As global demand for product delivery surges, more and more warehouses are being built throughout the country. Warehouses are the backbone of a supply chain and critical to any company engaged in shipping operations. But these facilities are more than just buildings to store and ship inventory from. They employ dozens and sometimes of hundreds of workers, supervisors, and managers who work around machinery, heavy loads, and vehicles. Best practices for warehouse safety should be every company’s top priority.
Up to 5 percent of all warehouse workers will experience injuries on the job each year, according to one study. Whether these injuries are minor or severe, they are not just problems for workers but can prove costly to businesses. To prevent injuries, companies operating warehouses can implement a number of best practices for warehouse safety.
Prioritize Hiring and Retaining Quality Employees
Warehouse jobs are plentiful but there are simply not enough workers to fill this demand for labor. Many college-educated warehouse employees don’t make a long career out of their jobs, and an older cohort of employees around Baby Boomer age are retiring at high rates. The result is a warehouse worker shortage, especially when it comes to middle managers and senior supervisors.
It may be tempting for warehouse operators to skimp on personnel costs such as salaries and benefits, especially as some warehouse work can be seasonal. But the most costly and frequent injuries can be avoided by ensuring warehouse workers are paid a competitive wage, well-trained, and have top class managers overseeing them. Injuries still occur with a more qualified warehouse workforce, but they happen far less frequently. Investing in talent is one of the best practices for warehouse safety.
Invest in a Safety Program
It goes without saying that warehouse employees need to be thoroughly trained on all aspects of warehouse safety. This includes everything from learning the proper way to physically handle heavy loads, to operating machinery and vehicles, to understanding warehouse regulations and guidelines set down by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA).
An internal safety program goes beyond what should be onboarding training for new employees. It’s a dynamic, ongoing, peer-driven process in which safe warehouse work practices are constantly reinforced throughout the course of the working day by co-workers and supervisors. The most common causes of accidents involve human error and bad habits that have not been corrected.
For this reason, many warehouse safety programs are behavioral, with employees observing each other’s work habits. Co-workers proactively let each other know when habits need to change, when a hazard occurs, and what additional safety measures need to be taken. When properly implemented safety programs get workers to buy into safe work habits because they understand their managers and peers are also committed to these habits. The specifics of each safety program will vary between industries and warehouses; OSHA can provide general guidelines for another best practice in warehouse safety.
Ensure Access to Safety Gear and Safe Equipment
There are a number of safety items that are critical to protecting your warehouse workers. First aid kits should be readily accessible throughout the facility. Personal safety equipment for workers should include helmets, face shields, eyewear, ear protection, gloves, vests, and kneepads.
With the pandemic still ongoing, face masks remain a requirement in many jurisdictions and are highly recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to prevent the spread of COVID. When supplying masks to workers, warehouse operators should consider that warehouse work, unlike office jobs, can be physically demanding. Masks that might interfere with a worker’s vision or have the potential to bring about a heat-induced illness in confined spaces should be avoided. Warehouse workers can’t afford to have their vision obscured or suddenly feel faint around machinery, vehicles, and heavy loads.
Ensuring your warehouse has access to safe shipping equipment is also one of the best practices for warehouse safety. Any material that can clutter workspaces or damage machinery are potential safety hazards. Wood shipping pallets are held together with metal such as nails and staples that can break off, jamming machinery and gears, and possibly injuring warehouse employees. Wood pallets can shed splinters, sawdust, and debris that make workspaces slippery and foul equipment.
Plastic pallets, by contrast, have no fasteners that can break off and possibly injure employees. They are more lightweight, allowing workers to focus on lifting lighter, safer loads. They also don’t absorb bacteria, chemicals, odors, or other contaminants the way wood pallets do. From a safety perspective, plastic pallets are a better choice than wood.
As demand for deliveries continue to grow, so too will demand for more warehouses and more warehouse workers. Following the best practices for warehouse safety will help keep this workforce productive and significantly lower the rate of injuries they suffer.
Companies committed to warehouse safety use iGPS plastic pallets for all their shipping needs. Our lightweight, durable plastic pallets help keep warehouse workers safe and reduce the Total Cost of Business. For more information, contact us at 1-866-557-0047, email a specialist at [email protected], or visit our contact page.