Safety issues in warehousing is a crucial topic for all freight forwarders and logistics companies. Most warehouses and distribution centres have standard safety procedures. This is in addition to safety regulations required by certain authorities which must be complied with. However, laid down procedures can sometimes be compromised by lack of safety rules of enforcement or insufficient or improper personnel training. In very egregious cases, there may be no safe operating procedure at all. Every warehouse or distribution centre should normally have a form of safety culture, but sometimes safety is not considered a major issue; rather, efficiency and profit are considered priority issues.
This is because safety efforts are not direct activities that generate profit. But, if loses in the event of accidents are considered then it is necessary to plan to prevent them. When accidents are prevented, it can put a company in a position to make more profit. While making sure that the warehouse is efficient, operators must also consider safety and comfort. The safe working environment brings benefits to workers and the company.
Accidents can cause injury to workers as well as damage to property such as handling equipment, racks and goods. This, in turn, will result in:
- Lost productivity.
- Higher insurance payments.
- Workers compensation.
- Legal expenses for lawsuits.
- Cost of replacing damaged equipment.
- Claims from the third parties.
- Government fines for a safety rules violation.
Causes of Injury
Accidents in warehouse operations are varied and can happen in several ways. Ergonomics hazards which are physical can cause injury and stress. Injuries occur because of poor working conditions, use of wrong or improperly designed equipment, fatigue and lack of skills. In addition, improper design of the warehouse can result in workers having to overexert themselves, walking long distances which can cause strains and pains.
The things that cause injuries to workers include but not limited to the following:
- Lifting and carriage of heavy loads.
- Turning, reaching and straining.
- Slipping and tripping.
- Pulling and pushing.
- Dropping offloads from storage areas and moving forklift trucks.
- Collision with forklift trucks and other storage handling equipment.
Warehouse operators must make efforts to control or eliminate hazards, adopt best-operating methods and practices and carry out regular training of its employees. Immediate actions should be taken whenever a safety hazard is identified. The comfort of workers should be given adequate attention. Adequate ventilation should be provided as well as protective clothing for workers. The following safety guidelines can be useful in preventing accidents:
- Safety starts with a sound warehouse design. The warehouse must be properly designed taking into account the type of equipment to be used.
- Select the right and proper type of rack for storage. The rack assembly must be according to manufacturers instruction and should be suitable for the quantity, weight, size and type of products to be stored.
- Avoid overloading the racks and ensure that loads are spread evenly on the racks. The racks should withstand the weight of the load. Heavier and larger loads should be stored in lower shelves to reduce lifting heights for forklift trucks and avoid accidents.
- Prevent overloading of racks by installing capacity plates on racks, and do not exceed weight limits recommended by manufacturers. Excessive loads can cause racks to collapse.
- Products should be stacked in such a way as to allow free access when they are to be retrieved in order to reduce strain in trying to retrieve them.
- Ensure racks are not exposed to excessive dampness or other conditions that can cause them to collapse. The most secure racking can become compromised over time by corrosion.
- Carry out safety checks on racks on a regular basis using qualified rack inspectors.
- Regularly check for any loose component in the pallet rack system and any damage in the frame should be fixed.
- Ensure that workers do not climb on racks by placing warning signs. A slip or fall can result in injury.
- Do not overload forklift trucks. Use aisle protectors and safety rail. Install fire extinguishers and sprinkler devices in strategic areas and let workers know where they are located. Ensure every warehouse staff is aware of safety procedures and carry out periodic safety training.