Warehouse Safety 101
May 31st, 2016
Written By: Jessica Kane
Safety is very important when working in a warehouse because there are so many different ways to get injured. Regardless of the size of the warehouse or the number of employees, a focus on safety and creating a safe workplace is essential.
There are certain common mistakes that may be made by both veteran warehouse workers and rookies. Even warehouse supervisors can commit some of the errors. It is important to remember that safety in a warehouse is not just about the protection of employees, it is about the protection of the business as well; overlooking something as simple as a sign can result in a lawsuit that costs millions of dollars.
Below is a guide to basic warehouse safety that can help you to keep your employees and your business safe:
- Keep Your Warehouse Clean
Ideally, your warehouse should be in pristine condition at all times and well lit. Not only will this improve worker safety, it will improve the efficiency of your operations as well. Aisles should be kept free of obstacles such as empty pallets, boxes and shrink-wrap. shelving should be well organized and properly labeled so that daily activities can proceed smoothly. Everything in your warehouse should have a place and all items should ultimately be in their place.
- Prioritize Dock Safety
There are numerous hazards associated with this part of your warehouse including the potential for items falling on employees and forklifts running off the dock. Basic dock safety tips include:
- Forklifts should be driven slowly when on the dock and dock plates.
- Forklifts should never back up to the edge of the dock.
- Dock plates should be secured and checked to ensure that they can support the load safely.
- There should be visual warnings posted near dock edges.
- Employees should be prohibited from jumping off the dock.
- Ladders and stairs on the dock should meet OSHA specifications.
- Improve Forklift Safety
According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are 100 workers killed annually in forklift accidents and another 20,000 suffer serious injuries. Overturning forklifts are the leading cause of forklift-related fatalities and are responsible for about a quarter of the deaths. You can help to prevent forklift accidents by following these tips:
- Ensure that all forklift operators are trained, evaluated and certified. They should know how to operate forklifts safely.
- Prohibit forklift operation by anyone under 18.
- Ensure that all parts of your forklifts are properly maintained, including their tires. Forklifts should be inspected for any issues that would make operation unsafe.
- Safety procedures for picking up and stacking loads should be followed rigorously.
- Forklifts should never be driven at speeds above 5 mph. They should also be driven more slowly in tight spaces and on slippery surfaces.
- There should be safe clearances for aisles, passages and loading docks.
- A forklift should never be used to lift loads that are heavier than its weight capacity.
- Ensure that Materials are Stored Properly
When materials are not stored properly, there is the risk that they could fall and injure workers. Follow these tips for proper storage:
- Loads should stacked evenly.
- Middle and lower shelves should be used to store heavier loads. Not only will this make it easier to access items on the shelves, it can prevent a chain reaction collapse where the top shelf collapses and the weight falls to the shelf below causing that shelf to collapse as well.
- Only one object at a time should be removed from shelves.
- Ensure that the storage racks and shelving that you use are strong enough to support the weight of the items stored on them. Overloaded shelves are high on the list of warehouse dangers. Excess weight can cause shelving to collapse.
- Each shelf should be properly anchored so that it is not in danger of falling over because a worker bumps into it.
- Avoid Manual Lifting Injuries
Manual lifting can cause back injuries as a result of improper lifting techniques and overexertion. To prevent these issues, use the following guidelines:
- Employees should consider whether a heavy item needs to be lifted at all. If it does, tools should be used to lift whenever possible. These tools include pallet jacks, hand trucks and forklifts.
- Look for a bill of lading that indicates the weight of the object or test it to see how heavy it is. Decide on the proper lifting method only after its weight has been ascertained.
- When carrying an item, the shortest possible route should be taken.
- The body should not be twisted to change direction when carrying a heavy object; instead, direction should be changed by shifting the feet.
- Ensure Proper Hazard Communication
If hazardous materials spill, chemical burns and other injuries are possible. Follow these guidelines:
- A material data safety sheet (MSDS) for each of the chemicals to which warehouse employees are exposed should be maintained.
- Instructions on the MSDS for handling chemicals should be followed.
- Employees should receive training on the risks associated with each of the chemicals stored in the warehouse.
- There should be kits for cleaning up spills that are kept in areas where chemicals are stored.
- There should be a written plan for cleaning up spills and employees should be trained on appropriate methods for cleaning them up. They should also learn the correct ways to dispose of materials and for protecting themselves.
- All chemicals should be stored securely and away from areas where there is forklift traffic.
These are just some ways to make sure that you make warehouse safety a priority. All employees should practice caution when in a warehouse setting to avoid accidents and risks of injury. By working together, you can ensure that a warehouse is a safe environment for everyone working there.
Jessica Kane is a professional writer who has an interest in keeping things organized and in order. She currently writes for FlexCon, a leading vendor of corrugated plastic bins and boxes.
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