuring that staff has the available supplies. It’s not enough to merely purchase PPE and then lock it up. At the same time, you don’t want your staff grabbing a new pair of safety glasses because their last pair got a little dirty. You know, when you let your staff have free reign, they will often require excessive management.
To counter this, we suggest utilizing a sign-out system for PPE for staff. Staff who sign their name to a piece of equipment will have a natural tendency to take ownership of the equipment and therefore take better care of it. It also allows you to show them documentation, should they waste the PPE out of negligence.
- Safety equipment training and retraining
Ensuring that staff knows how to use the fire alarm, extinguishers, or merely understand where the fire exits reside requires training. Many companies tend to perform an initial training and get lazy when it comes to retraining or, refresher courses as we like to call them.
Creating an annual or semi-annual retraining certification date for various facility emergency procedures and equipment ensures that your staff is up to date with the latest company policies on safety and ensures they are prepared in an emergency. These retraining sessions allow you to limit your managerial exposure by showing an active role in guiding the safety retraining process.
Equipment And Vehicle Awareness
We spoke about retraining; when it comes to vehicles and the safe practices involved, retraining is no joke. Here are a few equipment and vehicle tips you should implement in your facility to improve facility safety.
- Train all staff on vehicle awareness
Many companies train warehouse staff about forklift awareness and neglect to train office staff the same. Then an office staff member gets in an accident by wandering into the path of a forklift. These sorts of accidents happen all the time. Although you might have an excellent employee injury report or incident reporting system in place, the best thing to do is to avoid these sorts of incidents and accidents altogether.
Remember, it’s always better to run staff through a 30-minute vehicle awareness training than to have to complete the procedure for injury reporting.
- Mandate mandatory vehicle inspections.
When you make it company policy and enforce a rule like pre-trip vehicle or equipment inspections, your staff will have zero choices but follow procedures. A developed daily vehicle inspection plan can eliminate accidents caused by vehicle defects (like leaking oils, for example) and grow a sense of accountability and awareness within the vehicle operator.
- Enforce strong housekeeping practices.
Maintaining rules is something that is in the best interest of everyone. Some think that it may be petty to scold a staff member who carelessly discards something to the floor, but every discarded piece of trash is an accident waiting to happen.
Practicing savvy housekeeping by maintaining a clean and orderly facility is vital to reducing exposure to slip and fall accidents. Wait until you read the statistics about those accidents later in this article. You’ll be running out to hire a cleaning crew for your warehouse like it was going out of style.
Slips and walkways are a common problem in warehouses and are often attributed to inadequate housekeeping procedures. Try implementing a daily or weekly facility inspection into your processes.
Incident Reporting And Documentation
- Maintain a robust incident reporting culture
The staff has to understand it’s okay to be human, that accidents happen, and that we can all work together as a team. When staff fears reporting things like near misses or dangerous situations, they tend not to report potentially critical incidents that you, as a manager, need to be aware of.
Maintaining a culture where the staff wants to report incidents creates a bit of management, but with the automated processes of a reporting system like the 1ST Incident Reporting App, managers like you find it easy to manage and navigate.
The best reporting systems are those that document incidents honestly, without bias or judgment, and report on every incident without exclusion. Staff will only maintain this standard when they have nothing to fear from reporting incidents, even if they were due to the staff’s non-compliance with safety policies.
We’ve looked at ten great ways you can improve safety within your warehouse environment. Now, let’s take a deeper look at why. The numbers don’t lie, so let’s pay attention to what the statistics tell us about warehouse safety and what you, as a responsible manager, ought to know.
Top Warehouse Statistics Managers Need To Know
At 1ST Incident Reporting, as an ISO/IEC 27001 certified company, we take data and security seriously. A part of understanding how business might improve is through the analysis of statistical data. When it comes to warehousing, this data can shed light on some weaknesses within the industry to improve.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, warehousing jobs within the United States suffered 24 fatalities in 2019. The year also brought about a 4.8% rate of injury and illness amongst full-time workers. That’s why actionable change is essential for most warehouse environments.
Here are some interesting facts from the National Safety Council regarding warehousing in the US in 2019:
- Transportation and warehousing had the third-highest death rate of any industry, with 13.9 deaths per 100,000 workers.
- The same transportation and warehousing industry came in second for the number of deaths per industry, with a whopping 913 deaths in 2019.
- If we’re looking at ranking industries by nonfatal injury and illness, then warehousing is the highest, with 201.6 nonfatal injuries per 10,000 workers.
- Now to look at those same nonfatal injuries, if we’re talking pure injury numbers, then warehousing comes in fifth for 2019 with 103,560 total reported nonfatal injuries.
- The top three injuries were:
- Overexertion and bodily reaction
- Falls, slips, and trips
- Contact with equipment or an object
- 72.4% of injuries occurred to men, 27.6 to women
- The top 5 sources of injuries in transportation and warehousing were:
- Person, injured, or ill worker
- Worker motion or position
- Floors, walkways, ground surfaces
- The number one occupation within the transportation and warehousing industry for injuries in the workplace is the transportation and material moving roles.
- The number on nature of injury for warehousing and transportation are sprains, strains, and tears.
Here’s What The Data Tells Us – A Summary
Most injuries are preventable accidents involving slips, strains, overexertion, and equipment/vehicles. The most severe incidents are fatal, and the warehousing industry has no shortage of severe to fatal accidents, which means not enough preventive measures are generally in place.
Utilizing a robust reporting protocol will help your business maintain constant improvement to processes and procedures by analyzing previous and potential accidents.Using an ISO registered partner as the creators of 1ST Incident Reporting – a mobile incident reporting and auditing cloud-based solution for business is wise in an age of data theft and ransomware attacks. Knowing your incident reports, site audits, vehicle inspections, or other reports and checklists used within the application for your company are both secure and safe for retrieval.