Creating a Safe Warehouse Environment

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, warehouses experience around 15,000 accidents, illnesses, and injuries every year. When properly managed, warehouse safety measures can help avoid many fully preventable workplace injuries and accidents.

Use the tips below to help ensure you have a safe warehouse environment:

Set minimum safety standards

A warehouse safety checklist is one of the easiest ways to help ensure standards are met. Setting clear guidelines and providing them to all employees and partners helps reinforce the idea that safety is always a priority. Typical guidelines include items such as wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), proper handling of materials, and keeping floors and aisles free of debris.

Educate Employees

With the proper education, many problems can be prevented up-front. Employers should offer not only a safety handbook, but also first-aid training, emergency response plans, and even an ergonomics guide. In addition, safety expectations should be posted on or near all equipment—forklifts, ladders, hydraulic lifts, etc. This helps remind employees that safety is always a priority.

Provide proper safety equipment

Provide proper equipment and enforce its use. All warehouses are different, but these items are generally recommended in all environments:

  • Hard hats. These protect you from objects falling from above, such as off a ladder or the rack of a forklift, as well as any other head trauma.
  • Eye protection. Warehouses can be full of hazards such as flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation which can damage the eyes.
  • Work gloves. Work gloves can help prevent a variety of injuries, from cuts to burns, and some cover you all the way up to the elbow. Make sure the gloves you’re using offer the appropriate level of protection for the job.
  • Anti-fatigue floor mats. These help provide traction in dry work areas, as well as providing comfort and back protection for workers who spend long hours on their feet.
  • Proper footwear. Steel toe, nom-slip boots can help protect the feet when struck by falling objects, or when run over by/stuck in equipment, as well as helping to prevent falls.

Regularly inspect warehouse equipment

Any machinery or equipment that is used regularly is liable to become damaged or unusable. The following items should be inspected every day before use:

  • Forklifts: Do a quick check to look for any visible damage, look for leaking fluids, makes sure the forks aren’t bent or cracked, and verify that the floor is clear and there aren’t any overhead obstructions.
  • Ladders: Check for broken hinges, missing bolts, cracked or loose steps, and any grease or other debris which may cause a slip.
  • PPE: Check all hard hats, goggles, face shields and other equipment for visible damage (such as cracks or tears) before use every day.

Routine Assessments

Periodic assessments allow you to troubleshoot any potential safety hazards before they become an issue. Use this opportunity to go over the warehouse safety checklist with employees and test their knowledge, as well as inspecting their workstations and PPE.

Involve employees

Create a workplace safety committee, and let the employees take control of their own environment. Offer incentives for continued adherence to safety standards and time spent injury-free.

By making safety an ongoing priority, many injuries can be avoided altogether, saving the company both money and time lost.

What You Can Do for National Ladder Safety Month

March is National Ladder Safety Month. This 2-year old event was designed to raise awareness of ladder safety and to decrease the number of ladder-related injuries and fatalities. Accidents can happen even to seasoned pros, but when you make safety a priority at work and home, unintentional injuries can be greatly decreased.

The American Ladder Institute breaks the month of events down into five distinct categories. Take the time to read each one, and think about how you can work the safety tips into your own life:

What is Ladder Safety?

Falls remain a leading cause of unintentional injury and mortality nationwide, and 43% of fatal falls in the last decade have involved a ladder. That’s a huge number! The vast majority of these injuries are the result of misusing the equipment. Ladder safety means taking the necessary precautions in order to prevent these accidents.

Ladder Safety at Work: Focus on Administrative Professional

As the front-line in office communications, your administrative assistant can do a lot to help improve safety. First and foremost, with the guidance of a manager, they can help design and implement safety protocol. All current employees should be brought up to date on new procedures, and new employees can be instructed in safety guidelines during the onboarding process. In addition, your admin can help investigate work safety incidents by interviewing injured employees and writing reports, as well as keeping track of first aid products and making sure the inventory is always stocked.

 

Ladder Safety at Work: Focus on Employee.

Employees can – and should – be involved in the safety process. When you make your staff responsible for their own safety, you give them a stake in the success of the program. Below are some tasks they can be in charge of:

  • Create a workplace safety committee
  • Review the current safety plan and make suggestions for improvement
  • Inspect work areas and report hazardous conditions
  • Create reports on injury statistics and safety goals

Ladder Safety at Home.

Whether you use a ladder frequently or infrequently, accidents can occur. It is always important to take the appropriate precautions, even during the most simple task – something as uncomplicated as decorating the Christmas tree can become dangerous if you’re using a ladder incorrectly. The following are easy ways to make sure your stay safe in your home:

  • Follow manufacturer instructions (proper set-up, weight limit, etc.).
  • Wear appropriate footwear – a non-slip, rubber soled shoe is always the best choice.
  • Maintain 3 points of contact at all times – this can mean two feet and one hand, or two hands and one foot.
  • Don’t stretch or lean – doing either can cause the ladder to tip, causing serious injury.

Ladder Inspection and Disposal.

Using an old or faulty ladder is a common cause of trips and falls. Always inspect your ladder before every use – even if it’s only been a week since you last checked. Look for broken hinges, cracks on steps, and dirt or oil (which could cause you to slip).

With a little thought and consideration, most ladder-related accidents could be completely avoided. Use this month as an opportunity to rethink your own ladder-use habits, and consider how you might improve them.

Creating a Safety Culture at Work

Safety culture, a behavior-based concept developed by H.W. Heinrich in the 1930s and 1940s, was originally created so employers would have a way to observe and change unsafe worker behavior. Unfortunately, this placed all the blame for accidents directly on the employees. Today’s bosses realize that workers aren’t always to blame, and outside factors are taken into consideration. he modern safety culture is the end result of combined individual and group efforts toward values, attitudes, goals, and proficiency of an organization’s health and safety program. Below are some tips for creating an inclusive, healthy safety culture at your own workplace.

Create an official safety plan

  • The aim of your plan should be building safe habits and a healthy work environment.
  • Covered topics should include: safety policies, goals, and an overview of what “safety culture” means for your organization.
  • Responsibilities should be defined for workers at every level, from the CEO down.
  • Educate all employees about your safety plan. It is the #1 thing you can do to help get everyone on the same page.
  • Prepare for an increase in incidents up-front, especially if there was no official plan in place for reporting things in the past.

Create a culture of accountability

  • Identify changes that need to be made within the organization and assign responsibility to make those changes.
  • Hold managers and leaders responsible just as much as everyone else – this helps create a good example for the rest of the employees.
  • Provide multiple options for reporting incidents. Some employees will not be comfortable reporting an accident face-to-face. Other options should include submitting a written report, or filling out an online form.

Create good working relationships

  • Set clear expectations for employees at all levels.
  • Seek to understand problems, rather than assign blame.
  • Acknowledge a job well-done.
  • Make sure employees feel safe reporting incidents without fear of retribution.

Provide positive feedback

  • When employees feel like their efforts are noticed, it gives them a reason to go above and beyond.
  • Consider offering a small incentive for safe behavior, such as extra time off, or a company outing. Just be careful – it is easy to create an environment in which employees don’t report incidents in order to earn their reward. It all comes back to having that trusting relationship!
  • When an employee­­ is positively motivated, by reward, or just positive feedback, they will look for safety violations, report unsafe behavior, and suggest corrections more freely than they did before.

When you’re creating a safety culture at work, make sure everyone is aware of your plans and stays updated throughout the process. A team that is made part of plan development is a team that will fight to make it work.

Things to Do Today to Improve Safety at Your Job Site

Every year, tens of thousands of construction workers are injured on the job. Roughly 1,000 lose their lives. Many of these injured workers end up needing weeks, or even months off work, costing both them and their employer money. Most of these injuries are completely avoidable given the proper safety measures. Here are some common-sense tips to help keep your workers safe.

Train employees well

A trained employee is a safe employee! The number one thing you can do to keep your workers safe is to educate them. Your business should have an official, written safety policy, and it should be given to every employee upon hire. In addition, regular meetings should be held to emphasize and reinforce protocol. Employees should take part in ongoing, routine training sessions to make sure they still understand all the rules and regulations. In fact, many employers require employees to sign off on an official document certifying that they’ve read the regulations and understand them.

Make sure employees have the right equipment

Always provide employees with head, eye, and hearing protection. It’s not only the right thing to do, but it’s required by OSHA. Each employee should have their own equipment that fits them properly and is free of damage. Gear should be inspected before going on the job each day to check for signs of wear and tear – in particular, hard hats should be free of any cracks or dents, and eye protection should be clean and cleared of any debris or grease which may make it difficult to see.

Keep the job site clean

Keeping a construction site clean might seem like an impossible task, but there are certain steps that can be taken to make your site a safer place. Assign clean-up tasks to employees on a daily basis to help ensure that the appropriate housekeeping measures always are taken. Keep the work areas clear to help avoid accidents such as tripping or getting cut on exposed nails. Make sure spills are cleaned up immediately, and make sure all scrap materials get disposed of appropriately. Toxic and hazardous materials need to be given special care. Failure to handle toxic material in the appropriate way can result in serious injury.

Keep Ladders and Stairways Safe

Ladder safety is consistently within the top-10 most cited OSHA violations at work sites. In fact, OSHA estimates that there are 24,882 injuries and as many as 36 fatalities per year due to falls on stairways and ladders used in construction. Nearly half of these injuries were serious enough to require time off the job. In order to avoid these accidents, a few simple steps can be taken:

  • Use the right ladder for the job. Step ladders, extension ladders, and combo ladders are all intended for different things, and should always be used as intended.
  • Always inspect for damage, wear, and cleanliness before use. Check for broken or bent rungs, loose steps, and any debris or grease which may make the ladder unsafe.
  • Check for weight limit. Every ladder has a weight limit (which includes you and any equipment you’re carrying. Exceeding that limit could lead to serious injury.
  • Make sure you have a ladder that is the right height for the job. Never try to extend your ladder in any way – this could cause it to slip and fall. Instead, take the time to find the appropriate-size ladder for the job.

Taking the time to teach and enforce safety policies up front will save you a lot of lost work hours (and money) in the long run.