There are a number of risks involved with working in a warehouse, depending on the type of work processes your business follows. It’s imperative that you have stringent safety measures in place to protect employees and business assets, and with HSE estimating the cost of ill health and injuries due to working conditions to be £16.2 billion, it’s an area you can’t afford to overlook.
- Make sure PPE policies are followed
Warehouses can pose a variety of dangers which is why it’s important that you implement a strong protective equipment policy (PPE) and ensure that it is always followed. Risks posed to employees will be reduced on a daily basis if items such as protective eyewear, high visibility clothing, protective footwear and industrial gloves are worn. There can be tendency for some employees to think these items are not important but not only could that endanger them, but also put the company in an awkward situation. Education about PPE will play a big role in convincing people to wear it at all times.
- Follow shelving and racking safety protocols
Old and worn out shelving can be easy to overlook if proper safety procedures are not being followed. Good safety also applies to the how employees interact and use the shelving, so they understand the effects of weight distribution. This will go a long way to ensuring shelves and racking doesn’t break or topple and cause a serious accident. Regular checks on storage units will allow you to make changes or replacements where necessary and good maintenance will also save the business a lot of money in the long run.
- Implement good staff training
Strong safety measures will struggle to achieve the desired results if your employees do not understand the reasons why they are being used. Human error is the cause of most accidents in any warehouse and while it will always occur at some level, staff training can help reduce it and their severity. In practice this means training employees how to use ladders, flatbeds and other essential equipment, as well learning as how to lift and carry loads. For a number of reasons employees can feel the need to continue working even when fatigued or ill, which can be dangerous to them and others, and this should also be included in the training.
- Clear and effective signage
Anyone working in a warehouse needs to be aware of the dangers around them so it’s vitally important that clear and effective signage is in place where needed. This should include things such as speed limits, signs warning of danger, designated zones in the warehouse and traffic flow guidance. First aid, fire extinguishers and eye wash stations should also be clearly marked. Signage must be easy to understand and unambiguous so everyone who sees it can act accordingly.
- Create safety zones around equipment
Warehouses that have mixed traffic with mobile plant equipment should consider introducing a 3-metre safety area around all plant and equipment. This makes it a pedestrian free zone to enhance safety measures for everyone in the space and will reduce the likelihood of any serious accidents occurring in the area. Ensure all employees are aware of the zone and complement it with signage so there are visual reminders which will keep people alert throughout the working day.
- Carry out regular forklift safety checks
Forklifts should undergo safety checks on a daily basis to ensure they are safe for use by employees. This should take place before each shift begins, looking at common components and functions to double check everything is operating as it should be. If something fails during the checking procedure the forklift can be removed from operation and assessed in more detail by a qualified technician before any additional repairs are carried out. This will make the warehouse safer and also ensure you are getting optimal use out of your forklifts during the day as they are kept in prime condition.
- Design a warehouse traffic plan
Mobile plant manoeuvring around the warehouse can often be the cause of a number of employee injuries and even fatalities. Throughout the day there is a lot of loading and unloading and reversing which means a traffic management plan should be designed to prevent collisions and injuries taking place. This will create specific areas for mobile plant equipment and pedestrians to move around in, with the separation between the two helping to lessen the chances of injury occurring.
- Keep areas clean and organised
On an aesthetic level it makes obvious sense to keep aisles clean and tidy but it also has safety benefits too. It becomes more likely that slips, trips and other types of accidents are avoided so everyone in the warehouse is safer as they go about their duties. Boxes, pallets and equipment should be put back in their correct place and employees trained on the importance of keeping the warehouse clean. Anti-slip mats in oily areas can reduce trips and slips occurring to make it safer to walk through without fear of accidents taking place.
- Develop a health and safety policy
One way to tell employees that you care about their wellbeing is to create and health and safety policy. It demonstrates that you take these issues seriously and are committed to upholding practises that ensure a safer working environment. The policy should lay out the procedures that should be followed in emergencies as well as for general practises. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provide health and safety policy templates that can be altered to suit your business. It’s also a good idea to review the policy at least once a year to ensure the guidelines are relevant and helpful. While businesses with fewer than 5 employees do not need an H&S policy, it is still good practice to have one.
- Provide regular training
We have mentioned training on a few occasions above as it is one of the best ways to educate employees and provide updates to safety regulations. Whether it’s teaching them how to use equipment or anything else, employees should be aware of safety measures as it relates to their roles in the warehouse. Regular team meetings also offer the opportunity to communicate any new changes or risks to your current work systems and to also hear feedback on any safety concerns employees currently have.