forklift truck with pallet

Health, Safety & Security in the Warehouse

23rd June 2020

From machinery and heavy-lifting to hygiene and security concerns, warehouse operations pose a number of health and safety risks to employees which need to be continuously monitored and controlled.

This is particularly true in light of the current global pandemic, meaning warehouse health and safety is under the spotlight more than ever, as organisations take extra measures to protect the wellbeing of staff, as well as all those who receive product shipments.

If you’re looking to prioritise warehouse health and safety within your business, we’re sharing some essential tips right here – helping you to better protect staff, the general public and your business from potential risks.

Reduce potential risks from warehouse vehicles

With HSE statistics for the transportation and storage sector stating that 36% of fatalities in 2019 were caused by being struck by a moving vehicle, promoting safe usage of forklifts, lifting trucks and vans is essential.

For one, these types of vehicles should only ever be operated by trained drivers. Secondly, you should put measures in place to monitor traffic flow along the aisles – marking out specific roads for vehicle-only use with a strict 5mph speed limit, as well as visible pedestrian crossings for foot traffic.

It’s also important to optimise driver visibility in blind spots. This might include installing warning signs and mirrors on the ends of aisles, as well as reversing mirrors or spotters allowing them to reverse safely without crashing into shelving units or other employees.

Finally, keep floors clear of obstacles and potholes, which may otherwise increase the likelihood of an accident occurring.

Tackle slips, trips and falls head-on

With 31% of workplace non-fatal injuries in the transportation and storage sector attributed to slips, trips and falls, this is an area that should be tackled head-on in a bid to minimise the health and safety risks to staff.

Priority number one here is to educate staff on the importance of keeping the working areas neat and tidy – this means walkways are obstacle-free, spillages are immediately cleaned and cables, wires and other debris that can cause trips or falls are tidied away.

Further improve safety on the ground by issuing anti-slip footwear to staff, using non-slip paint to give better traction underfoot, as well as anti-slip tape on steps and ramps. Hazard warning tape can also provide a practical solution to alerting staff to any potential hazards, such as low ceilings, loading bay edges and more.

Staff working at height must be fully trained and have suitable equipment to carry out their work safely. This should include providing sturdy ladders and harnesses, implementing strict rules (such as only being at height for 30 minutes at a time) and maintaining three physical points of contact on the ladder at all times.

Minimise injuries caused by improper lifting

Manual and machine-assisted lifting are fundamental to warehouse operations, but, in order to prioritise staff safety and prevent musculoskeletal disorders, these tasks should be carried out in line with established best practices.

For manual lifting tasks, staff need to know their manual lifting limits, as well as having training on the correct handling techniques to reduce the strain on the body and the chance of injury. Where possible, manual handling of goods should be avoided – with loading trolleys, forklifts and pallet trucks instead being used.

Machine-assisted lifting equipment also has its limits, so, when in use, staff should check they’re not exceeding the safe working load weight (SWL), as this could put unnecessary strain on the machine, causing it to break or topple over.

Provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)

Alongside additional control measures to reduce risks to staff, you should also provide your workforce with the appropriate PPE. It’s important to realise that PPE is the last line of defence and shouldn’t be used as the only precautionary safety measure.

For warehouse operators, PPE should include hard hats, safety footwear (with anti-slip soles and steel capped toes to protect feet from impacts), high-visibility clothing and eye and hearing protective wear.

In the midst of the Covid-19 outbreak, staff handling goods that will be shipped out to consumers should also be issued with protective gloves and face masks – working to prevent the spread of germs through the transportation process.

Maintain high levels of workplace hygiene

Maintaining high levels of cleanliness in your workplace should always form an integral part of your warehouse health and safety practices.

From regularly disinfecting communal areas and staff bathrooms to carrying out a deep clean of the facilities floor, ensuring hygiene is a top priority will contribute to keeping staff healthy and showing them you value their wellbeing.

Understandably, cleaning the warehouse storage areas can be a significant undertaking, but you can make the job easier by installing hygienic shelving with an antibacterial powder coating that can be quickly wiped down.

Invest in on-site security

With figures indicating that 13% of cargo theft occurs in warehouses and storage areas, securing your site is key to optimising the security of both your stock and staff.

Installing a high-tech alarm system and CCTV surveillance will give you eyes in every corner of the facility, particularly when operations are shut down. However, implementing regular warehouse security patrols on foot can provide the kind of physical presence that acts as a deterrent – as well as making it easier to spot potential security issues like faulty door locks or damage to boundary fences.

It’s also important to have measures in place to monitor activity within your facility so you know who is on-site at any given time. This can be harder to implement in larger facilities, but physical security barriers, along with electronic sign-in systems, are effective at keeping track of these comings and goings, especially during peak loading and off-loading periods.

Bolstering your warehouse’s health, safety and security doesn’t come without its challenges given the sheer scale of the premises and volumes of staff on-site. However, by focusing your efforts on these core areas of warehouse safety as a starting point, the process should be made far easier and more efficient.

To help you take a step in the right direction, take a look at our range of strong, durable and versatile heavy-duty warehouse shelving units. Of course, if you need help figuring out which is the best shelving solution for your business’s individual needs, simply get in touch with our expert team by calling us on 01908 525700 or emailing sales@action-storage.com.