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8/5/21 6:00 AM Guest Blogger: John Lewis

With the pandemic-related e-commerce boom still in full swing, warehouses are busier than ever, and taking your eye off the ball when it comes to safety and organization is not an option.

 

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 683,000 people work in some form of warehouse setting, with roles ranging from order fillers, material movers, and machinery operators. In 2015, there were 765 recorded fatalities in the transportation and warehousing sector (with trucking accounting for 617). By 2019, the annual figure rose to 914, presenting a worrying upward trend.

 

It is more important than ever to ensure that your warehouse environment is optimally safe for your staff. Here is a practical guide to ensuring that your warehouse meets the safety and organizational codes as set out by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

 

OSHA considers 10 standards when it comes to assessing practical warehouse safety. These are:

  1. Hazard Communication

  2. Forklifts

  3. Exits

  4. Electrical - Wiring Methods

  5. Electrical - System Design

  6. Mechanical Power Transmission

  7. Guarding Wall And Floor Openings And Holes

  8. Lockout/Tagout/LOTO

  9. Respiratory Protection

  10. Portable Fire Extinguishers

 

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

You are required to provide all employees with appropriate PPE. Common types of PPE include:

  • High-Visibility jJckets

  • Hard Hats

  • Safety Boots (with steel-toe caps)

  • Safety Goggles or Glasses

  • Safety Gloves

  • Overalls

 

As outlined in OSHA’s PPE brochure, every employer is required to:

  • Provide the necessary PPE to all employees.

  • Train each employee on the proper use and care of their PPE.

  • Maintain all PPE and replace items as needed.

 

How To Turn Your Safety Program Into A Full Blown Safety Culture

 

Safety Signage

Warehouses are required to display mandatory safety signage, as per OSHA’s signage guidelines. This guide informs employers as to which types of signs they must post, where to place them and exactly how they should look and read.

 

Safety signs for warehouses fall into the following categories: general safety, notice, fire safety, admittance, and non-hazard. Within each category, all signs are issued with one of three classification levels:

  • Danger signs: these alert employees to the most dangerous of hazards

  • Warning signs: these signs point out areas of a potential hazard that do not require as much caution as dangerous areas

  • Caution signs: this highlights any areas that could cause minor damage or injuries but where caution should still be exercised.

 

Safety Checklists

Keeping track of all the safety requirements of a warehouse can feel daunting. Using checklists can help to ensure that everything stays up to code and optimally safe. Here are some key examples to add to your checklist:

  • The OSHA Worker Safety Series: Warehousing covers general safety, materials handling, forklift safety, and hazard communication, so utilize this resource when formulating your safety checklists.

  • Forklifts: Because this machinery is part of the daily operation of a warehouse, it is essential that they are well-maintained and that all workers receive comprehensive training on how to operate them safely.

  • Walkthrough: Make a walkthrough checklist to action once a month, covering general warehouse spaces, equipment, general safety, sanitation, and docks - both interior and exterior.

  • Ergonomics: Ensure that your employees use all appropriate ergonomics as they undertake their duties to further protect their health.

 

Safety And Organizational Rules And Tips

The more organized you are, the less you need to worry. It is essential to the smooth running of a warehouse to ensure that your safety protocols are in place, and that your second priority be that of general organization. The more organized your operation, the safer it will be, as well as more efficient and therefore, more profitable.

 

Ensure that, in addition to your primary safety plan, you consider all aspects of the smooth running of your warehouse for maximum efficiency and to support the maintenance of high standards of safety. Organizational warehouse and distribution products such as steel barriers, specialty safety stanchions, and retractable belt barriers can all play a vital role in managing areas and employees, thus heightening overall safety measures.

 

To further assist you in creating your own safety management plan, here are some further warehouse safety tips to consider:

  1. All floors and aisles must remain clear of any trip hazards.

  2. Chain-off, rope-off, or otherwise block-off any open docks where a fall of 4 or more feet could be avoided.

  3. Ensure that all new employees receive appropriate ergonomic safety training.

  4. Allow plenty of rest breaks and make sure that your employees are always assigned realistic and attainable goals.

  5. Keep your warehouse well-ventilated.

  6. Train your employees for safely working in extremes of temperature.

  7. Instruct and train employees on how to handle natural disasters, fires, and other emergencies.

  8. Maintain and uphold all tagout/lockout procedures.

  9. Install emergency pull cords or buttons for conveyors at every employee workstation.

  10. Train all of your employees in recognizable safety terminology and vernacular.

 

Final Thoughts

Creating a culture of safety goes a long way to ensuring the safety of your staff and your warehouse’s productivity. This safety culture must be reinforced by all management levels, particularly owners and other executives.

 

Ensuring a safe working warehouse environment starts with developing a unique safety plan that covers all aspects of your warehouse and applies to all staff members. It should be expected that resources of both time and money are required to implement safety standards, and these should willingly be included in the overall operation’s budget.

 

It is important as an employer to remember that safe employees are also more productive and that they are more likely to stay and remain loyal to the company if they feel that their safety is prioritized.

 

How To Turn Your Safety Program Into A Full Blown Safety Culture