Top 10 Tips for Increasing Warehouse Safety
Warehouse safety can be complex, but with a bit of planning, some training, and clear demarcations, you can significantly reduce risks to warehouse workers.
In the Washington Post, Jay Greene and Chris Alcantara reported that Amazon warehouse workers suffer serious injuries at higher rates than other firms. Since Amazon is considered an industry leader in logistics, this does not bode well for the warehouse industry as a whole.
According to Greene and Alcantara, there were 5.9 serious incidents for every 200,000 hours worked at an Amazon warehouse in the US in 2020 (the equivalent of 100 employees working full-time for a year).
That's nearly double the rate for non-Amazon warehouses. Walmart, for instance, reported 2.5 serious cases per 100 workers at its facilities that same year.
Creating safer conditions in warehouses is complicated, but there are plenty of things safety professionals can do to ensure that injury rates don't climb to those found in Amazon warehouses. Many of these measures are innovative, easy to implement, and cost-effective.
Here are ten tips for effectively improving safety in your warehouses.
1. Take Fatigue Seriously
Warehouse employees at many large automotive manufacturers work 12-hour shifts. Unsurprisingly, injuries are more likely to occur near the end of these shifts due to fatigue.
Shift workers and night workers are often tired on the job because of their work schedules, which makes it difficult to concentrate, increasing the possibility of errors or accidents.
To lessen the impacts of fatigue, allow warehouse workers to take frequent breaks. Building some stretching time during the shift can help as well. So can designing the facility to provide more natural light.
While sleeping on the job is discouraged in most workplaces, a 15- to 20-minute nap break midway through a late shift can reinvigorate workers, improve concentration, and reduce human error.
(Learn about the 7 Signs of Fatigue and How It Affects the Workplace)
2. Stack Smart
Because supply and demand aren't fixed or predictable, manufacturers need to keep warehouses stocked with raw materials.
Those boxed materials are then stacked, and that stacking introduces new hazards. Boxes that are stacked too high are at greater risk of falling, for instance. Understanding stacking weight standards is also essential.
Stacking manually is preferable to forklift stacking, unless the items are too large or heavy to handle easily.
It can be tempting to rush a stack job - to just pile things on top of each other until they're all put away. But taking the time to stack items so that they don't risk toppling, falling over when they're bumped into, or causing problems when they're unloaded is essential to preventing injury.
3. Use Zone Demarcations
Warehouses are relatively safe areas - as long as everything is in its place.
Use paint or tape to demarcate different zones in the warehouse. This can include spaces designated for certain items (such as flammable products), loading and shipping areas, and processing areas.
Clear demarcations can also help you manage traffic in the warehouse. If forklifts should be restricted from certain areas, clearly mark out their paths so forklift operators don't go out of bounds.
4. Address Ergonomic Issues
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) affect the muscles, nerves, blood vessels, ligaments, and tendons. Workers across industries and occupations are exposed to various ergonomic risk factors.
Given the loads they handle, warehouse workers should be particularly concerned with risks related to:
- Lifting heavy items
- Reaching overhead
- Pushing and pulling heavy loads
- Working in awkward positions
- Repetitive motions
Work-related MSDs are preventable. Good ergonomic practices can help lessen muscle fatigue and reduce injuries. Implement an ergonomics program for warehouse workers and ensure they get the right training.
5. Follow Good Housekeeping Practices
Housekeeping is an important part of warehouse safety. Not only does it keep the warehouse clean, eliminate obstructions and other hazards, but it also improves employee morale.
Ensuring that everything is tidy and items are in their place also ensures that potential dangers will be visible. In a cluttered warehouse, it can be difficult to spot something out of place - especially when nothing has a real place.
Use shadow boards to store tools and keep them in sight, neat, and organized.
6. Forklift Best Practices
Forklifts are incredibly useful machines. Unfortunately, they can also be extremely dangerous. If you walk through the average warehouse, there's a good chance you'll be able to spot huge amounts of damage that were caused by forklift impact.
To reduce risk, forklifts should have the right of way, since it's harder for forklifts to come to a stop.
Forklift operators must be properly trained and the forklifts should be inspected before every shift to identify any issues before they're put in motion.
Parking zones for the forklifts should be marked off with paint or tape.
7. Keep Everything Well-Lit
If all of your shifts take place during the daytime, you can design your warehouse to take advantage of natural lighting. Even in that case, however, it's important to make sure that every area of the warehouse is adequately lit. Spots that aren't can be corrected by installing LED or fluorescent lights.
Avoid fixtures made with materials that can cause a lot of glare. Glare is irritating and can result in otherwise avoidable accidents.
8. Install Machine Guards
In some cases, it's more effective to install a barrier around a machine to prevent employees from wandering too close to it.
(Learn more in 6 Things to Look for When Selecting Machine Guards)
9. Emergency Equipment
The warehouse should contain all the emergency equipment workers might need. First aid kits and fire extinguishers are essential. Other items will depend on the particular hazards the workers might face. Depending on what gets housed in your facility, you may need eyewash stations, eye showers, and emergency spill kits.
Don't skip out on first aid training and making sure that workers are trained to use all of the emergency equipment.
10.Encourageme Engagement and Involvement
Employee involvement is a crucial component of any safety program, and warehouse safety is no exception. Workers should be encouraged to speak up if anything doesn't seem right, looks out of place, or is awkward to access.
Consult the employees when drafting your safety program. They're on the warehouse floor every day and may be aware of risks and dangers that you might otherwise overlook.