Safety hazards are present in every workplace, whether your day is spent handling heavy machinery, working with chemicals or even sitting for hours in a cubicle. Warehouses are particularly hazardous environments, with employees exposed to heavy machinery and toxic materials.
Stats New Zealand reports that five per cent of work-related injury claims in 2017 were from accidents in the transport, postal and warehousing industries. If you’re a warehouse owner, manager or safety officer, you have an opportunity to reduce this number with better safety measures in your workplace.
Here are a few measures you can take to prevent injuries and accidents, as well as help ensure that your warehouse is safer:
Find areas to improve warehouse ergonomics
Floor-level lifting, stretching to reach loads above or below arm level and putting people in positions that require excessive bending and stretching for long periods of time can increase the risk of employee injury.
To make your warehouse operations safer and more efficient, improve your warehouse ergonomics. Start with a warehouse safety inspection list to check for potential hazards in every area. For instance, health and safety officers should check the current warehouse workflow for repetitive motion. If a specific function requires constant reaching for, lifting or constant carrying, the practice may need to be revised.
The warehouse may benefit from utilising specific technology to perform such repetitive tasks, as these could lead to physical strain and injury. If your floor space and racking systems allow it, consider using forklifts and hydraulic dollies to lift and move items that require considerable effort from a worker.
Health and safety officers must work towards reducing forceful exertion. They can redesign lifting tasks to ensure that anyone can carry the load, no matter how their bodies are built. This concept reduces vigorous exertion and enables more employees to carry out the task.
Prevent slips, trips and falls
Work Safe New Zealand reports that slips, trips and falls are among the most common injuries for workers. These incidents can cause severe damage to ankles, knees and backs, which may lead to long-term problems affecting quality of life. Falls, even from low heights may cause serious injuries or death. Many slips, trips and falls can be prevented and there are cost-effective solutions that can be implemented in the workplace to minimise or control these risks.
Work Safe recommends that employees must keep their respective work and access areas clear. Personnel must take time to tidy up after they finish their work. Management must also ensure that designated walkways are provided with good conditions underfoot, with appropriate signs and lighting.
When you need to move a box or crate, it is critical to determine the most suitable option for its movement. Again, instead of carrying heavy or unwieldy loads, mechanical lifting aids can be utilised so as not to block one’s view ahead. But if the most viable method is lifting the load by hand, safe lifting techniques must be practised. Train your employees to check their route first to ensure no obstacles are in the way and there is ample space to drop off the load at its destination. Encourage them to follow best practices, such as pushing the load rather than pulling it and squatting down to pick up boxes or crates safely.
Site Safe also recommends doing the Step Back 5 x 5 job safety activity: to take 5 steps back and spend 5 minutes planning the job. It also entails asking five questions:
- What will I be doing?
- What are the hazards?
- Which equipment do I need?
- How can I get hurt?
- What if something unexpected happens?
Use appropriate signage wherever possible
Signage can significantly help improve warehouse safety. Use signage to provide safety tips for warehouse workers and warn them of potential hazards, such as wet floors or broken equipment.
Don’t just place signage in the storage area. Maximise the opportunity to foster a culture of safety in your workplace by posting signage wherever necessary, including break rooms, kitchens and offices.
With visible signage about safety and emergency procedures, your employees are constantly reminded of what to do in certain situations. This also helps eliminate any excuses for not following warehouse safety policies and procedures, reducing the risk of employee inju