Top Five Warehouse Safety Tips
Across America over 7,000 warehouses employ over 145,000 people and that number is continuing to grow. Manufacturing warehouses store things from raw materials to finished goods and are constantly bustling with new deliveries and shipments leaving their docks. With the amount of activity involved in these warehouses, the potential for worker injury and fatality is higher than the national average for all industries according to OSHA. Solutions to prevent potential harm to warehouse workers can be as simple as putting on non-slip tape for forklifts or more complex, like following best practices when it comes to laying out the warehouses floor plan. By educating yourself on OSHA’s most frequently cited standards in warehousing establishments and understanding the top areas of safety concern, you will be able to help ensure the warehouse you are working in is offering the safest environment to those in it.
- Hazard communication
- Electrical, wiring methods
- Electrical, system design
- Guarding floor & wall openings and holes
- Mechanical power transmission
- Respiratory protection
- Portable fire extinguishers
By consistently assessing the warehouse and keeping lines of communication open with your employees, it will help you to maintain a safe environment. A safe working environment not only means less injuries, but is also key to boosting morale and productivity. We have come up with five simple, yet effective, safety tips regarding warehouse safety.
Our Top 5 Warehouse Safety Tips:
1. Forklift Safety: Following safe procedures while on or around a forklift is #1 for good reason. OSHA explains that about 100 employees are killed and 95,000 injured every year while operating forklifts in all industries. Solutions to improve forklift safety include:
- Educate all forklift operators and make sure they are continually evaluated and certified on forklift safety;
- Ensure steps to the forklift have non-slip strips or non-slip adhesive coating to prevent falling;
- Before use of a forklift, examine it for proper haulage equipment and potentially hazardous conditions;
- The forklift operator should always wear a seatbelt and never exceed 5 mph. Be sure to slow down in areas with slippery surfaces or congestion. Forklift drivers should use extreme caution around docks and dock plates;
- Do not handle any loads heavier than the weight capacity of the forklift;
- Overhead guards are provided in good condition to protect forklift operators from falling objects;
2. Fire Safety: Fire safety within warehouses is extremely important, especially around charging stations. With fire safety codes varying from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, it is important to check with your local fire marshal to ensure you are following proper procedures. If you are not compliant with fire codes it can not only mean endangering those within your warehouse, but potentially a hefty fine. Top tips to ensure fire safety include:
- Make sure you have a process in place to account for all employees and visitors in case of fire emergency;
- Ensure that fire extinguishers are available and fully charged;
- All chemicals are stored according to the manufacturer’s recommendations and local or national fire codes;
- Educate all employees on where fire safety equipment is kept;
- Prohibit smoking and open flames in and around charging stations;
- Provide adequate ventilation to disperse fumes from gassing batteries;
- OSHA requires exit route doors free of decorations or signs that obscure the visibility of exit route doors and that every exit sign required should be suitably illuminated via a reliable source of light. Externally, internally, and photoluminescent illuminated signs are all permissible;
- Exit signs with internal illumination should be listed and comply with the standards of UL 924. UL 924 is the agreed upon standard for power equipment as well as emergency lighting, set by Underwriters Laboratories (an organization devoted to product safety);
3. Materials Handling and Storage: Warehouses are meant to store things and oftentimes items are being moved around. Ensuring materials are handled and stored properly is imperative to prevent them from injuring workers or causing a potential trip and fall accident.
- Train employees to stack loads even and straight, putting heavier loads on the lower shelves
- Remove one object at a time to prevent falling;
- Keep aisles clear of materials to prevent trip and fall accidents;
- Provide proper lighting in storage closets and throughout the warehouse to make finding materials easier and safer;
- Materials are stacked in limited height so they are stable and secure;
4. Manual Lifting and Ergonomics: In some cases, it is not possible to use powered equipment to move items and manual lifting around the warehouse is required. It is important to practice proper lifting and not overexert yourself. According to OSHA, improper lifting, repetitive motion or poor design of operations can lead to musculoskeletal disorders in workers. Some best practices for manual lifting and ergonomics around the warehouse include:
- Ensure grit tape is placed around areas with frequent manual lifting and also on all stairs. This will help prevent slip and fall accidents while lifting;
- Provide employees who will be frequently lifting with ergonomics training;
- Ask a coworker for help if a product is to heavy;
- Make sure you wear proper footwear with non-slip soles;
5. Slip Fall Safety: Besides the four tips listed above, fall protection and safety should not be overlooked. Slip and fall violations are noted throughout the top 10 2017 OSHA violations, including the addition of Fall Protection- Training Requirements (#9), added to the list this year. Some tips to protect warehouse workers from slip and fall accidents include:
- Keep floors clean and free of slip and trip hazards, especially pay attention around corners with blind spots;
- Ensure electrical cords or hoses are properly wrapped up and away from the walking path;
- Offer proper guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems within the warehouse for those involved in activities in heights over 6 feet and/or with unprotected sides or edges to prevent falling from slips;
- Exposed or open loading dock doors and other areas that employees could fall 4 feet or more or walk off should be chained off, roped off or otherwise blocked;
- Utilize grit tape or an adhesive coating around loading docks;
- Ensure all stairs handrails are properly installed and non slip stair treads are in place;
- Ladders should only be used for the purpose for which they were designed in order to prevent slipping, falling, or other injury;
- Ladders should only be used on stable and level surfaces to prevent tipping or falling; Ensure ladders are not defective and offer non-slip adhesive or stair treads to prevent slip and fall accidents.
Lastly, employers should pay special attention in the warehouse to charging stations as fires and explosion risks are possible unless proper guidelines are followed. OSHA recommends that the following solutions be implemented when it comes to your warehouse charging stations:
- Prohibit smoking and open flames in and around charging stations;
- Provide proper personal protective equipment such as rubber gloves and eye and face protection;
- Properly position forklifts and apply brakes before attempting to change or charge batteries; follow required procedures when refueling gas or propane fueled forklifts;
- Provide conveyors, overhead hoists or equivalent materials handling equipment for servicing batteries;
- Provide an eye washing and safety shower facility for employees exposed to battery acids.
By establishing, maintaining and continually improving your warehouses safety programs you will notice higher productivity, increased job satisfaction and stronger employee retention. For example, perhaps forklift re-certification and training has been put on the wayside for old employees. This would be an excellent opportunity for warehouse management to take the lead and organize training for forklift operations to ensure they are re-trained on procedures to prevent accidents. It is important to also re-evaluate your warehouse for potential slip and fall hazards, especially since this is a top citation. Doing a walk-through of your warehouse with employees to review potential slip and fall hazards is an excellent way to engage your team in the process. Empowering your warehouse team to feel comfortable in reporting areas that are less than ideal is important because they are the ones involved in the operations day in and day out. Things that can often be overlooked may include overhead platforms, elevated work stations or where holes are in the floors or walls.
Ensuring your warehouse is a safe place protects your company from OSHA violations and most importantly protects your workers from harm that can come in many different forms. The tips provided are simply a guide. When it comes to warehouse safety it is important to continually be reviewing your processes, equipment and facility. Contact your Jessup Manufacturing representative to discuss how we can help you in regards to slips, trips, falls and fire safety in your warehouse.