When operating a warehouse, health and safety must come before efficiency. Always. The busy nature of warehouses, and the fact people are working with machinery, or they or vehicles are constantly moving around the warehouse, creates a wide range of health and safety hazards.

Operators must strive to make conditions in these workplaces as safe as possible. Failing to do so could see workers become involved in serious accidents… fatal ones even, and the operator themselves could then face some serious consequences.

Below we look at ways to improve health and safety in the warehouse, the challenges operators face when dealing with health and safety, how to conduct health and safety assessments, and how to provide good health and safety training. We’ll also discuss how one of our own solutions, the modular rollerbed, can make your warehouse operations safer.

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warehouse safety: making the right moves

The United States Department of Labor’s regulatory agency, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), sets out some simple health and safety guidelines when operating a warehouse:

  • make sure the warehouse is well ventilated;
  • implement proper lockout/tag-out procedures;
  • block off any loading dock doors that are exposed or open, or any areas where an employee could fall more than four feet;
  • clear floors, aisles and the surfaces of any hazards that might cause trips slips or falls;
  • train employees on how to work safely in hot and cold conditions;
  • teach new employees correct ergonomics — for specific tasks and general ones;
  • ensure any employees who perform physical tasks take periodic breaks;
  • consider best work practices when determining how long a task should take.

make health and safety the norm

Of course, health and safety are also a matter of common sense. When performing their duties around the warehouse, employees should be at least familiar with some basic health and safety rules for working in these places of business:

  • make safety a priority in everything you do;
  • wear gloves, hard hats, eye protection, safety shoes and any other appropriate PPE equipment;
  • stay alert for hazards and report them when you see them;
  • watch where you’re going and focus on your tasks;
  • look out for any warning signals and obey them;
  • pay attention to what others are doing as well, especially when it comes to forklift trucks;
  • stack and store materials properly, which means doing so safely and securely so they don’t cause a fire hazard or any other health and safety hazard.

Good housekeeping is another crucial aspect of warehouse health and safety, and employees should follow these simple rules:

  • avoid leaving items in aisles, on the floor or perched insecurely on a surface;
  • clear any spillages immediately;
  • never block fire exits, sprinklers or fire extinguishers;
  • put items back in their place immediately, rather than moving them from one place to another;
  • don’t leave box cutters or other sharp tools lying around;
  • keep cords and wires off the ground;
  • report loose flooring, damaged flooring and any tripping hazards you can’t fix;
  • get rid of rubbish immediately in proper containers.

today's warehouse safety challenges

The e-commerce world has placed heavy demands on warehouses especially, and they’re having to work hard to keep up with the pace. Warehouse operators have to contend with several different problems:

Budgeting for safety

Under the pressure to keep up with demand, operators may feel the temptation to hire someone who can play the role of production manager and safety manager. If efficiency and production key performance indicators (KPIs) receive a higher weighting than safety ones, this will become a problem. When they have urgent goals to meet, managers may downplay health and safety issues and near misses that demand immediate attention.

Storage and exit hazards

Cutting costs by recruiting fewer staff while, at the same time, constantly packaging goods and shipping them means aisles and other areas could be non-compliant. Boxes and clutter could obstruct aisles and doorways. Even if you leave them there for just a few hours, you’re asking for trouble. These areas should always be clear.

Ergonomics

Packing, labelling, twisting and sorting; all that continuous, repetitive movement causes physical distress. High heat, high noise levels or extremely cold indoor temperatures can all increase distress. You should design your warehouse facilities, processes and floor set-up to reduce this stress first.

Employee training

The shifts may be round the clock and the pace may be fast, but you shouldn’t neglect worker training. Hold health and safety meetings on common sources of injury that cause workers to take time off work.

Never skip training, even if this may save you time and money. Skipping training can lead to incidents that trigger complaints and lawsuits, costing you more time and money in the long run. Providing good training for employees will help the warehouse operate to its fullest potential, whereas cutting back on training will stop things from running as smoothly as they could or should.

Constant workflow and workload changes

Warehouse work is physically demanding. Workers are walking, bending, lifting and, generally, on their feet a lot of the time, and workloads are dynamic, changing from day to day and even from hour to hour.

High or low temperatures, noise, poor lighting and other environmental factors can also have an impact on workers’ safety in the warehouse. These must be managed effectively.

Slips and trips

Slips and trips might be more straightforward to avoid, but lots of accidents happen in the warehouse that involves them. Simple ways to prevent slips and trips include getting rid of any potential causes such as loose materials on the floor, boxes, liquids, poorly lit areas and unnecessary steps or bumps on the floor. Anti-slip tape can improve grip on the floor.

Heavy equipment

When you work regularly in a warehouse, it’s easy to get used to working with heavy equipment but forget about the danger of the machine itself. Employees must understand all the dangers of using the machines in a warehouse, including the dangers of forklifts. Be careful when operating heavy machinery so you can do everything possible to avoid any accidents.

Falls

Falls make up another large number of accidents in the warehouse. Employees must always be aware of their surroundings. Make sure there are proper guard rails in all the relevant areas. Understand why you need them and how you can install them in your warehouse.

Fire hazards

A warehouse fire can have a devastating impact on your business, but it’s one of the most overlooked and forgotten about hazards when it comes to warehouse health and safety. The good news is this type of hazard is highly preventable. Equip the building with fire extinguishers and mark exits. Avoid leaving leaking flammable fluids and exposed wires around the warehouse, and don’t run some cords under the carpet.

Moving parts

The chances are, when working in a warehouse, employees are going to be working with heavy machinery. When doing so, they should pay very close attention to the warning labels on the machines. Some machines feature moving parts, and these can become very dangerous if operators don’t use them correctly. Improper machine use can result in serious injury or even death.

Heavy materials

Unfortunately, you can be crushed to death when working in a warehouse with heavy materials. This tends to be a consequence of not receiving adequate training. When it comes to press machines, you must provide every single employee with more than enough training.

Loading docks are another area where you or your employees may have to deal with heavy materials. Ideally, you should avoid them where possible. Be wary of any heavy materials that could fall and crush you or one of your employees.

Falling objects

A lot of warehouses stack items high, which means falling objects will always be a health and safety hazard, especially when they’re stacked high. Stack heavy loads neatly so that the load doesn’t shift onto you when you’re carrying it. If objects are cylindrical, stacking them correctly can spare you the problem of them rolling off the shelf on which you’ve stacked them.

Harmful substances

This will depend more on the warehouse and where you’re working, but harmful substances such as asbestos can cause major health and safety concerns. Employees must feel safe. If they don’t, they can report you to a third party and trigger an inspection.

Talent shortage

Dealing with a shortage of labour is another major issue for warehouses; in fact, not just warehouses are struggling with a shortage of talent, but also the truck driving industry and the wider supply chain. You can read more about this in our blog post on the truck driver shortage and what your business can do about it.

Given the complexity of warehousing and supply chains, there’s no single cause. Operators must contend with several different factors that are all contributing to the shortage:

Demographics

The United States, the UK, Western Europe and many other countries are wrestling with demographics. Baby boomers are entering retirement, and many companies are finding they don’t have experienced managers who can replace them. Millennials are entering the workforce and able to fill entry-level roles, but it’s in middle management where companies are struggling.

Cost cutting

The economic downturn has persuaded companies to downsize their workforce and either cancel training and development programmes or cut back on them. This has exacerbated the shortage. Workers haven’t had the resources they need to build their skills and meet the challenges of logistics today.

Changing skillsets

Experienced managers may be retiring, but operators are now looking for employees who have broader skillsets than the people they’re replacing. Warehouses are incorporating more and more tech into their operations, so candidates must possess more and more technical and analytical skills, even for roles as forklift truck drivers.

Companies are also seeking to hire people whose skillset cuts across manufacturing, logistics and other traditional silos. Meanwhile, the role of supply chain managers is becoming more strategic, which is forcing them to build communication skills, relationship management and other soft skills, as well as project management and leadership capabilities.

Retention is another issue. Reasons some might choose for leaving one company to work for another include:

  • higher wages;
  • more advancement opportunities;
  • better training;
  • better benefits;
  • more flexible work schedules;
  • incentive programmes for workers.

Coping with the shortage

One way to cope with the shortage is to have processes in place to minimise the impact. Automation and technology are two ways to achieve this. Even with a smaller workforce, the use of robotics and automation will help you keep things up and running on some level; this doesn’t mean you should replace absolutely everyone with technology, however.

Think about the processes that would benefit from automation. Consider the following when determining this:

  • information on the costs of processing an order;
  • the number of employees you need per shift;
  • the details of picking and packing processes;
  • the number of orders you have open;
  • the error rate.

The physically demanding nature of warehouse work can stop it from appealing to younger generations; however, as well as investing in technology, there are ways to attract talent and retain it, rather than lose it to competitors in the industry. Here are some tips to improve your retention rates:

  • keep your warehouse clean, safe and well organised;
  • set up ergonomic workstations and equipment;
  • offer competitive pay and benefits;
  • provide ongoing training and support;
  • keep work schedules flexible;
  • train for flexibility so that workers can perform more than one job;
  • create an incentive programme;
  • communicate and engage with employees regularly;
  • listen to employees, and be open to ideas and suggestions from them.
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warehouse injuries and fatalities

According to statistics from the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE), 10 workers died in work-related accidents in the transport and storage industry in 2020/21, and 20 in the manufacturing industry.

Common injuries that occur in warehouses include:

  • Slips, trips and falls: These are highly common, due to the fast-moving nature of warehouse work. Box ties, discarded boxes, spillages and cables can all cause these types of accidents. If you don’t identify a hazard, remove one or make one safe, it’s dangerous; not only dangerous but also a breach of health and safety, so you could get into trouble.
  • Manual handling injuries: You’ll often have to lift heavy items in a warehouse. A lack of training or the right equipment, or the performance of strenuous but overly repetitive work, can all lead to strain or sprain injuries.
  • Crush injuries and machine accidents: Warehouses' most common crash injuries come from operating forklift trucks, pallet trucks, and packaging machinery. These accidents can be especially severe if workers become trapped in machinery or under it. Forklift injuries are some of the most common and can be the most dangerous. Often, poor supervision, insufficient training, little or no maintenance of machinery, or poor delineation of gangways, is to blame. Injuries from forklift accidents can range from broken bones, dislocations and fractures to amputations.
  • Falling objects: Injuries from falling objects are also common in warehouses. Not shelving items properly, either through carelessness or because the shelf hasn’t been put together properly, can result in serious head injuries. If a heavy item falls on a worker, that person could suffer an injury to their brain, especially if they’re not wearing a hard hat.

the e-commerce boom

It goes without saying that the pandemic has had an impact on the industry. In January 2022, The Independent online reported that the UK was witnessing a shortage of warehouse space, triggered by a surge in demand for logistics sites in 2021. Behind this surge was the growth in demand for online retail created by the pandemic.

An expert from real estate advisory firm Collier predicted the demand would continue throughout 2022, as would high levels of occupational activity. This expert attributed both events to the continuous expansion of occupiers’ supply chains to keep up with e-commerce sales and online deliveries.

Other experts have commented the industry has also seen a shift from the ‘just in time' model. Pandemic issues have hampered distribution, and supply chain issues have been catching out retailers, leaving them with little or no stock. Brexit has also had an impact and brings more complexity to the importation of goods. To counter both issues, British businesses are now holding more stock.

US logistics also struggling with an e-commerce boom

The UK isn’t the only country to have reported a boom in its e-commerce; Bloomberg reported in January 2022 how demand for e-commerce had exploded in the US because of the pandemic. Stimulus checks from the US government had provided some consumers with more to spend.

In response to demand, retailers have stepped up their investment in warehouses to store their goods. The demand for logistics centres has been so gargantuan that prices for industrial space gained more than offices and apartments for most of 2021.

Out of the five biggest retailers on the S&P 500 index, Amazon had accounted for the majority of the warehouse purchases by snapping up 21 spaces from March 2020 to November 2021, compared to just four in the same previous period. Walmart came second, buying 11. Like Amazon, the chain had only bought four in the same previous period.

warehouse safety management

Warehouse safety management covers the processes, protocols and regulations in place within a warehouse. These elements maximise 1) the safety of employees, inventory, equipment and facilities; and 2) keep the amount of risk and severity of risk factors that warehouse operations entail to a minimum. When conducting warehouse safety management, there are three core aspects to consider:

your warehouse layout

Safety is a major part of creating an accessible warehouse that employees can navigate from the start. If equipment, inventory or other elements of the warehouse aren’t accessible, this increases the potential for dangerous situations to emerge, whereas a safe warehouse will always make it possible to store equipment and inventory safely and securely at all times.

In this regard, there will always be some level of risk, especially in the case of large or heavy items; however, when you’re creating your warehouse layout, safe storage should be your top priority.

inventory, equipment and facilities selection and maintenance

As well as the warehouse itself, the equipment and inventory in the warehouse can cause safety risks in the course of daily operations. This is the case even if everything is in top condition; however, if something isn’t working as it should be, major safety hazards can arise:

  • exposure to dangerous materials amongst the inventory;
  • incidents that involve faulty equipment;
  • structural collapse, fire and other emergency situations.

Provide safety equipment such as hard hats, safety goggles, gloves and any other necessary equipment. These items can minimise the danger when working with certain types of inventory or equipment.

safety training and documentation of procedures

Safety training is essential for ensuring your team’s safety and for making the facilities safe themselves. Training should address all aspects of warehouse operations. That means:

  • the correct use of tools and equipment;
  • efficient, safe navigation of the warehouse;
  • and emergency protocols.

Keeping your workers safe will help you to keep your warehouse safe.

It’s your responsibility to inform your employees of the safest practices and to make sure they comply with these practices at all times. To achieve these, you must develop protocols and procedures for them to follow. The documents must be clear, concise and specific, leaving no room for any confusion about how to proceed.

At the same time, you’ll have to put in place processes to document cases in which employees didn’t follow the correct procedure and deal with this. You should do this whether the outcome was dangerous or otherwise.

Note that it’s completely impossible to avoid safety issues. The next best form of action to take is to train your team so they know what to do if they encounter a hazardous situation in the course of their duties.

how to train employees in warehouse safety

We’ve stressed the importance of delivering effective warehouse safety training for your employees. You might be asking just how to do that. Here are some tips:

Identify your health and safety hazards

Before you do anything, inspect your warehouse for safety hazards. Unless you know exactly what hazards you’re trying to protect your workers from, your training is going to be ineffective.

The Health and Safety Executive provides a sample template for performing risk assessments for warehouses. Risk assessment helps you to think about the hazards in your business and the steps to take. A template can help you to record:

  • who might be harmed and how;
  • what you’re doing to control the risks already;
  • further action you need to control the risks;
  • who needs to act;
  • when the action must be carried out by.

Control the hazards

Controlling hazards is much better than merely identifying them. One model to apply for this is the hierarchy of controls, which creates a simple pattern to follow when trying to control hazards:

  1. elimination; 
  2. substitution;
  3. engineering controls; 
  4. work practice controls;
  5. PPE equipment. 

Note that PPE equipment is the last resort. In some cases, you may also combine control, such as engineering controls and PPE.

Know safety training regulations

It’s important to know the regulations health and safety regulatory bodies may place on your worksite. Ultimately, you should do so because you have to comply with the law, but checking regulations is essential for two other reasons: 1) to identify any elements you might have missed; and 2) so you can set a basic minimum for training that you can then exceed.

Establish the learning aims of your training

When designing your training, you’ll wish to establish some learning objectives early in the process. These aims are the things you want the employees to do on their job thanks to your training. If you pick the right learning aims for your training, you can design the training so that the employees perform those tasks, and then you can conduct tests to see if they can perform those tasks correctly.

Know your employees

If you devise your training with the preferences of your employees in mind, you stand a better chance of training them successfully and making them safer workers. Do they prefer training in the field or training in a classroom? Do they like to do e-learning and then discuss the content or activities in a group? Do they already know something about the training topic? The more you know about your employees, the more effective you can make your training.

Be aware of the ‘What’s in it for me?’ issue, and acknowledge it

Your employees will pay a lot more attention to your training if they understand why it’s important for them. A good start would be to explain how the training will keep them safe and how it relates to their jobs. Don’t make the mistake of just reading safety regulations to them. This is too abstract and hard to grasp. Instead, design the training so it focuses on how people work.

Realise how to write and talk

When you create training materials, or when you speak during a training session, you have to use the right kind of language. To make your training more effective, use a conversational tone and the type of language the workers themselves use.

Understand the power of combining words and pictures

Visuals such as videos, pictures and real-life objects are powerful. Most of the information we receive comes to us through our eyes. Training that combines words and visuals can be even more effective because of the nature of our brains, which have two ‘centres’: one for processing images and one for processing text.

Be conscious of active learning

Active learning is important. People don’t learn just by sitting down and listening to a lecture, but rather when they’re being active. That could be by leading the training session themselves, participating in a Q&A session, engaging in hands-on training, sharing experiences and ideas, and more. If you devise your training with the knowledge the workers need to be active participants in it, they’ll benefit more greatly from the training, developing a safer workplace.

Apply the value of ‘chunking’

Human beings can only keep a small amount of information in their working memory. Supplying them with more information than four pieces will overwhelm them. They’ll either retain none of the information or will only hold onto just a little of it.

This is why it’s important to divide your training into bite-sized ‘chunks’. Doing so will help your workers remember what you’ve taught them easier.

Appreciate the importance of testing

Although training is important, it’s just as essential to check your employees understand important concepts and/or can prove they’re able to perform tasks safely before they head out onto the warehouse floor. Testing will help you to confirm they’ve learned, rather than forcing you to just hope they have.

Learn to evaluate the effectiveness of your safety training

You can’t just assume your health and safety training has worked; get out onto the floor and evaluate the results. Observe what workers are doing.  Check your records of near misses, injuries, incidents and illnesses. Is the training having the desired impact? Ideally, you should collect KPI data for safety before and after your training so you can compare results and gauge the impact of your training.

Warehouse safety meeting topics

Efficiency in the warehouse plays a crucial part in the success of a business. Deliveries, storage and processing all take place in them. Damage, injuries and incidents are costly hazards of operating a warehouse; however, solid training and conversations around health and safety in the warehouse can minimise incidents. When sitting down to a meeting with your employees, you should discuss the following with them:

  • Loading docks: Securing trailers to loading docks is just one aspect of loading dock safety. Loading docks carry a high potential to be the scenes of accidents if you don’t discuss company safety and regulations and if your employees don’t follow them.
  • Forklift and pedestrian safety: The number of forklift-related injuries runs into the thousands each year. Make sure your employees understand forklift truck safety guidelines and follow them. This is important to limit the risk of your warehouse and the products in it to people.
  • Conveyor safety: Correct inspection, guarding and training will reduce the risk of workers suffering injuries from falling products, getting caught in pinch points, or from workers not lifting properly or from overexertion.

Other topics health and safety meetings should include are:

  • pallet jacks;
  • hazard communication;
  • exit and aisle hazards;
  • mechanical power transmission;
  • ergonomics;
  • respiratory protection;

warehouse safety checklists

The busy nature of warehousing and the various tasks this element of the supply chain entails means there’s a lot to keep in mind. Here are the things you should be checking when conducting a health and safety inspection of your warehouse:

 

Is there any damage to the building or location?

Check the walls, doors, windows, floors and ceilings. Is there any damage to them? Note down any issues.

Are there any obstructions?

Obstructions might be something as simple as packaging in front of fire exits or the centre of aisles. Workstations should be uncluttered. Vehicles should be correct in their designated position. Watch out, too, for trailing electrical cords.

Is the warehouse lighting good?

If the lighting in the warehouse is poor, workers will find it harder to move around the warehouse. Confirm whether loading docks, workstations, corridors, fire exits, offices, staff rooms and even the bathrooms are well lit.

Is the warehouse clean?

A lot is moving around in warehouses and workers are using vehicles, so it’s unrealistic to expect the warehouse to remain pristine; however, it’s still possible to throw out unnecessary waste so it doesn’t become a tripping hazard. Make sure, too, that workstations, staff rooms and bathrooms are all clean and hygienic.

Are you observing good fire safety?

Are all the sprinklers and fire hoses working? Are the fire extinguishers working, and do you have enough of them all in the correct positions? Consider chemicals as well. If a fire gets out of hand and reaches any chemicals you store, could there be an explosion?

Is the ventilation working well?

Warehouses generate a lot of dust because of all the packaging. This means you should check the ventilation.

Are your fire exits well-lit and easy to find?

Workers must be able to find your fire exits in an emergency. Have you marked them? There should also be guiding markers to direct workers to fire exits.

How are emergency signs positioned?

Are your emergency signs in the right place? Are they clear and large enough for people to read easily?

Do you have good drainage?

A warehouse should have enough drainage to prevent workers from slipping over and so that paper materials can stay dry. Ensure there are no blockages in the drainpipes. If your warehouse is open to the elements, you should have a sloping floor so the rain can run off.

Are hazardous materials correctly labelled?

Is the labelling on hazardous materials correct? Hazard communication is a common infringement of health and safety standards.

Do the aisles bear identification?

The warehouse aisles must feature some sort of identification so workers can store materials or items in the right place. They must also be wide enough for forklift trucks. The vehicles must be able to travel through and fulfil tasks with safe clearances.

Are your storage racks in good condition?

Do your storage racks have any damage to them? Are they clean? Check as well that they are being stacked correctly. The pile shouldn’t be so high that bundles of goods topple over.

How safe is your loading bay?

In your loading bay, you should conduct checks of forklift trucks and other vehicles. These can form part of your general warehouse inspection, or you can delegate them and include an inspection of the paperwork in your list of safety checks. Make sure the loading bay is free of obstructions and it’s possible to open loading dock doors without any problems.

Are your stairs safe?

If you don’t have railings in a place where you should, it’s a fall hazard. You should also check that all your staircases are similar in design and height. Workers who are expecting one staircase to be like the rest as they move to platforms and walkways could trip. Do you have guardrails in place to prevent falls?

Are workers wearing the right PPE for their tasks?

Each task requires its PPE, especially for the task. You should make sure all your workers are wearing the equipment they should for their duties.

Is there a record of tool and equipment inspections?

Regular inspections of tools and equipment should take place so you can be sure they’re safe and effective. As part of your health and safety checks, you should also request to see the documentation of these checks.

standard operating procedures

Standard operating procedures, often abbreviated to ‘SOPs’, cover all the operations in your warehouse. The warehouse is a vital element of any supply chain, and your SOPs can have a major impact on a variety of aspects, from customer satisfaction to inventory tracking. If you run a reliable warehouse, or partner up with a reliable supplier, you can reap a variety of benefits.

Inventory tracking

Optimised SOPs yield better visibility at each stage. This enhanced visibility allows you to see inventory levels and view supply chain demands before they disrupt the supply chain. When you establish clear processes, you can serve your customers better with a clearer, more optimised service as well.

Consistency in quality

Even small mistakes can have big consequences. SOPs ensure the same level of quality throughout the supply chain. At the same time as checking quality, they help to reduce errors and increase health and safety.

Efficiency

SOPs are pillars for operational efficiency. If you’re looking for a warehouse or a third-party logistics provider, you must understand how their SOPs benefit you. Regardless of the industry in which you operate, the way you manage your warehouse will affect your business. Choose an operator that has strong foundations when it comes to SOPs.

savings

Well-optimised SOPs reduce mistakes and streamline and highlight issues before they generate significant losses. If you avoid these mistakes now, you won’t have to spend as much money later to resolve the issues.

efficiency

SOPs are pillars for operational efficiency. If you’re looking for a warehouse or a third-party logistics provider, you must understand how their SOPs benefit you. Regardless of the industry in which you operate, the way you manage your warehouse will affect your business. Choose an operator that has strong foundations when it comes to SOPs.

warehouse safety observations, inspections and audits

There are different ways to conduct formal inspections. It’s up to you as an employer and your representatives to decide the best way to carry them out. Different formats include:

  • Safety tours: These are general inspections of the workplace.
  • Safety sampling: This is a systematic sampling of specific dangerous activities, processes or areas.
  • Safety surveys: These are general inspections of specific dangerous activities, processes or areas.
  • Incident inspections: These are inspections you carry out after an accident that leads to an injury or a fatality, or a near miss, of which an injury or fatality could have been the outcome, or a case of ill health and which has been reported to a health and safety enforcing authority.

When a health and safety representative points out their findings from an inspection, you should take notice and consider the action to take next.

Inspections in the workplace

Health and safety representatives who are appointed by unions can inspect your workplace. They must give reasonable notice in writing when they plan to conduct an inspection, and they haven’t inspected it in three months. If major changes take place in working conditions or if the HSE publishes new information on hazards, the reps can inspect your workplace before three months have passed, or if it’s by agreement.

The nature of the work will determine the frequency of inspections. In low risk environments, such as administrative offices, inspections may be less frequent, whereas specific areas of a workplace that are high risk or which are changing rapidly may warrant more frequent inspections.

Here are a few tips on good practice for carrying out inspections:

  • plan a programme of inspections: you and your reps can plan your programme of inspections in advance;
  • agree on the number of reps who are taking part in any formal inspections;
  • coordinate inspections: plan your inspections if there’s more than one representative so that they can coordinate their inspections and avoid duplication;
  • inspect together, which will help your relationship with the health and safety reps;
  • if there’s a safety officer or specialist adviser, consult them;
  • break down inspection tasks for larger workplaces, as it may not be practical to formally inspect a whole workplace in one session.

Following up after an inspection

Whenever you’re on the receiving end of an inspection, afterwards you should:

  • Explain to your representatives the reasons for any action you have taken. It’s a good idea to do this in writing.
  • Allow the representative who advised you of the inspection to inspect your workplace again and check if the issues raised the appropriate level of attention, and record their findings.
  • Share the follow-up action throughout the business and, if there is one, with the health and safety committee.

Sometimes, action may not be appropriate, you might be unable to follow up the inspection within a particular timeframe or your health and safety representatives don’t deem the action you do take as suitable. Your health and safety decisions are your responsibility, and by being open with your representatives and explaining the reasons for the steps you’ve taken, you illustrate that you’ve been considering their advice.

warehouse health and safety rules and tips

Of course, warehouses present many different safety hazards. Below we look at different aspects of health and safety in the warehouse and how you can minimise accidents in these areas. Before this, though, we look at a few general health and safety rules when it comes to warehouses:

Keep areas clean and organised

Dispose of any rubbish and recyclable items straight away, and keep any work surfaces as clear and orderly as possible. You can improve the movement of employees by keeping similar work items grouped in a logical flow and using tape to outline work areas. Have spillage procedures ready, and if any spillages do occur, clean them.

Only allow certified members of staff to operate equipment

As obvious as this may be, we should still underline it. Certification will allow operators to learn to load and unload a forklift truck correctly, lift and stack boxes properly, maintain equipment and how guide a forklift truck.

Outline forklift paths

This one is straightforward: make sure forklift and pallet truck paths are clearly defined.

Supply and wear personal protective equipment (PPE)

Your PPE should be tailored to your warehouse environment. This could include steel-toed boots, a safety vest and a hard hat. It may also include surgical-style masks, safety goggles and gloves to reduce the risk of any contagious diseases spreading.

Conduct regular inspections of equipment

Again this is straightforward: inspect your racks, conveyors and lift equipment, and maintain it, regularly.

Provide regular safety training

Conduct initial safety training for anyone you hire and schedule regular ongoing sessions as necessary for your employees. Expect to have to implement new safety standards in response to changes inside or outside the warehouse, such as new safety equipment or environmental factors.

Optimise your warehouse layout

Develop a logical flow, and make the move as easy as possible for people and equipment. Reduce any difficult movements.

Form a plan

Devise procedures in preparation for emergencies such as fires and any likely natural disasters in your area, such as floods. Practice drills will help employees to perform better in true-life emergencies. They’ll also feel calmer if such situations do occur.

Invite communication

Ask for input from the employees on the ground. A safety suggestions box is one way to encourage input, and it also allows employees to make their suggestions anonymously. Safety feedback meetings are another way to encourage input and discover small or large changes that could reduce injuries and preserve employee health. These meetings can also improve employees' morale.

Stacking, loading and unloading

Exceeding weight limits, uneven weight distribution, failure to use full loading space and improper wrapping can all cause pallets to become unstable, and a single unstable pallet can cause the whole stack to come tumbling down. Here are some things to consider when stacking loaded pallets:

Stack the heaviest pallet at the bottom

When you’re loading pallets, you should place the heaviest products at the bottom of the pallet. The heaviest pallet should then go at the base of the stack to support the weight of several loaded pallets all at once. The heaviest pallet will lower the centre of gravity and offer more stability for the entire stack.

Use a pallet storage method

Pallet storage methods play an important role in optimising warehouse space, both vertically and horizontally. When using the block stacking method, in which the operators stack pallets on top of each other without any special equipment, the pallets must be in good condition to keep the stack from becoming dangerously unstable.

You can increase the stability of the stack by choosing the double-stack method. This method entails placing lifting aids such as stabilisers or bars between the pallets to create more stability within the stack itself.

Stack pallets evenly

If a pallet has items sticking out or overhanging, this poses a safety hazard because they can cause a stack of pallets to tip over. When block stacking pallets, always make sure you’ve stacked them evenly and that no products are sticking out past the edges.

Follow a stacking pattern

When stacking pallets, the products on them are usually stacked in a columnar pattern or an interlocked pattern. In the columnar pattern, the operator stacks the items on the pallets on top of the other until they reach a certain height. Stacking the items on the pallets this way is better if you’re stacking pallets on top of each other because they have greater compressive strength. You should strap or stretch wrap your pallets, regardless of your stacking pattern, to stop the load from moving.

Inspect your pallets

It’s routine to inspect pallets before loading them and after unloading them, but take special care when reusing wooden pallets. Protruding nails on the surface of these pallets could puncture the plastic wrap holding the load together, which could cause the load itself to shift and become unstable. Warped or broken deck boards can also make the load unstable.

Additional necessary precautions

When performing stacking, loading and unloading in a warehouse, you should also:

  • stack loads straight and keeps the items as even as possible;
  • remove tripping hazards from storage areas;
  • paint walls or posts to show maximum stacking height;
  • centre loads as close to the forklift mast and centred on the forks;
  • keep any hazardous materials that could trigger fire, explosions or pest infestations in designated storage areas;
  • maintain safe clearances for any aisles in which employees must use mechanical handling equipment;
  • instruct staff not to climb on pallets, walk on them or lean on them because they could easily damage the pallets or knock something off the racking without realising it;
  • ensure staff use ladders or other suitable equipment to reach higher shelves, not forklift trucks or pallets;
  • make sure staff follow the safe stacking height and weight capacity the manufacturer has recommended.

What about loading and unloading trailers? You can learn all about loading and unloading your truck trailers safely on the Truck Loading page of our Solutions section or in the Ultimate Guide to Safe Loading and Unloading of Vehicles published in our News section.

Forklift Forklift

forklifts

As we’ve mentioned, accidents involving forklift trucks are common in warehouses, unfortunately. Employees need to be extra careful, so here are some rules for working with forklift trucks

Ensure forklift truck operators have the right training

Perhaps the most important aspect of safety when it comes to forklift trucks is providing anyone who will have to use them with the right training. To not do so is to place everyone in your warehouse at considerable risk.

Examine your forklift truck

Before every shift, examine your forklift truck for safety. Avoid operating a forklift truck that needs repairing or maintenance. Otherwise, you’ll put yourself and other people at risk. Instead, report the issue to a supervisor or manager, and only use a forklift truck fit for purpose. For extra safety, only start up the truck when you’re comfortably seated and have fastened your seatbelt.

 

Avoid leaving your forklift truck unattended

Never leave your forklift truck unattended when operating it. Nor should you leave the keys in the forklift if it’s unattended. This is a huge safety hazard.

Know the capacity of your forklift truck

Know and understand the truck’s lifting capacity, and resist the temptation to overload it so you can make fewer journeys. Plummeting loads because you’ve exceeded the capacity are a danger to others and also obstruct your view.

Park and refuel

At the end of your shift, park your forklift truck in the designated area only. Lower the forks fully to the ground and apply the parking brake before you switch off the truck. Only refuel the vehicle at designated stations when it’s switched off.

Always be alert

Always be alert and aware of your surroundings. To steer clear of hazards on the floor, avoid bumps or loading or unloading on ramps. Let others know you’re nearby beeping the horn or using your voice, and keep a safe distance from other workers and forklifts. Only stop when you have enough space to stop safely.

Stay in control of your forklift

Always stay in complete control of the vehicle by keeping your frame within the vehicle and staying in your seat. Wear your seatbelt at all times in case the forklift topples over. Never let anyone unauthorised drive the forklift truck or operate it.

Make sure you have clear visibility

Never operate the truck if you don’t have good visibility. For better forward visibility, carry loads low to the floor or, instead, choose to reverse. If you’re stacking, ensure you can see the rack you’re stacking well. If visibility is poor, request a lookout or helper to check you’re not putting anyone at risk.

Ideally, you should avoid reversing if possible and, if you’re the warehouse operator, set up a one-way system. Plan routes so drivers can see where they’re going. If they have no choice but to reverse, again they should have a lookout to make sure no one is being placed at risk.

Don’t speed

Although no one should need to tell you this, we’re going to include it for good measure. Never go over the speed limit when you’re driving a forklift truck. To avoid tipping over, take corners and turns slowly, and when stopping, do so gradually rather than coming to an abrupt halt.

If you’re an employer, adopt a zero-tolerance policy on dangerous driving such as racing, and should place signs around the warehouse to remind workers of the speed limits. Drivers shouldn’t go any faster than 5 mph.

Avoid improper use of the forklift

Never let anyone ride on the forklift truck unless there is a second seat. These vehicles are designed to carry loads but not extra bodies.

Wear appropriate clothing

Hard hats, safety shoes and high visibility jackets should always be worn. Clothing should also be reasonably fit so that workers don’t catch it in any machinery.

cold storage

Of course, working in a cold storage warehouse is different to working in a standard warehouse. Here are some health and safety tips to protect workers operating in this type of warehouse environment.

Educate people about the hazards of exposure to ammonia

Cold chain warehouses will often use ammonia-based refrigeration systems. What employees might not be aware of is that ammonia isn’t only potentially corrosive to the eyes, skin and lungs, but it can also become flammable by around 15 to 28% volume in air. If you’re an employer, you should alert your employees to the potential health and safety hazards around ammonia.

Offer guidance on apparel

Thick gloves, warm coats and insulted trousers are standard clothing for people working in cold storage warehouses. If you’re an employer, you can help them acquire the clothing they need, either by recommending specific brands suitable for working in the environment, purchasing the clothing for them as a perk or, if this isn’t possible, buying the clothing on their behalf and then deducting it from their wages. These latter two options save the employees time trying to find the right clothing and, at the same time, provide you with the confirmation and peace of mind they have the right clothing for their duties.

Beware of fire hazards

In a cold storage warehouse, fire hazards might be the last thing you’d expect to exist, but it’s a very real possibility. Cold storage warehouses often contain combustible items in large quantities, and the materials that store them and in which warehouses ship them can also pose a fire hazard. Polystyrene and cardboard are two examples of such materials.

Installing sprinklers is a good first step, and safety managers should test that these come on when required, but without triggering a false alarm. Another measure to take would be to advise employees on what to do if a blaze occurs in the warehouse. You can do this by posting reminders around the warehouse.

Limit exposure when possible

Employees should take regular breaks to avoid frequent, prolonged exposure to freezing and sub-zero temperatures. If their breathing slows down or if they experience extreme shivering, drowsiness or loss of balance, they should exit the warehouse immediately because these are early signs of hypothermia. The lower temperatures can also reduce dexterity and slow down mental reactions, whereas bulky attire for warmth can hinder movement.

ergonomics and lifting tips

As complex as warehouse operations can get, three main categories of tasks are predominant: placing and picking; packing, and receiving and shipping. Each task has its risks, but there are ways to make them safer.

Placing and picking

Usually, placing and picking items entails depositing them on racks or in bins in the warehouse system, or retrieving items from them. Employees may use a forklift or lifting mechanism to conduct the tasks, use an order picker to pick items from different heights or use a cart to pick items from ground level manually. In the case of picking and placing, the risks present themselves in the way the workers handle the products. The weight of the items, posture and frequency are all factors. Possible measures to take to protect workers, or which they can take to protect themselves when performing picking and placing tasks, include:

  • The worker aligns their body with the item’s location in storage in a way that doesn’t force them to twist.
  • Positioning the worker so that the activity, whether it’s lifting, pulling, pushing, placing or other activity, takes place between shoulder and knee height. Heavy items should be positioned between the knuckle and elbow height.
  • Use of proper lifting techniques.
  • Use of mechanical assistance, such as pulleys or lifts, when lifting heavy items or awkward ones.
  • Keeping the wheels on carts in proper working order. Not maintaining carts well forces the worker to use more force to move them.
  • Avoiding overloading carts. Keep the load on the carts within the design specifications of the cart.
  • Avoid stacking items too high on carts. This impedes visibility, making it harder to move the cart and, as a result, increasing the risk of bumping into items or rolling over items on the floor. Stacking carts too high could also force the person steering the cart to adopt awkward body postures.

Packing

Usually, the packing will involve preparing retrieved items for shipment. This could entail securing items on heavy crates or large pallets and may involve using shrink wrapping; packing items in boxes and including the relevant packing materials, and completing the paperwork for shipment.

The way products are packed, received and shipped all pose risks. The weight of the items, the posture of the workers while they’re handling them and the frequency they handle items all present safety risks. Here are some ways to make packing safer:

  • Position the orientation of products so they don’t require twisting or extended reaching.
  • Work as close to the neutral posture as possible, which involves a straight neck, straight back with the curves naturally supported, shoulders straight down, elbows at a right angle and wrists straight.
  • Use of proper lifting techniques.
  • Keep the forces applied to a minimum. These forces can be from pulling, pushing, gripping and pinching while performing taping, filling packages with material, retrieving packing slips and other paperwork, and other such tasks.
  • Minimising the need to carry items by using conveyors, carts and roller tables.

Receiving and shipping

Often, receiving and shipping tasks involve pallet construction or breakdown. Examples of receiving and shipping tasks include securing large items or heavy ones on crates, which may require the use of shrink wrapping; packing items in boxes and including the necessary materials to secure the items during shipment; and completing the paperwork for shipment.

The way products are packed, received and shipped all carry risks for workers. These can come from the weight of the items, the posture of the workers while they’re handling them and the frequency they handle items. Here are some possible ways to make receiving and shipping goods safer:

  • Use of proper lifting techniques.
  • Use mechanical assist whenever possible.
  • Placement of loads between shoulders and knees when possible. Place heavy weights between the knuckle and elbow height.

Other tips for lifting and ergonomics include:

  • Using powered equipment whenever possible instead of manual lifting.
  • Training workers in when and how to use manual lifting equipment.
  • Always use your legs when lifting and keep your back in a natural position.
  • Testing the load weight, size and bulk before you decide how to lift it.
  • Never twisting while carrying a load, but instead using small steps to move directions.
  • Asking for help if a load is too bulky or too heavy.
  • Ensuring workers know manual handling weight limits when it comes to manual lifting (20 to 25 kilos is heavy for a lot of people) and how to use proper manual handling techniques to keep the strain to a minimum.
  • Make sure anyone who is operating lifting equipment knows the maximum safe working load, which the manufacturer will have printed on the equipment and/or included in the instructions. It’s essential to respect these limits to avoid strain, which could cause the load to fall off and wear down the equipment.

fire safety

Fire can damage your warehouse and goods, harm your employees, as well as cause you to lose time and shed productivity. Here are some tips for maintaining good fire safety:

  • Perform fire drills at least once per year: These drills will help you to establish that your fire escape routes work in practice. They’ll also help you to confirm whether staff know where the fire exit locations and the assembly points are.
  • Test fire alarms weekly and smoke alarms monthly: Check any other equipment too, such as sprinklers and fire extinguishers.
  • Create a fire emergency and evacuation plan. Review this plan regularly and update it as necessary.
  • Appoint a fire warden: This person’s responsibilities will be to minimise fire hazards, create evacuation plans and take charge in an emergency.
  • Make sure you’ve installed emergency lighting: Your fire escape routes, exits and signs should be well lit so your workers can see them from a distance and navigate the warehouse safely.
  • Handle materials safely: Staff must clear away boxes and packaging and handle hazardous materials carefully. Be sure you know how to store chemicals safely in a warehouse.

preventing slips, trips and falls

Slips, trips and falls, unfortunately, are common in warehouses, but you can implement some simple measures to prevent them, or at least minimise them:

  • Make sure staff understand how to conduct good housekeeping. Employees should clean up spillages, clear cables and remove any obstructions.
  • Ensure staff put out any appropriate warning signs. You should try to conduct cleaning outside of normal working hours so it places fewer people at risk of any slips, trips or falls. See to it, also, that cleaners are using the right detergents for your warehouse floor.
  • Use anti-slip paint. This paint stops dust from building up, reduces the slipping quality of the surface, keeps wear and tear to a minimum and also helps to improve cleaning.
  • Use anti-slip tape and shoes. This type of tape is useful for stairs and any other areas where it’s not possible to use anti-slip paint. If people are wearing non-slip soles, they’ll be safer even if they do encounter a slip hazard.
  • Make floors level: People can lose their footing if the flooring isn’t level. This is particularly dangerous if they’re carrying a load.
  • Employ heavy-duty cord covers: If you absolutely must run cords across the floor, use these covers. Not only will they help to avoid trips, but they also protect cables in case vehicles run over them.
  • Train staff to work safely when working at height: Unstable ladders and not using ladders correctly can cause serious injury or even a fatality. Workers should use them for no more than 30 minutes, they should stay off the top three rungs and maintain three points of contact, such as two feet and one hand.

warehouse management solutions for safety challenges

No matter what role a person plays in the warehouse, health and safety should be part of the company culture. Here are a few ways a company can build a positive health and safety culture:

Communicate

The lines of communication between the management and the employees, and between the company and the public, should always be open. This transparency ensures everyone is on the same page when it comes to health and safety and can work towards the same goals. Not only that, but if problems do arise, it’s possible to solve them quickly and efficiently.

Care about the well-being of workers

Genuine care for the workers’ well-being is the starting point for developing a safe work environment. This starts from the moment the company hires the employee and continues throughout the employee’s service to the company. When employees feel managers care about them, they often perform better.

Pay attention to dangerous behaviours

Even if a worker is just behaving riskily in a jokey manner, it’s a red flag. If you see any worker playing pranks, teasing or other bullying other workers, or engaging in horseplay, address this. This type of behaviour could lead to more serious, unsafe behaviours and show a disregard for your health and safety culture.

Reward safety

Positive reinforcement is effective when it comes to encouraging health and safety in the workplace. Potential ways to do this include:

  • Setting reasonable, attainable long- and short-term goals. Aiming for 100% attendance at the next health and safety meeting is one simple example of this.
  • Combining different types of programmes and offering monetary rewards and merchandise rewards as part of it.
  • Acknowledge workers’ efforts publicly and often. This has two benefits: 1) seeing other employees work hard and receive rewards for their efforts motivates workers, and 2) this measure reinforces the company’s culture of safety.
  • Award frequent, small rewards. This keeps the rewards attainable and makes more employees more likely to want to earn them.

Invest in leadership development

One way to continue the business’s health and safety culture is to create well-versed leaders in these ideas and beliefs. Companies should invest in leadership programmes to create the next generation of leaders. Even if the workers don’t ascend into higher roles in the company, the leadership programmes will develop a sense of ownership. They’ll remain loyal and work hard, and when they lead by example, other employees are more likely to understand the importance of health and safety and why the company attaches such importance to it.

performing loading and unloading safely in warehouses with our modular rollerbed solution

If you’re looking for a safe, efficient way to move loads around your warehouse, as well as to load and unload them onto vehicles or from them, why not consider our Modular Rollerbed System, which we’ve designed especially for warehouses.

The system is exceptionally good for dealing with unit load devices (ULDs) and air cargo in general, and it’s possible to install the system within a day, allowing you to quickly transform your warehouse and reap the benefits of the system. You can load air cargo pallets onto trucks or off them in minutes without needing to use a forklift truck and generally move loads much more effortlessly around your warehouse.

The system’s modular design makes it highly flexible and allows you lots of freedom when it comes to deciding on a layout, which you can then change if you wish. The system is also pre-built with an aluminium platform and integrated pneumatic rise and fall roller tracks, so you don’t have to make any modifications or civil works to your existing structures. You can place the modular rollerbed on top of your floor easily, fix it with screws and then if you need to, remove it. This makes the system ideal if you’re renting the warehouse.

Safety in the warehouse is crucial, and you should never put efficiency before it. Doing so can cost you dearly in the long run. If you’d like to incorporate our modular rollerbed system into your warehouse and make your operations safe but at the same time enjoy even greater efficiency, contact us. We’ll be happy to advise you on incorporating the system into your structure and can also fit it for you.

Modular Rollerbed System Named As Finalist For Product Innovation Award 01 Modular Rollerbed System Named As Finalist For Product Innovation Award 01

air cargo news awards 2022

Joloda Hydraroll is delighted to announce that we have been named a finalist for the Air Cargo News Awards 2022: Innovation Award - Product. Our Modular Rollerbed Systems (MRS) is innovative and flexible and its tailorable design has and will continue to revolutionise the way air cargo handlers process ULD and PMC pallets.

The prestigious Air Cargo News Awards is dubbed as the Oscars of the airfreight industry – are back for 2022. The awards were launched in 1983 by leading trade publication Air Cargo News and recognise innovation and excellence in supply chains. Winning an award is a sign of being a market leader and recognition is given to the hard work of team members who help to inspire future performance.

Read more in our Modular Rollerbed System Named as Finalist for Product Innovation Award article.


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Joloda Hydraroll Help Air Cargo Operators Maximise Handling Efficiencies 01 Joloda Hydraroll Help Air Cargo Operators Maximise Handling Efficiencies 01

CASE STUDY

Joloda Hydraroll help air cargo operators maximise handling efficiencies

Joloda Hydraroll has been busy helping air cargo logistics operator, Georgi Handling maximise their handling efficiencies in their new hub, based at Leipzig/Halle Airport with complete warehouse solutions.

Learn how we've been able to apply our proven rise and fall rollerbed technology into a new setting and see a business maximise their business efficiencies, whilst also improving the level of safety in the warehouse.

Read our full case study, Joloda Hydraroll Help Air Cargo Operators Maximise Handling Efficiencies here.


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watch our modular rollerbed system in action

See our Modular Rollerbed System (MRS) in action, in this short video that explains how easy the modular platform is to set up and become operational.


Watch here

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