The warehouse is the beating heart of nearly every business. Whether your company is directly involved in shipping or manufacturing, handles a chain of retail stores or simply requires a space to store excess products, nearly every commercial facility incorporates a warehouse into some aspect of its operation. As the facility manager, you can't overlook this crucial component.
Of course, while warehouses are essential for any business, they can also be dangerous to those without the proper knowledge of potential hazards. Warehouse-related accidents can cost your company time, money, personnel and product, so prevention is by far the best way to stave off these disasters. Here are some things to keep in mind when securing your warehouse for your employees.
Warehouse accidents by the numbers
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, warehouses experience around 15,000 accidents, illnesses and injuries every year. Fortunately, Inbound Logistics indicated that warehouse mishaps tend to be less dangerous than accidents in other manufacturing industries, with some of the most common injuries attributed to falls, improper lifting and forklift accidents.
No facility manager wants any sort of accident under his or her belt, so forming a safety committee tasked with improving safety awareness and implementing preventive measures is a key first step to making the warehouse a safer work environment.
As a giant piece of motorized industrial equipment, a forklift has the potential to be dangerous if operators and bystanders aren't properly trained. According to Food Manufacturing, there are a few main errors that forklift operators are prone to that can lead to injury. These fall under the broad categories of miscommunication, improper equipment maintenance or checking, and poor training. Communication is by far the simplest error to rectify, and is essential when operating the forklift. Outfit your lifts with lights and other signals so that driver intent can be made clear to everyone in the vicinity. While hand signals can be a substitute in a pinch, it's highly recommended that workers avoid operating a forklift with malfunctioning signals.
Before even climbing into the driver's seat, however, the lift should be checked to make sure it's got enough fuel or electricity for safe operation. This job should be integrated into your regular building maintenance, and you can even use your facility's CMMS to streamline reporting and work order management.
One of the most common applications of a warehouse is to store items. Oftentimes storage items can be very large and heavy, which means that safe and effective storage is critical to prevent injury. One key thing to keep in mind when planning your shelving and storage solution is the relative size of the items in question. Keeping a low center of gravity is a great way to stabilize your load, reducing the risk that it will topple or fall. By storing your larger or heavier items on the middle or bottom shelf, you can keep the center of gravity lower and increase stability.
If multiple items are stacked on top of each other, follow this same rule. Additionally, ensure that the stacks themselves are straight and flush, both with the shelf on which they're sitting and with each other, so nothing wobbles or falls.
General safety should be a guiding principle in your warehouse. This covers everything from ensuring there are well-stocked first aid kits available to designing the space itself to be more ergonomic and safe. Many warehouses use concrete flooring because they are resilient and easy to clean, but they can also encourage slips and falls. If possible, consider upgrading to non-slip or padded rubber surfaces to promote better footing and provide protection in the event of a fall.