If you’re like most business owners, you understand why it’s critical to ensure your warehouse runs safely and efficiently.
Warehousing work activities create several health and safety risks that must be addressed and attended to on an ongoing basis.
If you fail to manage your warehouse safety, your business may face:
- High employee turnover rates due to injuries or illnesses sustained on the job
- Underperforming staff members
- Lost working days
- Legal issues
- And in the worst-case scenario – fatalities
Warehouse safety should always be a top priority for business owners. Not just because it’s not only the right thing to do but also directly impacts your bottom line by protecting your workforce, which in turn allows you to get product out the door efficiently.
An effective health and safety management system will help you control the risks in your warehouse and create a safe working environment for everyone. This system should address the specific hazards present in your warehouse, include controls to mitigate those hazards, and continually be revisited to stay up to date.
This post will provide a few tips to help your team stay safe and accident-free.
Create your own warehouse safety checklist
Regarding warehouse safety, it’s always better to be safe and prepared than sorry. After all, accidents can happen anywhere, and warehouses are no exception. With that in mind, here are a few safety tips to help you create a warehouse safety checklist:
- Make sure the floor is clean and free of debris. Slips and falls are among warehouses’ most common preventable accidents, so keeping the floor clean is crucial.
- Inspect all equipment regularly. This includes everything from ladders and forklifts to conveyor belts and pallet jacks. Look for any damage or wear and tear that could cause an accident. How often should you inspect equipment? The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) puts out an annual self-inspection checklist with great information to reference.
- Make sure all dangerous chemicals are appropriately labeled and stored in a safe place. Also, educate employees on the proper way to handle these chemicals.
- Enforce a strict policy on personal protective equipment (PPE). This includes things like hard hats, safety glasses, and gloves. Employees should always wear the appropriate PPE when working in the warehouse.
- Conduct regular safety meetings with employees to review procedures, remind them of potential hazards, and update them on new policies.
By taking these steps, you can help create a safer workplace for everyone involved.
Potential safety hazards
Working in a warehouse can be a dangerous job. Your team is constantly dealing with heavy equipment, and there are potential hazards around every corner. Here are some potential safety hazards to watch out for:
- Slips, trips, and falls. Be careful when walking around the warehouse. Watch out for slippery surfaces, trip hazards, and loose cords or cables. Always wear proper footwear with good traction.
- Moving equipment and vehicles. Forklifts, pallet jacks, and other moving equipment can pose a risk to employees if not used properly. Ensure employees know how to operate the equipment before using it and always follow the safety rules. Be aware of forklifts and other vehicles moving around when walking around the warehouse.
- Hazardous materials. Many warehouses use hazardous materials such as chemicals, flammable liquids, or compressed gas cylinders. Always follow the safety rules when handling these materials and ensure they’re stored properly.
- Falls from heights. Falls are one of the leading causes of injuries in warehouses. Be careful when working on elevated platforms or loading/unloading trucks. Always use fall protection gear when working at heights.
To prevent employees from being electrocuted or caught between mechanical parts, it is critical to implement a Lockout/Tag-out program, Also known as LOTO, throughout the warehouse.
Your entire warehouse staff must be trained on all LOTO procedures and how to remove and reapply LOTO devices during maintenance.
Employees should utilize a LOTO checklist to ensure correct compliance with LOTO procedures every time. Learn more about Lockout/Tagout procedures from the OSHA guide online.
If your team handles hazardous chemicals in your warehouse or storage facilities, you’ll need to ensure you have a solid hazard communication program. This critical program should include:
- Detailed training on how to identify chemical hazards
- How to properly handle, store, and dispose of chemicals
- What PPE is required how to use it
You can see what level of PPE is required based on the materials used in the Department of Health and Human Services guide.
Finally, your management team and warehouse staff must be well-versed in conducting safety inspections and properly storing and handling hazardous chemicals and materials.
Forklifts are a critical component in your warehouse. That said, if operated incorrectly, forklifts pose severe risks to workers, operators, and property. According to OSHA, one of the most significant hazards in warehouse operations is the unsafe use of forklifts. To maintain a safe warehouse, always ensure:
- All forklift operators have completed certified training and periodic retraining
- Any forklift operator using equipment in an unsafe matter should be subject to reassignment or retraining when appropriate
- Forklifts should be inspected daily to check for damage to equipment
- Forklift paths should be clearly defined throughout the warehouse
Conveyors allow workers to transport goods from one area of the warehouse to another or from warehouse to warehouse. That said, conveyors are a common source of injuries to employees, including being struck by objects falling off the conveyor or getting caught in the equipment.
To create a safe environment around the conveyor, you should:
- Follow proper lockout/tag-out (LOTO) procedures while the conveyor is being repaired and or maintained
- Install safeguarding equipment that protects the worker from the conveyor and prevents clothing, body parts, and hair from getting caught or tangled in the conveyor
- Make sure all warehouse staff understand the potential safety hazard of the conveyor
Charging stations recharge and refuel the powered equipment in your warehouse. Whether your warehouse equipment uses liquid petroleum gas LPG, gasoline, or rechargeable batteries, it is essential to follow warehouse safety guidelines to avoid fires and explosions.
At a minimum, your charging station safety should include:
- No smoking
- Fire extinguishers nearby and regularly maintained
- Stations not in the proximity of open flames
- A ventilation system adequate to disperse any harmful gases or fumes
- Shower facilities and eye washing stations located nearby
- PPE worn at all times when in use
One of the most severe accidents can occur when a forklift falls off the dock and crushes or pins a warehouse employee.
To avoid dock accidents:
- Forklift operators should be given frequent breaks so they can be fully attentive when driving on the dock
- Operators should drive slowly at all times
- Dock edges should be clearly marked and safely support loads
- Docks should be marked with warning signs
- Employees who do not work on docks should be prohibited from the area
While no accident is 100% avoidable, following the above steps will significantly reduce the risk of a dock accident.
Manual lifting and handling
Not every warehouse has heavy equipment or hazardous materials, but all involve manual lifting in some way, shape, or form. Because of this, improper lifting and handling provide a safety risk to virtually all warehouses. Injuries can happen when your team members and warehouse staff fail to follow proper procedures due to over-exertion, improper posture, and repetitive motions.
To maintain warehouse safety, plan and find alternate solutions to manual lifting whenever possible. Ergonomic solutions in warehouse automation and equipment help reduce the strain on warehouse employees and increase efficiency.
In addition, your management team should observe warehouse staff regularly to ensure they use proper posture when moving or carrying items. Encourage a culture where employees feel comfortable asking a coworker for help for heavy or awkward loads. If this happens often, then consider making the lifting of heavier objects a two-person job from the start.
Carry out fire safety drills
You should always test the fire and smoke alarms in your warehouse on a regular basis. Fire safety drills can help you to ensure that all your alarm systems are operational and that your employees fully understand fire safety procedures and emergency plans.
Proper clothing should be worn in the warehouse
PPE should be appropriate for your specific warehouse conditions. Some standard PPE equipment includes hard hats, masks, steel-toed boots, safety vests, N95 masks, and goggles.
While it is common to require your employees to purchase their own non-shareable items, such as work boots, your warehouse should provide necessary PPE equipment such as goggles, gloves, and safety vests on-site to ensure employees always have access to them.
In addition, loose-fitting clothing can be caught in machinery and pallets, leading to injuries, and should be avoided.
Identify and mark hazardous zones clearly
Clearly labeling your warehouse racks, equipment, materials, and zones can help prevent severe injuries to your employees. Signs and stickers to specifically mark hazardous zones are a simple, cost-effective, and functional way to keep your warehouse safe for employees.
And, of course, it’s critical to mark safe routes and emergency exits.
Optimize your warehouse layout
To increase efficiency and reduce complex movements for your staff and equipment, it is essential to optimize the layout of your warehouse. This can be done efficiently by utilizing software such as SkuVault’s warehouse management system designed to automatically create efficient pick lists and wave picking options.
Provide proper training and courses
Practical training cannot only warn your employees of the dangers found within the warehouse and the consequences of unsafe practices but also prepare them for any potentially hazardous situations that may arise.
By clearly articulating proper safety guidelines and potential hazards to your employees, you can eliminate many warehouse safety hazards and keep your employees and property safe.
Promote a culture of awareness
Alerting colleagues and staff about potential safety hazards coming from materials or passing machinery can drastically reduce the number of accidents in your warehouse.
Encourage your employees to be aware of their surroundings and regularly communicate with each other.
Warehouse staff and management should always know how much weight a rack can hold and the optimum way materials should be stored on those racks for weight to be distributed effectively.
Properly labeling shelves ensures all employees are aware of potential dangers. Shelving safety prevents workers from injuries due to falling objects.
First aid in a warehouse emergency
While eliminating hazards, effectively training your employees, and providing appropriate PPE for your employees can help significantly cut down on warehouse injuries, it is impossible to eliminate all accidents.
Your best strategy is to do all you can to prevent accidents from happening in the first place and be prepared for when they do occur.
First Aid Kit Requirements
OSHA requires the following items to be included in your first-aid kit:
- Adhesive bandage and tape
- Medical gloves
- Antibiotic application
- Roller bandage (2 and 4 inches)
- Cold pack
- Sterile/Trauma pads
- Burn dressing
- Eye/Skin wash
- Triangular bandage
- Hand sanitizer
- First aid guide
Basic First-Aid Procedures
In the event of a warehouse injury, the American Red Cross recommends the following first aid interventions:
- Call 911 if the world is deep or if the bleeding does not stop within a few minutes
- Cover the wound with gauze or a clean cloth and apply direct pressure
- Continue covering the wound with a cloth and applying pressure until the bleeding stops
- Any event that blood seeps through the cloth add more layers on top
- Send the employee to the emergency room if necessary
- Call 911 if the burn is moderate to severe
- Hold the burned area under cool running water for several minutes
- Apply a light gauze bandage to the burn, or wait for paramedics to arrive if the burn is severe
- Do not apply any appointments to the barn
- If blisters form, do not break any blisters
- If necessary, take over-the-counter pain medication and follow the direction of medical personnel
- Call 911 immediately
- Do not try to straighten or unbend the fractured area
- Stabilize the fracture using a splint from your first aid kit and pad the area well
- Place a cold pack on the fracture, but avoid directly placing ice on the skin
- Elevate the extremity with the fracture
- Administer anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
- Call 911 immediately
- Attempt to stop bleeding by applying direct pressure to the affected area
- Cover the crushed area with a wet cloth and raise it above heart level
- If the crush injury affects the head, spine, or neck, immobilize the area and limit movement if possible
- Call 911 immediately
- Begin chest compressions as soon as possible. Use both hands stacked on top of each other to compress the center of the chest fast and hard.
- If an employee or manager is trained in chest compressions and rescue breathing, begin immediately
- Utilize an automated external defibrillator (AED) between compressions
Safety should be a top priority in any warehouse, and by creating your own safety checklist and following critical safety tips, you can stay safe and reduce the number of accidents in your warehouse.
Make sure to provide proper training for all employees and hold regular safety drills so everyone is aware of the potential hazards in your warehouse.
And finally, always make sure employees wear appropriate PPE when working in potentially dangerous areas.