Running a warehouse means needing to juggle people, machines, and products, sometimes in tight spaces and with significant time demands. Ensuring workplace safety is a concern for every business but is much more challenging in a warehouse operation due to the number of moving parts and multiple demands.
Not only is workplace safety a moral obligation for any business but penalties for not protecting your employees or visitors to your warehouse range from lawsuits to actual criminal charges. For instance, workers injured when the company failed to offer adequate protection to workers from hazardous chemicals sent several top executives to prison; piercing the corporate veil that often protects owners from such actions due to the egregious nature of the violation. Not only do businesses face legal consequences when they don’t ensure workplace safety, but accidents and injuries also destroy employee morale that create inefficiencies and lead to strikes as well as damage your brand reputation in the eyes of consumers. Take current consumer complaints about working conditions at Amazon plants and their impact on customer boycotts and you see the true damage caused when workplace safety isn’t a high priority.
While efforts to ensure workplace safety aren’t easy, some options reduce your exposure without incurring a major expense. Outside of the obvious ways to make your warehouse safe, such as following OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the US) that include painting lines to designate safe areas, storing chemicals properly, training workers on safety procedures, and issuing appropriate protective equipment, you should implement a few other things we share below.
How to ensure workplace safety
Keep things clean & organized
If your warehouse is cluttered and dirty, then accidents are more likely to happen. Improperly stacked items may fall on workers or visitors and spills may lead to slip and fall accidents. That means organization and regular cleaning are a priority. Encourage employees to clean up any spills as they go, that they replace hazardous chemicals or other agents away in special storage designed for that purpose as soon as they finish working with the agent, and to return equipment to the proper location between uses. Provide bins for waste material and ensure shelves support inventory storage securely to keep accidents from happening.
And, don’t forget interior air quality that might suffer from the use of chemicals in closed quarters. The same goes for water quality, which you should check as part of your routine maintenance. Coupled with procedures to maintain a tidy environment at work, daily or weekly cleaning ensures the area gets a good scrub periodically.
Proper organization not only ensures products are stored safely but helps reduce the frustration and cost involved in searching for items when needed.
Maintain vehicles & equipment
The vehicles and equipment that you and your employees use put up with a significant amount of wear and tear over time. Proper maintenance of this equipment not only extends the life of these expensive assets but reduces the chances of injury when something goes wrong with a piece of equipment. In a digital world, maintaining repair and maintenance records is easy and various programs ensure you complete maintenance as recommended by the manufacturer. In addition, AI-enabled monitors ensure remote equipment operations within tolerances and notify you when a piece of equipment needs an unscheduled repair.
Proper maintenance is especially true of forklifts. It may make sense to have a Toyota forklift starter and other repair and replacement parts handy to ensure you’re forklifts always operate at peak performance. That’ll cut down on any downtime and the chances of injury from defective forklifts.
Only operating equipment by trained personnel with proper procedures also ensures workplace safety. In facilities with a mixture of humans and machines, keeping machines in their lane to protect humans is a priority.
Hold regular safety training sessions
If your employees don’t know how to avoid workplace accidents, then you have no hope of avoiding accidents. Before employees operate a piece of machinery or use a hazardous agent, they should receive training specific to their job, even if they come to you with such experience on their resume. If there are any specific policies and procedures at your warehouse, then you need to cover these during training. After training, you should test employees to ensure they are now able to operate safely.
It’s not enough to perform training with new hires. People tend to forget things, so you should hold regular safety training sessions with all appropriate employees and maintain records demonstrating which employees satisfactorily completed training to ensure no one operates in an unsafe manner. Your records should identify when a particular employee is required to recertify on a particular procedure.
While periodic safety training might rehash things people already know, more health and safety measures are implemented over time and, as said, people get lazy or forget proper procedures. Keeping employees up to date on this is a positive thing.
Protective equipment is a must and you need specific equipment appropriate for your work environment. Sometimes, all that’s needed are safety glasses and steel-toed boots. Other environments might require full hazmat suits. And, of course, you encounter everything between these two extremes. Similarly, employees working in different areas or performing different tasks in the same location might need different protective equipment. Ensure that, as employees move around the location, they have the proper equipment for the areas where they work and the ones they cross to get to their work area.
Some hazards don’t cause an immediate injury but injury occurs over time. Examples include hearing damage after repeated exposure to noise or lung damage caused by years of breathing in irritants. Provide protective equipment for these hazards, as well.
Signage is critically important for workplace safety. Signs should designate where it’s safe to walk to avoid hazards and specify the type of protective equipment required in an area. But, don’t rely on signage alone, Enforce the rules designated by the signs.
You need to know how to keep your warehouse safe to comply with regulations, ensure employee satisfaction, and build a positive brand image among customers. Determining the proper safety protocols is sometimes difficult, however. Industry and governmental organizations exist to help you understand how to ensure workplace safety in your operation.
By focusing on workplace safety early and ensuring employees follow established procedures, you shouldn’t have too many accidents. Using each of the above should make sure that no accidents happen at your warehouse.
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