Warehouses and loading docks and factory floors are filled with heavy equipment, bulky shipping packages, and conveyor belts that create potential safety hazards. Those safety hazards increase when seasonal help is added for a few weeks on the floor.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently published a 26-page pocket guide on warehouse safety that reviews all the areas of a warehouse that are home to potential safety hazards with the hope to help companies avoid potential OSHA fines and other costs due to missed time. Here are some highlights:
Forklift Safety. According to OSHA, about 100 workers are killed and 95,000 injured every year due to forklift accidents. They recommend training, evaluating, and certifying all forklift operators. They also condone an age requirement of 18 years to operate the machinery, properly maintaining the tires at all times, examining the forklift every time before operating, and never exceeding 5 mph while slowing down considerably in more congested areas of your warehouse.
Conveyor Safety. Because workers can be injured when caught in pinch points, potentially hit by falling products, or develop musculoskeletal disorders associated with awkward postures or repetitive motions, safety around conveyor machinery is critical. OSHA recommends inspecting conveyors regularly, guarding all pinch points, developing ways of locking out conveyors, and properly lighting and providing proper working surfaces in areas around the conveyor.
Ergonomic Safety. You don’t want your workers in situations where they are in repetitive motion or in a position for improper lifting because it can lead to severe musculoskeletal disorders. Solutions include using powered equipment to lift heavy materials, reducing lifts from shoulder height and from floor height by repositioning the shelf or bin, providing ergonomic training, and keeping all floors clean and free of slip/trip hazards.
Slipping Safety. The U.S. Department of Labor says that tripping, falling, and slipping represent 15% of all accidental deaths and 25% of all injury claims. Ways to avoid both are creating housekeeping standards to remove all debris from the floor, installing signs and caution tape noting any difference in floor surfaces and steps, ensuring the best lighting for dark areas, establishing a process to immediately clean spills, and keeping aisles organized.
Dock Safety. For obvious reasons you don’t want forklifts running off docks that will harm or kill employees and ruin goods. Make sure to secure dock plates and check to see if the plate can support the load, provide visual warnings to where docks end, create procedures to ensure all forklifts drive slowly on docks and dock plates, and make sure all dock ladders and stairs meet OSHA standards.
Pallet Rack Safety. Pallets collapse when goods are not stored properly. Make sure you establish a forklift training program and get in the habit of inspecting your warehouse to spot the uniformity (or not) of your pallet rack stacking. Create wide space between racks for your forklift operators, slot heavier products in lower pallet rack slots, and when it’s time to replenish, make sure workers are not in common areas.
Chemical Safety. If your warehouse occasionally stores chemicals, you need to maintain a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for each chemical your workers are exposed to within your warehouse and then post instructions on the MSDS docs for the handling of those chemicals. Train your workers on the risks of handling these materials and provide spill cleanup kits near any area where chemicals are stored. Maintain a written spill control plan and get your workers to know it. Provide personal protective equipment and enforce its use. Keep all chemicals away from forklift traffic areas.
What are warehouse safety tips you can share? What are best practices that may not be on this list? Let us know in the comments below!