Every day warehouse workers are exposed to unique hazards ranging from falls from dangerous heights or varying severity of injuries caused by the misuse of heavy machinery. You name it. The list of potential accidents is many and as a result warehouses have come to be known as one of the most hazardous work environments. Despite all of this adequate safety measures are available to ensure your workers steer clear of danger.
Below are five crucial safety items that should be used in your warehouse.
Warehouse employees can more effectively protect themselves if they know exactly what they are working with. Everything in your warehouse, from machinery to crates, should be clearly identified. Labels should indicate the contents of a box, its destination and any other useful warnings. Some labels indicate appropriate storage temperatures or provide safe handling instructions. Likewise, every area of your warehouse should be identified with proper signage. Signs should indicate who does and does not have access. Signs should communicate where smoking is or is not permitted. Vehicle traffic should be clearly designated along with warnings concerning flammable and/or hazardous materials. Directional signage should denote fire exits and help to locate fire extinguishers.
Falls are relatively common in a warehouse. Workers can fall from lifting equipment, or they can fall from high storage ledges. With so much open space and elevated storage, workers must be protected against falls of all kinds. A warehouse should be thoroughly inspected for potentially dangerous areas that put employees at risk, so that those areas can be properly labeled. Just as important are the barriers that physically prevent workers from falling. Guard rails are a primary piece of safety equipment that can save lives. They should be placed in any area of your facility where falling is a risk. A similar cause of injury is slipping. Be sure that stairs, ledges and inclines are lined with anti-slip tape. Also, use safety mats to bring that additional measure of safety. And of course, all employees should have adequate personal safety equipment to prevent serious injury in the event of a fall, which brings up the next crucial safety item.
Warehouse employees should be well protected from head to toe. They should be safe from impact, and in some cases, protected against chemical burns. Personal safety equipment can and in many cases should include helmets, face shields, eyewear, ear protection, respiratory protection, gloves, vests and kneepads. General ergonomics is also very important for employees responsible for moving heavy loads and operating heavy machinery. Industrial floor mats with impact-absorbing features — as well as anti-slip features — can reduce the strain on warehouse employees’ knees, ankles and shins. And all employees should be trained in proper lifting that does not put undue pressure on their backs. Give employees the freedom to seek assistance when needed, and be alert to the endurance limits of your workers.
It is becoming more common for all industrial workplaces — warehouses included — to utilize “lockout/tagout” systems and policies. Lockout/tagout refers to safe practices that allow a machine to be disabled when needed and prevent unwanted access. Various lockout/tagout products, such as group lockout devices, block access to electrical equipment. Many devices effectively stop a machine from starting in the first place so that machinery can be safely serviced. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) outlines several steps a warehouse can take to fully comply with lockout/tagout.
All workplaces should be equipped with a comprehensive first-aid kit, and warehouses certainly are not an exception to the rule. Because of the higher likelihood of workplace injury in warehouses, it is recommended that a facility have multiple kits and that they be easily accessible. Because of the size of some warehouses, your first-aid kits should also be portable. Your first-aid kit should include a wide range of equipment: bandages, adhesive tape, pads, ammonia inhalants, a cold pack, antiseptic wipes, eye wash, aspirin, burn spray, cotton applicators, gloves, scissors and tweezers. And of course, your first-aid kits should include thorough user instructions. As a precaution, employees should familiarize themselves with the contents of your first-aid kits, and they should know how to use it. Similarly, they should know when to alert an ambulance. Emergency contact information should be in a central location.
Jerry Matos is a Product Specialist at Cherry’s Material Handling. Cherry’s Material Handling provides material handling equipment and supplies through their eCommerce site that can fulfill the needs of any warehouse or plant manager.