June is National Safety Month, and it’s a great time to review safety in the workplace. While employee safety is important in any field, it’s of particular concern in distribution, manufacturing, and warehousing.
Keeping workers safe is extremely important. Not only do accidents cause delays and production problems, but they can also lead to the loss to valuable employees and hurt workplace morale. Additionally, a number of government bodies regulate warehouses and other facilities, including OSHA and state agencies. Failure to maintain proper safety precautions can lead to fines and other penalties.
Every year, more than 4,500 fatal workplace accidents occur within the US. These have a wide variety of causes, including falls and trips, fires and explosions, exposure to hazardous materials, and collisions with large objects or equipment. These accidents led to losses of thousands or even millions of dollars for the companies involved. Smart companies should learn from others’ mistakes and take steps to prevent employees from getting hurt. Here are a few tips to help make your workplace safer.
Proper Training One important step to take is ensuring that employees are properly trained. Making sure that every worker knows about proper safety procedures reduces the likelihood that those procedures will be ignored and equips employees to make good decisions in dangerous situations.
Safe Equipment Another important safety tip is to ensure that proper safety equipment is available and regularly used. Whether using hard hats or safety harnesses, employees who are capable of protecting themselves are much less likely to be injured. This equipment should be regularly inspected to ensure that it offers maximum protection. Many companies have found success by adopting a zero-tolerance policy for employees who fail to use safety equipment or use it inappropriately.
Dress Codes Employers should also ensure that employees are correctly dressed for the type of work that they’ll be doing. Depending on the task at hand, employees may need to avoid wearing open-toed shoes, jewelry such as rings, or lose-fitting clothing. A solid dress code including steel toed boots can help employees look more professional—but more importantly, it can keep them from getting hurt.
Good Organization Keeping the work environment clean and well organized is another good way to prevent disaster. Any accidents should be promptly cleaned up, no matter how minor; spills should be cleaned immediately and made more visible with a wet floor marker. Additionally, good storage is necessary to prevent problems; your storage solutions should be clearly labeled and easily accessible.
Clear Walkways On a similar note, walkways and workplaces should be kept clear. Improperly stacked materials can limit visibility and create dangerous blind spots, while supplies, employee belongings, tools, and other clutter can become a tripping hazard when allowed to spill into areas where people walk. Electrical cords should also be kept out of pathways—not only do they present a hazard, but they can be damaged when stepped on and lead to short circuits or even electrical fires.
Strategic Barriers Be certain to install barriers when needed. Many falls or run-ins with dangerous equipment could be prevented simply with the installation of a gate or railing; properly placed safety barriers are a must for certain workplaces.
Correct Racking, Shelving & Wire decking If you are storing large quantities of materials, avoid overloading your shelving. Although you may feel like it allows you more space, overloading shelves can create an avalanche, cause the shelves to tip over, or make them collapse entirely—and in close quarters, this can cause a domino effect. If you feel like you are running out of storage space, then you should seek a new storage solution rather than trying to push your existing one past its limits.
Regular Maintenance All equipment—including heavy machinery—should be regularly inspected and properly maintained. This not only helps prevent injury, but keeps the facility running smoothly.
Lockout/Tagout All Company employees performing servicing and maintenance on equipment, machines, and systems must be protected by lockout/tagout procedures.
Emergency Plans Every workplace should have plans in place for potential accidents. First aid-kids should be easily accessible, and employees should be trained in using them just in case something does go wrong. Additionally, evacuation plans should be prepared in case of major disasters like fire.
Employee Contributions Finally, one of the single most important steps that can be taken to keep employees safe is to listen to them. Your workers know better than anyone what kind of hazards and threats they face on the job. With their expertise and these handy tips, you can make your workplace safer not just for the month of June, but all year long.