Learn about warehouse hazards, the fundamentals of warehouse safety, and tips on how to improve warehouse safety.
Maintaining a safe place of work, so far as reasonably practical, is a legal requirement. In order to ensure and maintain a safe place of work, employers must implement adequate safety measures. These include training, instruction, and educating employees on how to properly perform tasks, providing good equipment, and supervision. The benefits of providing a safe place of work are numerous and include improved employee health and well-being, greater employee productivity, lower employee absenteeism, and fewer workplace injuries and workers’ compensation claims. Therefore, having sound workplace health and safety policies and implementing safety procedures is essential to maintaining a safe workplace.
What is warehouse safety?
Warehouse Safety can be defined as prescriptive legislation, codes of practice, standards, policies, procedures, and plans that systematically manage health and safety at work and can help to minimise the risk of injury and illness from workplace operations. Under Workplace Health and Safety laws, everyone has a role to play in achieving workplace safety.
Importance of Warehouse Safety
If warehouse work activities are not adequately controlled, a business can face serious consequences, such as high employee turnover, underperforming employees, injuries and illnesses, lost workdays, legal issues, and in extreme cases, death.
Safework Australia’s statistical report highlights that the transport, postal, and warehousing sector is one of the riskiest with 52 fatalities in 2021 with a fatality rate of 7.9 per 100,000 workers. While it would be impossible to completely eliminate the risk of accidents and injuries in warehouse operations, there are procedures and steps than can be taken to reduce the risks of serious workplace accidents and workplace fatalities.
Warehouse safety is not only crucial for incident and injury prevention but also crucial for productivity and profitability. Introducing warehouse safety to your warehouse operation is more than meeting legislative compliance.
The Basics of Warehouse Safety
Maintaining a safe warehouse is everyone’s responsibility. Effective communication between management and employees is paramount in prioritizing health and safety. Incorporating regular team safety talks makes it easier for employees to voice safety concerns.
Some of the basics of maintaining a safe warehouse include:
Conduct workplace inspections on a regular basis.
Make sure all equipment and tools are safe, serviced on a regular basis (if needed), and in proper working order.
give employees clear instructions and proper training on how to carry out their work safely
Establish a procedure for hazard, incident, and injury reporting
consult employees regarding ideas to foster a healthy working environment
communicate expected workplace behaviors and conduct for the prevention of bullying, harassment, and violence
plan and test emergency procedures
develop a traffic management plan.
To learn more about maintaining a safe workplace you can visit SafeWork SA.
Education, Training & Instruction
It is important that all employees receive education, training, and instruction. This also includes refresher courses as it is important and stay up to date with safe practices in the workplace. With this, employees will be able to follow safe work procedures more accurately. Many workplace incidents are due to employees taking shortcuts in order to save time. If warehouse employees, including supervisors, are informed about the potential drawbacks of taking shortcuts, safe work procedures will be followed more carefully.
Forklift operations often create a dangerous environment due to their large size and the close proximity to pedestrian traffic when they are being used. This makes for some of the most serious kinds of accidents. Drivers can become too accustomed to operating forklifts in the warehouse environment which in some cases can lead to complacency and jeopardize safety.
Forklift incidents can be generally divided into two types: crashing into something or the incorrect handling of materials. In the first case, the forklift, other vehicles, and storage racks may sustain harm. The worst-case situation involves a pedestrian being struck, which in most cases causes serious injuries. The incorrect handling of materials is often attributed to an insecure load or forklift operation with the load at height, leading to damaged goods, waste, and a danger of the forklift tipping, putting both the forklift operator and individuals nearby at risk.
In Australia, a person operating a forklift truck is required to hold a forklift truck high-risk work (HRW) license. Licensed, trained, and competent forklift operators should complete refresher training to enforce proper forklift operation and avoid complacency and bad habits.
Where forklifts operate with other forklifts, vehicles, or pedestrians a traffic management plan (TMP) should be developed. A TMP details how the risks associated with traffic are being managed in the warehouse. The TMP should be regularly monitored and reviewed to ensure it remains effective and account for changes in the workplace. To learn more about developing a TMP follow this link to SafeWork Australia’s traffic management guide.
Warehouse employees often carry out heavy lifting on a regular basis, which is why it’s essential to provide them with training on correct lifting techniques to prevent injuries to themselves and others. A warehouse safety system should go into detail about ergonomics in the workplace. As well as teaching employees how to use lifting equipment properly, and reminding them of how to maintain the correct posture in general.
To reduce injuries, it is essential to assess the risk from specific activities that go on in the warehouse. It is essential for all warehouse employees to be aware of their physical capacity for work.
While training is necessary, warehouses still need to organise work to reduce the risk of a workplace injury. Further, using lifting aids, and other mechanical aids, such as wrapping machines may help reduce the risk of strains and sprains and other manual handling injuries.
Slip, Trips & Falls
Warehouse injuries are often caused by slips, trips, and falls. The main cause of these incidents includes slippery or uneven floors, trip hazards (debris and power cords in walkways), spills not properly cleaned up, powders, grease, and other lubricants. Additionally, obstacles, protruding nails, floor openings, lack of awareness of environmental hazards, and inadequate footwear can pose significant problems to warehouse workers.
Educating employees is essential to help reduce the risk of a serious incident and make the workspace accessible and safe. All warehouse employees should know how to manage any spills, the value of appropriate work footwear, and the wearing of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Anti-slip paint or antislip adhesive tape can be used in high-risk areas to reduce the risk of slips. Spills need to be cleaned up as soon as they occur and walkways and pedestrian access need to be kept clear and workplace inspections need to occur frequently to identify hazards.
In warehouses, it is typical to place materials on racking and shelves. The risk of something falling increases as the shelves get higher, so it’s essential that everything is securely fastened in place, particularly when stored at elevated levels. Safe racking will help ensure materials are not damaged and protect those below. Materials can also be transported through stacker trucks or other suitable equipment. Conducting frequent racking inspections can help with safety that includes at a minimum:
appropriate load signs are installed,
beams, base plates, leveling plates, frames, and splices are intact and suitable,
any loose, missing, or dislodged racking components are replaced,
pallets are appropriate for the environment they are used, and
any modifications made have been done so not as to affect the structural integrity of the racking system.
Hazardous chemicals are substances, mixtures, and articles that can pose a health or physical hazard to humans and the environment. They may be solids, liquids, or gases. Even when not in use, chemicals can still pose a risk. Flammable and oxidising chemicals may cause or contribute to a fire. Corrosive chemicals can injure people and damage property and structures they come into contact with. Toxic chemicals can poison people who are exposed to them. Compressed gases can also suffocate or poison workers if they leak.
A hazard communication program should be developed when hazardous chemicals are present in warehouses. An effective hazard communication program needs to educate employees on the recognition and control of hazardous chemicals, the storage and removal of hazardous chemicals, and the use of PPE.
It is important for supervisors and other employees to be knowledgeable about hazard inspections, as well as the proper handling and storage of hazardous chemicals. To learn more about hazardous chemicals in the workplace download Safe Work Australia’sManaging Risks of Storing Chemicals in the Workplace.
Fires pose a severe hazard to employees, materials, facilities, and the environment. Flammable materials often found in a warehouse include cardboard, plastic, wood, and highly flammable chemicals. Incidents, faulty wiring, and unsafe plant and equipment can all start a fire unexpectedly.
To reduce the risk of a fire, ensure buildings meet the requirements of the building code, plant and equipment meets the required code or standard, and carry out routine reviews to make sure all buildings conform to fire safety regulations; such as having visible emergency exits. well-maintained and tested fire extinguishers and alarms and sprinkler systems are tested and maintained.
Thermographic scanning can identify hot spots on electrical boards, wiring, or other potential heat sources where overloading may occur. Flammable materials and anything else posing a fire danger should be separated as much as possible from ignition sources. Finally, evacuation and fire drills need to be conducted regularly, and if possible organise the fire brigade to visit the warehouse to offer assistance in fire protection.
Loading docks are a high-traffic area in any warehouse and have many of the common warehouse hazards. Trucks, forklifts, pedestrians, and other warehouse operations are all present in the loading dock area. Further, they are often noisy, busy, and congested. Loading docks have the potential for incidents with severe outcomes.
To reduce the risk of serious incidents locate all points of interaction between forklifts, vehicles, and pedestrians in the loading dock and alter the layout to reduce encounters. Individuals entering the area should be aware of the hazard of not being noticed by forklift operators. Conversely, forklift operators must know where pedestrians are located for these designated walkways are essential.
Parked trucks and trailers should be immobilised by securely chocking tires. Further, when vehicles are being loaded or unloaded they should be parked up correctly, immobilised and prevented from moving by fitting a locking device that will ensure the trailer will not separate from the dock accidentally. Drivers should remove the keys from the vehicle, place them in a key press, and wait in a designated safe area while their vehicle is being loaded or unloaded. Loading docks are a complex area and to maintain a safe environment optimum control is required.
To help with warehouse safety you should:
provide a safe work environment
provide and maintain safe machinery and structures
provide safe ways of working
ensure safe use, handling, and storage of machinery, structures, and substances
provide and maintain adequate facilities
provide any information, training, instruction, or supervision needed for safety
monitor the health of workers and conditions at the workplace.
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DIGI CLIP will allow you to remove paper reporting from your business – no more lost, late missing, or illegible checklists. The DIGI CLIP mobile app allows images, comments and digital signatures to be added to checklists from a phone or tablet.
DIGI CLIP has a Form Library where you can access all of the above forms and more for your use. All checklists and inspections can be edited or updated to meet your risk and operational requirements.
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