In the transportation and warehousing industries in 2020, there were almost 207,000 reported nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The nature of the work makes warehouse employees vulnerable to injuries. Implementing the following warehouse safety tips can help reduce the number of injuries among your employees, so you don’t contribute to those injury statistics.
1. Establish safe procedures
Establishing clear company policies and procedures for various activities in the warehouse helps reduce unsafe behaviors that can lead to injuries. This may include things like using protective equipment, never working alone, wearing the right clothing, inspecting equipment regularly, leaving phones in the locker room and following specific procedures when retrieving something from the warehouse. Evaluate every step of your work processes and create corresponding safety warehouse procedures.
2. Identify risks
Warehouses have many common risks, including heavy machinery, items that can fall, tripping dangers and hazardous materials. Identify specific risks related to those and other categories in your warehouse. Verify that you’re handling those risks properly based on OSHA standards. Determine if you can reduce the risks even more. For example, you might rearrange equipment to eliminate a cord that’s a tripping hazard. Looking at employee grievances about the work environment can also reveal risks you haven’t considered.
3. Create a safe layout
Evaluate your current warehouse layout to determine if it’s as safe as possible. Look for wide, clear passageways that allow equipment and people to move through them safely. Create a separate walkway for people and another for machinery. The setup should be logical and allow employees to complete their tasks easily without getting in the way of each other. Ensure you have secure shelving and equipment that allows inventory to remain safe.
4. Mark hazards clearly
Clear signage and markings alert employees about potential hazards in the warehouse. All hazardous items or storage areas where hazardous items are kept should have easily identifiable warning signs per OSHA requirements. Mark safety equipment like fire extinguishers and automated external defibrillators to make them easy to access in an emergency. Use colorful, reflective tape or paint to mark forklift lanes, steps, drop-offs and other dangerous areas.
5. Provide safety gear
Issue personal protective equipment for your warehouse employees based on the hazards they encounter daily. Examples include hard hats, steel-toe boots, safety goggles, harnesses, gloves and high-visibility vests or jackets. Your employees may not need all of this equipment, so tailor the list to your environment. Establish a dress code policy to ensure your employees wear clothing that reduces their injury risk, such as closed-toe shoes with good traction or no loose-fitting items.
6. Train employees on safety topics
Regular warehouse training keeps safety at the forefront. It’s easy for warehouse employees to take shortcuts or fall into old habits if you train them once and forget about it. Don’t wait until an accident reminds you to schedule warehouse training. Establish new-hire and additional safety training to occur throughout the year for all employees.
7. Hold safety meetings
Touching base with daily meetings gives you a chance to review warehouse safety rules with employees. It’s also a good time to discuss things you’ve noticed people doing that aren’t safe. Address the issues generally instead of calling out individuals in these meetings. You can also share new warehouse safety tips as needed and allow employees to ask questions or share their concerns.
8. Require certifications and training for equipment use
If your warehouse uses heavy equipment, establish certification and training requirements for people who operate those machines. All forklift operators should have a forklift certification, for example. It might be tempting to have someone jump in to do a quick task, but this puts everyone at risk. To avoid this problem, you could have everyone certified on the equipment and hold regular refresher courses on how to use it safely.
9. Do drills regularly
Warehouses can be dangerous in emergencies, such as fires or severe weather events. Finding your way out of the warehouse can be tricky, and shelves full of inventory can present a danger in those situations. Test fire and smoke alarms regularly as well as emergency lighting that will help employees get out in case of an emergency. Do practice drills at least once every three months or more often based on the local fire code. If your warehouse has hazardous materials in it, having more frequent drills is important, since the risks are higher.
10. Establish reporting procedures
Create procedures for reporting accidents in the warehouse. These reports help you follow up on incidents to ensure your employees received proper care and an adequate response. Review the reports regularly to look for patterns and determine ways to improve warehouse safety.
11. Emphasize cleanliness
Many warehouse accidents can be prevented by keeping the workplace clean and organized. Wet spots, cords and obstructions in walkways can lead to injuries. Train employees to clean up wet spots immediately and use wet floor signs when necessary during cleaning. Loading docks can become wet easily in bad weather, so emphasize this risk to employees. Train workers to clean as they go instead of letting clutter build up throughout the day.
12. Inspect things regularly
Everything in the warehouse needs to be inspected regularly to ensure it’s in good condition. Create inspection checklists for each shift to look at forklifts, personal protective equipment, machinery and other gear that employees use regularly. Have a reporting process for issues discovered during these inspections.
13. Practice communication
Clear and timely communication can help prevent injuries and accidents. Establish expectations and processes for communicating things like safety hazards. For example, all employees should know about a dangerous spill in a main pathway or a forklift that isn’t working properly. Employees communicating with supervisors also ensure they learn about accidents and hazards, so they can better control the situation.
14. Encourage employee care
Don’t push employees too hard in the name of increased productivity. Ensure your workers get proper breaks and stay hydrated to keep them alert and focused. Employees who try to meet unrealistic quotas are more likely to rush, make mistakes or lose focus, which can lead to injuries and accidents. Remind employees to stay focused on the job by not using their phones or getting distracted by chatting with coworkers while they’re working in the warehouse.
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