When you speak to any warehouse manager, a high-ranking item on their list of priorities is ensuring the safety of their employees and customers. This means everything from ensuring the floor is free of tripping hazards to maintaining proper fire-fighting protocols.
Commercial warehousing must follow strict safety guidelines or face serious repercussions. Taking these guidelines seriously leads to a safer workplace without impacting efficiency.
Labeling equipment and safety procedures are essential in fast-moving warehouse operations. With well-placed signs, workers can understand warehouse protocol, which can lead to accidents and lost productivity. Signs can communicate safety instructions, directional information, and other details that reduce risk for personnel, improve workflow efficiency, and ensure compliance with OSHA and ANSI guidelines.
Generally, warehouse safety signs fall into two categories: general and mandatory. The former conveys broad safety messages, such as health hazards and preventive measures, while the latter warns workers about specific dangers and prescribes safe operation steps. Mandatory signs typically feature a black trigger word on white.
In addition, warehouses require directional signage to direct workers and automated systems in and out of loading docks, storage spaces, and other areas where forklifts (electric or combustion-powered machines used to transport heavy loads) frequently circulate. Directional signs that indicate aisle numbers and other pertinent details can reduce confusion and aid in the efficient location of inventory.
The simplest way to prevent hazards from occurring during machine/equipment maintenance or service is to follow proper lockout/tagout (LOTO) procedures. These safety procedures ensure that all energy sources are isolated and cannot be accidentally reactivated.
During LOTO procedures, authorized employees must shut down all machines or equipment that will be serviced or maintained. Affected employees must also be notified of the shutdown, even those who won’t perform any part of the maintenance or servicing work. It’s vital to inform these employees of the shutdown in advance, as reactivating equipment that has been locked and tagged out could prove fatal.
Often, LOTO procedures don’t work as intended due to improper documentation or inspections. This can lead to accidental or unplanned release of hazardous energy, accidents, and compliance issues during inspections. To avoid this pitfall, having a digital system for recording and monitoring all aspects of a company’s LOTO program is crucial. This includes documents, inspections, training, reports, and audits.
Warehouse workers often face many safety risks. However, proper planning and adherence to Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines can help minimize those hazards. This includes keeping aisles clear, marking exit routes properly, and ensuring fire safety equipment is readily available.
Employee training is another crucial component of warehouse safety and compliance. Ensuring new employees receive a thorough initial safety orientation and ongoing training in equipment use, hazard recognition, and PPE usage can help prevent accidents and injuries.
Warehouse managers should also ensure employees have access to a comprehensive safety bulletin board and multiple channels for reporting hazards, incidents, or issues. In addition, fostering a culture of open communication and commitment to compliance helps reduce workplace risks. This includes adhering to labor warehouse regulations, including paying minimum wage, offering overtime pay, and respecting worker rights, such as those established by the Fair Labor Standards Act. Lastly, warehouses should regularly conduct safety inspections to identify and address any risks.
Warehouse workers must follow strict inventory management rules, which help to prevent misplaced or lost items. Proper labeling and storage methods also allow for quicker, more efficient operations.
Regular inspections and audits of equipment, tools, and the building structure ensure that the warehouse complies with all local and federal safety standards. This helps minimize costly repairs and downtime and identifies potential hazards early so they can be addressed.
A comprehensive risk assessment provides valuable insights that can help warehouses transition from reactive to proactive on safety preparations. Bringing in third-party expertise often gives a fresh perspective, identifying risks that go unnoticed in a routine inspection.
Reviewing historical data reveals common accident patterns, allowing managers to anticipate and prepare for specific dangers. For example, a thorough hazard assessment can pinpoint threats arising from faulty machinery or unstable shelving and help establish a protocol for addressing them.