Today, more than 1.8 million Americans work in warehouses, which is an increase of 180% since 2010. A higher number of employees in warehouses increases the chances that workplace illnesses, fatalities, or injuries will occur.
If you want to take steps to keep these incidents from taking place, it’s highly recommended that you eliminate the hazards early on. One way to do so is by reinforcing safe work habits with your warehouse personnel. The following guide details 15 of the most important safety topics that should be focal points in your next meeting.
The Importance of Warehouse Safety Guidelines
Warehouse safety involves a lengthy set of guidelines and best practices that should help your personnel maintain a safe work environment. Once these guidelines are in place, safe behavior among employees should be reinforced. There are many reasons why your warehouse should implement safety guidelines, the primary of which is because the fatal injury rate in this industry is above the average for every industry in the U.S.
Even when a warehouse has a modern design that puts safety at the forefront, these facilities are oftentimes filled with hazards that mainly occur because employees aren’t adhering to safe warehouse practices. Understanding some of the more common warehouse hazards should help you reduce the number of injuries that occur in your facility.
Another benefit of improving warehouse safety is that productivity and efficiency should improve. If employees are able to work in a safe and secure environment, they should find it easier to perform their tasks without being concerned about possible hazards. In this scenario, employees should work more efficiency, which means that performance and productivity will also be high. In your next meeting with personnel, the following safety topics should be brought up.
Employee Training and Education
Among the most crucial aspects of warehouse safety involves employee training and education. When employees are aware of how to identify hazards and how to maintain a safe workplace environment, there’s less of a risk of warehouse injuries or illnesses taking place.
Employees should undergo regular training sessions to ensure that everyone’s on the same page. Make sure that all safety guidelines and emergency procedures are posted in visible spaces around the warehouse. If an employee forgets something about the safety guidelines, all they need to do is reference one of the visible posters in the facility.
You should also take steps to provide your personnel with the proper equipment and tools that will make their jobs safer. Without this equipment, workplace incidents are more likely.
Housekeeping and Maintenance
A messy and cluttered warehouse is unsafe for anyone who works there, which is why the space should be regularly cleaned and organized. Personnel need to move from aisle to aisle without coming across obstacles or hazards.
All materials and pieces of equipment that are kept in your warehouse should be properly stored. Improper storage increases the chances of fall hazards and other issues. Any material handling equipment in your facility should be regularly inspected and maintained to identify and fix small issues before they cause injuries or fatalities.
Loading Dock Safety
Loading dock safety is another topic of interest when it comes to warehouse safety. Just like every other warehouse employee, dock workers should receive the proper training and education they need to perform their jobs safely.
They should also know how to maintain loading dock equipment and keep it in good working condition. Dock workers need to have access to the right personal protective equipment, which can include everything from high-visibility jackets to safety goggles.
Material Handling Safety
Material handling in a warehouse involves storing, moving, and protecting all of the products and materials that are stored there. During these tasks, personnel will use a selection of manual and semi-automatic equipment to make sure that the materials are handled with care.
Your personnel should have access to the equipment and tools they need to perform material handling tasks without incident. Anyone who’s set to work with this equipment should receive proper training before they do so. To keep hazards and mistakes at bay, post clear guidelines for material handling procedures at various points around the warehouse.
If your warehouse isn’t properly set up to accommodate a fire, all of the products and materials you store could be at risk of being damaged or lost altogether. Your warehouse personnel could also be in danger if your facility doesn’t currently take fire safety into account. Numerous fire prevention systems should be installed to reduce the likelihood that a fire will develop.
You should also take some time to train employees on fire safety and conduct routine fire drills. If any flammable materials are being kept in your warehouse, your personnel should take proper care when handling and storing these materials.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Personal protective equipment (PPE) should be available to every employee who works in your warehouse or on the loading dock. As mentioned previously, high-visibility jackets and safety goggles are essential. The jackets allow employees to be visible by forklift drivers and other equipment operators.
While the first step in keeping your employees safe is to make sure they have access to the PPE they need, you should also ensure the proper use of PPE, which is done with education. This equipment should also be regularly inspected and replaced.
Regardless of where your warehouse is located, there’s always a chance of an emergency. In this scenario, your main goal should be to keep your personnel safe. To do so, emergency procedures should be developed and posted around the warehouse. If you want to be certain that your employees know how to react in the event of an emergency, conduct regular training and emergency drills for all personnel. Any emergency equipment and supplies that are located on site need to be maintained.
Although it might appear to be slightly less important than other topics in this guide, ergonomics have proven to be essential in many workplaces across a wide range of industries. Warehouse employees are often asked to perform heavy lifting. It’s important that they have the training needed to use the right lifting techniques that will allow them to avoid hurting themselves and others.
The warehouse safety program you develop should include a section about warehouse ergonomics. Along with lifting techniques, employees should also be reminded on how to maintain the correct posture. Your employees should have access to ergonomic equipment and tools that make their jobs easier and less stressful on the body. The ergonomic practices in your warehouse should be regularly evaluated to determine if any additional improvements can be made.
Security is an area of concern that should be addressed in your facility’s safety manual. For instance, access to the warehouse may need to be limited to the personnel who work there if you want to avoid stolen items and workplace incidents. Installing alarm systems and security cameras can also help you bolster security keep incidents at a minimum. Make sure that you conduct extensive background checks on every employee you hire.
When hazardous materials are stored in your facility, it’s essential that everyone who works there knows what they are dealing with. For one, all hazardous materials should be accompanied by clear hazard signage.
Provide your employees with material safety data sheets (MSDS) as well. These sheets include detailed information on everything from the properties of a chemical to protective measures that should be taken when handling the materials. Any employee who’s set to work with hazardous materials should receive proper training on how to best handle them.
The electrical system in your warehouse should be regularly inspected and maintained if you want to ensure your employees remain safe. Keep in mind that electrical problems can cause fires. If some of your employees are tasked with using electrical equipment, they should be given proper training before doing so. Clear guidelines on electrical safety procedures should be posted as well.
Among the most important aspects of warehouse safety is traffic safety. It’s not easy for forklift operators to see anyone who’s in their path, which is why traffic safety should be a central component of your warehouse safety manual. Make sure that clear signage for vehicle and pedestrian traffic is posted all throughout the facility.
Vehicle operators should also receive ample training that allows them to keep workplace incidents at a minimum. Speed limits and other types of traffic regulations should be enforced with substantial penalties if you want your personnel to adhere to them.
Along with material handling, your safety manual should also focus on environmental safety and how to properly dispose of hazardous materials. Improper disposal could result in hazardous chemicals being released into the environment.
All of the environmental systems in your warehouse should be regularly inspected and maintained. You should also adhere to all environmental regulations and guidelines. The EPA maintains extensive environmental guidelines that you might want to brush up on.
Proper warehouse safety starts at the top. When you manage a warehouse of any size, you should set a positive example for your employees. If they see you following the guidelines and regulations in the safety manual, they are more liable to follow them as well.
You should also take steps to provide your employees with the necessary resources on safety measures. If an employee doesn’t understand one of the guidelines, it should be easy for them to find more information on it. Encourage open communication about any safety concerns your employees might have.
Why Choose QMH?
At QMH, our team has more than 30 years of experience with material handling. Over the years, we’ve worked with many clients to address safety concerns and implement the best solutions. If you have any questions about warehouse safety topics and guidelines, our comprehensive knowledge of these topics allows us to give you the answers you seek. Call us today to learn more.