The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that more than 145,000 individuals work in warehouses. You may think that your industrial warehouse is relatively safe; after all, it is not a construction site or power plant. But the rate of fatalities in warehouse work exceeds the average for all industries combined. Look at these tips that cover seven critical areas for improving your warehouse safety.
1. Only Use Trained Equipment Operators
This is number one on OSHA’s list for warehouse violations. Your forklift operators must be trained and certified. Operators must know their equipment and know how to make sure it is well maintained. Powered equipment that is not serviced properly is a hazard by itself.
Working around loading docks involves using caution. Place visual warnings near dock edges to prevent accidents. Have an employee assigned to guide operators when they are loading on or off trucks in a dock.
2. Make Sure the Aisles are Wide Enough
When you use powered equipment in your warehouse, the aisles between your shelving systems must be wide enough for safe operations. Operators also need to be able to turn or back up equipment safely. Consider installing mirrors to improve the view around corners or other areas where visibility may be reduced.
3. Keep it Well Lit
Your industrial warehouse should not be a dark cave. If workers cannot see what they are doing, accidents will happen. Equipment operators require proper lighting to avoid running into obstacles. Remember that areas between rows of shelving need overhead light. These sections are often too dark for clear visibility.
4. Have a Hazard Plan
Even a simple water spill can turn your warehouse floor into a hazard area. A program must be in place to mark wet floors and clean up spills quickly. Have cleanup kits readily available throughout your facility. Depending on the nature of the items you stock in your warehouse, you may need to take many additional steps.
Chemical spills create contact, breathing and fire hazards. MSDS sheets are required for all materials in your warehouse. All employees need to understand procedures for dealing with chemical spills and the correct containment steps. Storing chemicals correctly is critical and fireproof cabinets are often required for safety.
5. Do Not Overload Shelves
Improperly stocking or loading shelves is high on the list for potential safety hazards. Do not exceed weight limits for shelving. Do not let your workers stock items haphazardly. Items stacked incorrectly may fall from shelving, injuring anyone below the shelf. The heaviest loads should always be placed on the lowest shelves.
Excess weight place on one shelf can cause a collapse. When one shelf buckles, the weight falls to the shelf below and creates a chain reaction. You should also take the time to make sure that all of your storage systems are sufficiently anchored. A shelf should not fall over if a worker accidentally bumps into it.
6. Know Where Safety Equipment is Located
Your workers must know how to use personal protective equipment and have access to it when needed. If safety glasses or gloves are required for work, your employees must actually use them. Having protective equipment locked up is not a solution. First aid stations need to be maintained, marked correctly and easy to access.
7. Use the Correct Lifting Techniques
Injuries attributed to repetitive motion are just as serious as those that come from assembly line work. Employees require training in the correct lifting techniques to prevent what could become a serious back injury.
Long periods standing in one place on a concrete floor can cause discomfort. If the work at a station requires standing, consider installing a padded rubber mat. Ergonomics should also be considered for workers seated at computer stations. The incorrect placement of a monitor may lead to neck strain.
The steps you need to take to keep your industrial warehouse safe are not difficult. The difficult part is often following through and making sure that all employees follow the regulations set in place. Highlight the importance of a safe working environment and the fact that working safely will lead to better performance and production.
Jerry Matos, Product Specialist at Cherry’s Industrial Equipment, the industry-leading provider of industrial equipment for the material handling industry.