All around the world there are thousands of warehouses employing many hard-working people. Unfortunately, warehouses can be very dangerous places to work. As a result warehouse workers have very high rates of accidents compared to other jobs. To ensure warehouses are safe places to work there are many things that need to be checked on a regular basis.
Issues like forklift safety, chemical and hazardous materials, equipment maintenance, evacuation plans and material handling all have simple steps for inspection to help both warehouses and workers be much safer.
Material handling is the essence of warehouse work. To ensure the work is done the safest way possible there are many rules and regulations that must be followed by all workers. Many of these involve the use of forklifts and involve such topics as:
- operator training,
- equipment inspection and
- driving procedures.
All forklift drivers must successfully complete an approved training program. They are required to be shown all aspects of driving the forklift such as gear shifting and how to properly drive up to, grab and distribute a load evenly on the forks. A supervisor is required to give them a driving test and certify the person capable of safely operating the forklift.
Once certified, each time the forklift is to be used it must be properly inspected to ensure it is in good working order. Lights must be working, the horn must work, forks properly secured and the back-up warning alarm checked before driving. Service logs must be maintained for any repairs made and driving procedures such as blowing the horn at corners and doorways along with checking to make sure nobody is standing behind the forklift are required.
One of the biggest safety hazards for warehouse workers is fire. Some aspects of fire safety that warehouses must train workers on include
- fire exits,
- sprinklers and
- fire extinguishers.
In the event of a fire workers must be able to exit the building through designated fire exit doors. Every building must have a fire evacuation plan clearly marked and visible to all employees. Aisles leading to these exits must be kept clear and free of any debris or boxes. All exit doors must have clearly marked signs and employees must be trained in fire evacuation plans so as to know how to exit the building in the safest yet quickest manner possible.
Anything stored below sprinkler heads must be at least 18 inches from them. In addition, all electrical outlets and junction boxes must be correctly covered and other machinery and electrical equipment grounded.
Forklifts are required to be equipped with fire extinguishers as are the buildings themselves. All fire extinguishers must be in good working condition and are to be periodically inspected. Employees should also be trained in the proper use of fire extinguishers known as PASS which stands for Pull the pin, Aim, Squeeze the trigger and Sweep the spray across the fire to get it quickly extinguished.
Wearing proper clothing can lead to a safer and more enjoyable work experience. Hard hats, steel-toed shoes, gloves and high-visibility vests are often required. Eye protection such as goggles and dust masks must be worn when handling certain chemicals and other liquids that could splash into one’s face.
PPE or Personal Protective Equipment similar to these must be used when cleaning up chemical spills or those involving bodily fluids.
Storage and Loading
Knowing how to properly store items can improve safety. Racking systems and shelving should be inspected to make sure nothing is broken or loose. Heavier loads should always be stored on the bottom shelves if possible to decrease chances of toppling over.
Loading docks should also be made safer by installing highly visible tape along edges to keep people from falling off. Forklifts should never back up to the dock’s edge and if a dock plate is used, it must be properly secured and strong enough to handle the load.
Lighting and Ventilation
Because warehouses are often filled with dirt and dust it’s imperative they have ventilation systems in good working order. Work areas should also have adequate lighting to help prevent eye strain and falls resulting from surroundings being too dark.
Temperatures in warehouses can be quite high sometimes so they should have water available for workers to avoid becoming dehydrated.
Many safety tips rely on common sense to keep warehouses safe. For example, spills should be blocked off with safety cones and then cleaned up immediately. Lockout procedures should be in place for equipment that is shut down for repair and racking systems should be replaced if broken. It goes without saying that workers should be allowed rest breaks during shifts to avoid fatigue.
By following the rules and using common sense, warehouses should be much safer places to work.
Patrick Barnes is a freelance writer and blogger from Australia. He writes articles in which he shares his knowledge on technology and workplace safety for several different websites and blogs.