Accidents in the warehouse environment are frightening and stressful. They can severely injure employees and cost a company time and money.
With proper warehouse safety standards, accidents can be reduced. Safety guidelines and industry best practices help warehouse personnel create and maintain a safe working environment. A safe working environment is one where workplace hazards are identified and measures are taken to protect workers and minimize the risk of injury or death. In a safe environment, all personnel behaves in accordance with the Company’s safety protocols.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the injury and fatality rate for warehouse employees is higher than the national average for all other industries. Protecting employees and actively preventing warehouse accidents should be a priority for the warehousing industry.
So, what are some safety tips for a warehouse employee? These warehouse safety tips are not only meant for immediate implementation but are also sustainable rules to help prevent incidents in the future. We also have a general workplace safety tips write-up, and you should check that out as well.
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The Importance of Warehouse Safety
Warehouse owners and supervisors are legally required to implement and maintain proper safety measures to ensure a safe working environment for their employees. This responsibility protects the health and safety of the staff, saves time and money, and protects companies from liability.
Without warehouse safety, the employer will likely face costly legal issues, a high turnover rate, underperforming and upset staff, and, inevitably, workplace injuries. The following reasons illustrate the importance of warehouse safety and how it benefits all parties:
- Prioritizing safety shows that the well-being of the staff is valued.
- Avoids costly fines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
- Reduces the risk of costly worker’s compensation lawsuits.
- Contributes to a positive work environment.
- Fewer injuries and illnesses can lower insurance premiums.
- It is the ethical and moral choice to try and keep employees safe.
- Proper safety procedures can prevent fatal accidents.
- Employees out of work for injuries reduce company productivity and output.
Common Injuries For Warehouse Workers
Working in a warehouse presents several health risks as many warehousing positions involve completing dangerous tasks all day, every day. While poor warehouse safety measures are the main cause of injuries, workers behaving inappropriately, trying to work too quickly, or disobeying safety protocol also put themselves and others in danger.
The following injuries can significantly vary in severity. Whether it’s a bruise or a life-altering injury, it can be avoided with proper warehouse safety procedures.
- Forklift and vehicle accidents are common causes of fatalities and serious injury amongst warehouse personnel. Without proper handling, forklifts can easily overturn or run over workers.
- Slips, trips, and falls are caused by common warehouse hazards such as uneven or slippery warehouse floors and obstructed walkways.
- Falling objects can cause head injuries, broken bones, and death.
- Injury or illness from exposure to hazardous chemicals is a significant risk and often occurs when workers are not wearing the proper personal protective equipment.
- Spinal cord injuries have a wide range of severity but are extremely common among physical workers in the warehousing industry. They typically occur from overexertion, falls, or being hit by an object.
- Injuries to extremities are common because workers get their limbs, hands, and feet caught in between objects or equipment. This can result in bruising, broken bones, or loss of limbs or fingers. Following specific tips to keep employees’ hands safe can help in this area.
How Can Warehouse Safety Be Improved?
Regardless of the type of business, there are universal warehouse safety tips to help ensure warehouse safety for all workers. Identifying potential hazards and implementing procedures that workers will adhere to is the first step toward a safe warehouse environment.
Below are general warehouse safety tips and how to implement and enforce them for proper warehouse safety.
What Are The 10 Safety Tips For Warehouse Safety?
The first step to a safe warehouse is to identify all potential safety hazards and develop a plan on how to make them safer. Making staff aware of where safety risks are and their severity will help reduce their threat. Half the battle with hazards in the workplace is staff not being aware of them.
1. Training On Your Company-Specific Safety Procedures
Warehouse safety training teaches all personnel how to control exposure to safety hazards and prevent incidents from occurring. Provide general safety training for all employees, which covers warehouse operations, emergency exits, and general safety awareness. Also, provide job-specific training to outline specific safety hazards and how to properly work with them.
Proper training should also include what to do in the case of an emergency or accident. Evacuation procedures and escape routes should be widely distributed and explained. Depending on the location of the warehouse, staff should also be aware of procedures in case of severe weather or a natural disaster.
Every employee should be trained upon hire and be mandated to attend safety training refresher courses periodically throughout the year. Adequate training is essential to preventing incidents and serious injuries.
2. Enforcing Warehouse Safety Rules
A designated safety executive or safety team appointed to organize safety training, enforce protocols, and investigate incident reporting is an excellent way to ensure warehouse safety.
Many work-related injuries stem from not following established procedures and improper behavior. Encourage and incentivize incident reporting and penalize broken protocol as needed. It’s in everyone’s best interest to closely follow safety protocol.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has safety standards in place under federal law, and breaking these standards could lead to penalties in the form of costly fines. Adhering to internal procedures and OSHA standards will help keep a workplace safe.
3. Personal Protective Equipment – Know It and Use It
Providing staff with the proper safety equipment is crucial to overall safety. Personal protective equipment (PPE) helps prevent injury, illness, and death.
Job-appropriate PPE can be used to alert others of your location, avoid exposure to hazardous chemicals, and protect your body from injury. Be sure to purchase high-quality PPE because the strength and durability of the item could be the difference between an injury and not.
For example, low-quality and fake hard hats are on the market but serve little to no purpose when protecting employees from head injuries.
Risk assessment can determine the proper PPE for each position in the warehouse and require job-specific PPE as needed.
For instance, if certain staff is handling hazardous chemicals, they will need full protective clothing and a mask. All warehouses should be familiar with the following essential personal protective equipment necessary to protect their employees.
- Protective clothing
- Durable work gloves
- Safety glasses
- Hard hats
- High visibility jackets
- Proper footwear (non-slip shoes or steel toe work boots)
- Hearing protection
- Face shields
- Respiratory masks
4. Proper Safety Signage
Appropriate warning signs and informative signs are effective ways to reduce the risk of hazards and prevent incidents. Posted signs also help companies prove they have identified and warned of safety hazards to decrease their liability in the event of an accident. Also, include signs to indicate where the closest exits, emergency phones, and first aid kits are.
Warning and instructional signs displayed on all equipment, machinery, and materials are a daily reminder to staff to behave according to safety protocol. In warehousing, vehicle accidents are common, and speed limits and pedestrian warnings should be posted throughout the warehouse. All forms of hazard prevention are important, large and small. For instance, a wet floor sign could prevent a severe injury from a slip and fall.
All signs should be in clear view and in a well-lit area. In the case of a power outage, emergency lighting should illuminate signs and the safest evacuation routes.
5. Good Housekeeping Of Work Areas
Keeping the entire workspace clean and organized is a simple yet effective method to reduce the risk of slips, trips, and falls. Set high standards of cleanliness throughout the warehouse and inform staff of where every item belongs and the proper way to store it. Obstructions on the warehouse floor, such as cables, wires, and debris, and slippery or sticky floors due to spills could be trip hazards or cause vehicle accidents.
If necessary, implement inspections to periodically check for health and safety hazards due to poor housekeeping.
6. Fire Safety Procedures In the Warehouse
Keeping the proper fire safety equipment in good condition and readily available keeps your company up to the fire code and minimizes fire hazards.
Warehouse management should regularly test fire alarms, check fire extinguishers, and check sprinklers per the manufacturer’s instructions. Smoke alarms should be placed throughout the building and checked regularly.
Employees should be trained on how to operate fire safety equipment and be informed of emergency escape routes and the assembly point. Extra measures can also be implemented around flammable materials to help prevent the start and spread of potential fires.
7. Materials Handling and Movement Safety Tips
Working in warehouse and storage facilities involves many physical movements and lifting that can put a strain on the body and cause injury. Proper handling and manual lifting posture can reduce the risk of muscle strain, stress injury from repetitive motions, and other lifting risks.
Instruct working on the proper ergonomic posture when lifting and moving items, especially heavy loads. Encourage staff to ask for help with heavy loads and utilize tools like dollies. Set a maximum safe working load and regulate how many pounds one person is allowed to lift at a time. Signs around the warehouse can remind workers to maintain good posture and lift properly.
Back, neck, and knee injuries from manual lifting can incapacitate a worker for weeks or months or cause chronic issues. Allowing staff to take breaks and implementing pre-shift stretching can aid in the prevention of these injuries. Many companies around the world mandate attendance to a pre-shift stretching and movement warm-up class.
8. Safe Storage
Falling objects are a prominent safety concern in the warehousing industry. Crush injuries can cause catastrophic injury and death. Proper shelf organization with larger, heavy items on the bottom can prevent items from falling. Workers should always be instructed to remove one load at a time.
Store chains and other dangerous items in a secure, organized manner. Safe storage is an essential aspect of a clean and safe warehouse.
9. Do Not Come To Work When Sick
Encouraging workers not to come to work when sick benefits everyone. The ill person can recover faster and prevent the spread of illness. A busy warehouse is a breeding ground for germs and viruses, and illnesses can quickly spread. More staff ill reduces overall productivity and costs the company time and money.
Staff that comes to work ill are distracted, and paying less attention could lead to mistakes that cause incidents. For the health and safety of everyone, offer sick days and prompt employees to take them when necessary.
10. Warehouse Vehicle Safety Tips
Injuries and fatalities from vehicle incidents are among the most common. Therefore, vehicle safety measures are essential for improving warehouse safety.
Dozens of people die every year in warehouses due to incidents involving a moving vehicle. Lift trucks, forklifts, pallet jacks, and trucks are vital to everyday warehousing operations. Operating these vehicles incorrectly or irresponsibly can cause injury to the driver or nearby workers as well as cause costly damage to the vehicle and warehouse property. The number one cited warehouse hazard by OSHA is the unsafe operation of forklifts.
It’s common for vehicle incidents to occur in a warehouse when a vehicle is reversing. Comprehensive safety training for drivers of all types of vehicles and strict enforcement of safety measures can reduce these avoidable incidents. In a warehouse, vehicles have their own distinct set of seven safety rules.
What Are The 7 Safety Tips For Vehicles Used in a Warehouse?
- Only hire certified drivers above the age of 18 and require safety training, refresher vehicle training, and evaluations.
- Perform routine equipment inspections to check for issues with warehouse vehicles. This inspection can be performed by the driver before each shift. Vehicles should also undergo professional maintenance regularly.
- Posted speed limits must be followed at all times. Forklifts should not exceed 5 mph.
- Drivers should avoid reserving whenever possible. If possible, implement a system of one-way routes.
- Optimize visibility with mirrors on vehicles and around the warehouse. Train all personnel to look both ways when crossing the aisles and walking around the warehouse floor.
- Ensure that aisles and roadways are free of debris and other obstructions.
- Ensure the floor is in proper condition with minimal damage. Uneven, steep, or slippery floors contribute to vehicle accidents, especially forklifts overturning.
All workers have the right to safe working conditions and are able to earn a living for themselves and their families. While working in a warehouse does present more safety hazards than other careers, it does not have to lead to injury-causing incidents.
With these warehouse safety tips, a company that works together to prioritize safety can thrive.