Managing a warehouse is not a mean feat, regardless of the size and scale of operations. Handling hazardous, perishable, and high-value products is even more challenging.
The cost of running a warehouse can be daunting, and the industry is labour-intensive too. There are no shortcuts to keeping track of goods and managing them from start to end.
But these are only half the problems American warehouse owners or managers report.
Another key aspect you cannot undermine is safety because the industry is inherently risky. Threats of mishap abound, from slip and fall incidents to falling objects, chemical spills, forklift mishaps, and fire risk.
While some accidents are preventable and others are not, you can do your bit to minimise the risks. Here are a few actionable tips to overcome warehouse safety challenges.
1. Eliminate potential fall hazards
Eliminating potential safety hazards is your best defence against accidents. Most mishaps are avoidable, provided you take proper preventive measures to address the hazards that may cause them.
Start by ensuring that floors are clean and skid-free. Design a good warehouse pallet racking system, keep cables tied up and tape work areas to set clear boundaries.
Good housekeeping goes a long way for warehouse safety. So, perform regular checks on spilt liquids, accumulated debris, stray cords, and pits on the floor.
Address them sooner than later because they can cause severe injury to workers and damage high-value cargo and machinery.
2. Optimize floor layouts
Surprisingly, the layout of your facility can affect the possibility of mishaps. A haphazard arrangement of racks and palettes hinders the movement of people, goods, and machinery on the warehouse floor.
It can also hamper worker productivity and cause delays in loading and unloading goods. Accident risk is a bigger challenge than an inappropriate layout.
Experts recommend developing a logical flow that eases the movements of people and equipment. It also breeds predictability and minimises negative outcomes like collisions, falls, and spills.
3. Conduct fire safety drills
Fire is another risk factor that warehouse owners should not overlook because warehouses are crowded spaces. Even the safest premises with security measures are prone to fire, and the risk grows when you store flammable materials in inventory.
Regular fire safety drills keep your business a step ahead of the hazard. Safety drills should include checking fire and smoke alarms and assessing safety and first-aid equipment.
Employees should also practice an emergency evacuation plan. Installing emergency lights in the facility is another significant step as they show the way employees need to evacuate due to fire or dangerous spills.
A fire safety drill ensures that every person in your team knows how to deal with such dangerous incidents.
4. Ensure shelving safety
Falling objects are a dire concern for warehouse managers, specifically when you store bulky and heavy goods. If an object falls on workers, they may sustain grave injuries or even get crushed under the load.
Even if no one gets hurt, falling objects can cause extensive damage to your cargo, which can cause massive losses and reputational damage to your business.
Overcoming this challenge requires regular assessment of storage racks to check how much weight they can endure.
Also, find the best way to stack the materials on the shelves to achieve optimal distribution.
5. Invest in training
Safety training is essential in all industries, and warehouses are no exception. You need to go the extra mile, considering the nature and extent of hazards in the industry.
Conducting initial training for all recruits is crucial, but you should not confine the sessions to only this segment of your workforce.
Schedule ongoing training sessions for everyone else in the team because risks evolve, and continuous training keeps people aware and vigilant.
Consider rolling out new safety standards when things change internally or externally. For example, new equipment acquisition, hazardous material storage, and environmental factors are some good reasons to beef up your SOPs.
Once you have them in place, communicate them to everyone on board.
6. Prioritize vehicle safety
Vehicle collisions are a challenge most American warehouse owners encounter at some point. The most daunting part is that heavy vehicles like forklifts or lift trucks can cause severe crush injuries if a mishap occurs.
You can address the concern by investing in proper practical training for forklift operators. Look for a program that includes classroom training sessions, driving practices, and a written exam. Fortunately, you can find such programs across the US.
You can check this forklift certification in Philadelphia if you run a warehouse in this part of the country. Proper practical training covers aspects like maintaining speed limits, blind spot awareness and avoiding reversing whenever possible.
The best part about investing in forklift training and certification is that it keeps you ahead of compliance.
7. Facilitate good ventilation
Poor ventilation is a factor warehouse managers tend to overlook, but ignoring it can be fatal for the employees. Limited air circulation inside a cramped area can cause stagnation of vehicle exhaust and hazardous fumes.
The toxic gases can cause discomfort to workers and pose safety hazards in the long run. Facilitating good ventilation is a small step, but it can make your warehouse a safe space.
Design optimization can help, but you can install exhaust fans where a change in design is out of budget.
8. Supply proper PPE to employees
Your employees may encounter several safety hazards while storing and handling materials in the warehouse. Proper personal protective equipment can minimise injuries, even if something is amiss.
Tailoring PPE to your warehouse conditions is a good idea. For example, you can supply a safety vest, hard hat, and steel-toe boots to workers lifting and moving bulky foods.
People handling hazardous materials like chemicals and gases should get hazmat suits, masks, safety goggles, and gloves to prevent spills and exposure-related injuries. You need to ensure safety and security in the workplace.
Warehouse safety is challenging because you encounter several threats and hazards. But dealing with them is not as difficult as you imagine.
Everything boils down to identifying problems and staying a step ahead with feasible preventive measures.
Implementing these tips can keep your people, goods, and premises safe from risks.