Health and safety in the warehouse
Increasing demands on warehouse operations to fulfil contracts and meet expectations means that the associated pressures are often passed on to the workforce, both permanent employees and seasonal contractors. While client satisfaction is, of course, tremendously important, the safety of everyone involved in the work must take the utmost priority over every other aspect of the work. At the start of a new year, many retail warehouses are under additional pressure to service January sales and to oversee the transference of old stock in favour of new products coming in, or to accommodate seasonal changes in consumer buying patterns.
Here are some areas of warehouse operations where much can be done to enhance people’s safety at work, safeguard their health and help them remain injury free all day.
A surprising number of warehouse workers fail to handle heavy items correctly, thus increasing their chances of becoming injured. Injuries can result form dropping heavy things onto toes or other parts of the body, suffering scratches and injuries from dropping an awkwardly shaped or heavy item, straining muscles, ligaments or tendons by lifting or moving a heavy item incorrectly, or back strains from attempting to stand up or turn in an unsafe way while holding a heavy load. Training in manual handling is readily available across the UK and advice can also be downloaded from the HSE’s website. It is a good idea to book relevant employees onto regular refresher courses to remind them of the best way to handle objects at work
A large number of accidents, including life-changing injuries and fatalities are caused by people being run over by moving vehicles, or falling off them or being involved in a collision inside or on their way to or from the warehouse. Painted lines designating pedestrian-only walkways can help keep people and vehicles separate, as can highly-visible warning signs in busy traffic areas. Protective barriers can also be highly effective in keeping vehicles separate from people, especially in areas where they may be more likely to be involved in a collision such as loading bays, lorry turning spaces or HGV parks.
Slips, trips and nips
Probably the most common type of injury in the warehouse is the slip, trip or ‘nip’ are caused by people tripping over boxes, entwining their feet in some loose cables or catching their fingers in a moving piece of machinery. These accidents can vary in their seriousness, but can be reduced in number with some simply safety reminders, signage etc. and effective training in safety at work. Keeping a record of such incidents, including near-misses can also help management build up a pattern to see if there are any specific pieces of machinery causing more injuries, or areas of the warehouse seeing more accidents than others.
Protection and protocol
Investing in top quality PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) such as hard hats, gloves, boots etc. is crucial to protect employees at work and is something that they should expect as a minimum provision from you as their employer. Make sure everyone knows how to wear and use the PPE and that they have been trained properly in the use of any machinery or equipment that they will need to fulfil their role. Maintain exemplary accident and injury records and adhere to the correct hygiene and personal health protocol, such as washing hands, knowing how to handle and dispose of harmful substances and maintaining the correct climate and environmental conditions inside the warehouse.
Finally, keep the lines of communication open at all times to allow employees to express any safety concerns or raise any issues that are worrying them. Always take reports of ill health, sickness or injuries seriously and work closely with the person or people affected and their medical experts to help them continue, or return to work in as safe a way as possible. Put up posters showing examples of good safety practice and encourage attendance at safety talks, wellbeing events and health checks. Ensure your teams feel confident that you are taking their health and safety seriously and that you will not tolerate any slips in safety procedures that could harm themselves or their colleagues during their working hours.