When it comes to warehouse safety, there are often just two mindsets: “We’re already doing things just fine,” and “I know we take shortcuts, but nobody’s gotten hurt yet.” However a full and honest appraisal of your warehouse safety procedures is always a good idea.
You may think you’re doing things just fine – and perhaps you are – but what about the rest of the crew? Safety is a team effort, and if somebody’s not following proper procedures, or perhaps isn’t aware of proper procedures, that puts everybody in jeopardy. And even if nobody’s gotten hurt yet, does that mean there won’t be an accident next month? Or tomorrow? Or even later today?
When it comes to safety, it only takes one lapse in judgment to make people see how seriously they should have been taking things.
And, by that point, it’s too late.
Here are five tips for warehouse safety that you and your crew should already be practicing, but of course warehouse safety doesn’t end here. Consider this a good starting point.
1) Eliminate Slip and Trip Hazards
Obvious? It should be, but it isn’t always. As much as “eliminating slip and trip hazards” should be common sense, we find them everywhere. Items plugged in leave cords stretched across the floor, and items unplugged leave dangling ones. Tools are set on the floor for “just a second,” and can easily bring another employee down for the count. Did you just use a pencil to mark something and leave it on a shelf or on top of a box? If so, it’s a matter of time before it rolls onto the floor and becomes a hazard. What about cracks or pits in your garage flooring? Those can bring you down as well, or cause a forklift to go unbalanced and tip its load. So before you shrug off slip and trip hazards as being too obvious, take a careful look at your warehouse. You might be surprised.
2) Use the Safety Equipment You Already Have
Another common sense tip, right? Maybe, and maybe not. Do you always use forklifts or hydraulic dollies to lift items that are too heavy? Are there always the appropriate number of people carrying heavy items? Do you wear hardhats, eyewear and other safety equipment at all times when they are required? If so, consider yourself in the minority. If not, start using them. They’re there for a reason, and spending a few additional seconds putting on the proper equipment will save a lot of time, money and hardship down the line. In addition to those safety issues, we’ve also heard of warehouse operators who block their sprinkler heads with inventory, render their emergency exits inaccessible with poorly-placed items and equipment, and even disable the backup sirens on their forklifts because they’re “annoying.” That may sound funny to you, but it can mean the difference between a normal business day and serious damage or injury. Make sure you’re using your safety equipment correctly, and that it’s usable, accessible and properly maintained. Your staff deserves it, and so do you.
3) Clearly Delineate Hazard Zones
Where is your most dangerous equipment? You should know the answer to that question, and, of course, we’re sure you do. But are your hazard zones clearly marked? Where is it safe to walk without being in danger from lifts or other machinery? In what areas of the warehouse should your already-alert crew be even more aware of their surroundings? There are various ways to mark off hazard zones, but the easiest is probably zebra stripes (or similar, eye-catching markings) on the warehouse floor. There are a variety of solutions to this inherently simple problem, so take it seriously, and come up with something that works for you.
4) Refresher Courses
Here’s a fact: accidents aren’t deliberate. That’s why they call them accidents. This means that if your crew is engaging in unsafe behaviors, it’s not because they want to be injured! It’s because they either don’t know the correct safety procedures, or they aren’t fully convinced of the danger that comes from not following them. Your job is to make them aware. If they don’t understand the reason to follow safe procedures, they aren’t going to follow them. Corners will be cut in the interest of time or ease, and that’s precisely when accidents happen. Drill into your crew the importance of proper safety. After all, it’s not just their personal safety on the line…it’s yours as well. Don’t foster an environment in which they’ll feel comfortable gambling with it.
Have you ever wondered why golfers yell “Fore?” Of course you haven’t. It’s obvious; they don’t want people to get hurt. What do you yell in your warehouse when you’re backing up and unable to see behind you? What do you yell when you’re carrying something heavy or dangerous behind a coworker who doesn’t see you? What do you yell when you’re coming around a corner, whether you’re carrying something or not? If the answer to any of those questions is “nothing,” then you’re a matter of time away from a collision, and it could easily be one that ends badly. Get in the habit of calling out your location. It could be as simple as, “Here I come,” or you could go the extra mile and be more detailed, shouting something like, “Don’t move; I’m coming up behind you.” It may sound silly, but it creates an important sense of environmental awareness among all warehouse staff, and wouldn’t you rather they sound silly than end up seriously injured?
Again, consider these a good starting point. You will know your specific warehouse safety needs better than anybody else, so use common sense and diligence, and make sure that your staff is taking safety seriously. If they don’t, they are only hurting themselves. (Sometimes literally!)
–Philip J Reed, on behalf of HP Spartacote