As we were talking about warehousing and potential warehouse design I started to wonder about safety issues and how they could be included in the warehouse design. When we visited Alnut a supplier of Mercadona in one of our other master courses we could observe that safety has the highest priority in every facility. This includes the people working there as well as the products that are produced (or in the warehouse case are stored). Before we could enter the fabric we had to cover up all our hair (for the men the beards as well) and put on a clean overall. The floor was marked with lines where it is safe to walk so we won’t get into the way of the worker with their forklifts etc. In the following I want to talk a little about warehouse safety hazards and possible ways to avoid them and provide a safe working environment. (To write this I consulted the following website: http://premierhandling.com/top-10-warehouse-safety-hazards-avoid/)
- Heavy Equipment Accidents: Heavy equipment as forklifts for example can cause horrible accidents especially if your employees get used to working with them, stop being careful and underestimate the possible danger. Remind your employees about the potential hazards and try to provide a diversified environment so your employees never get too bored and comfortable.
- Slips and Trips: Warehouses always bear the risk of slipping or tripping. To avoid slipping and tripping remove loose material, liquids or boxes on the floor, unnecessary steps or ridges, dark areas. Anti-slip floor tape could be another possibility.
- Falls: Similar as slipping and tripping there is always the risk of falling, this can be above as well as on ground level. Train your employees to always stay aware of their surroundings. Guard railing should be used for steps and drops between floors.
- Fires: One of the most dangerous but also preventable safety hazards. To prevent fires make sure that you have the building permits, clearly marked exits, exit strategies and fire extinguishers in place. Also avoid worn and exposed wires or leaking flammable fluids and gasses as main causes of fires.
- Crushed: Even though it sounds rare in the beginning there could be the possibility of workers getting crushed to death for example when augers or press machines are involved. Again it is important to provide sufficient training when dealing with these kind of instruments. Also avoid moving around big and heavy stuff in narrow areas.
- Exposure to Harmful Substances: Harsh chemicals as for example asbestos can endanger your employees seriously. Make sure that your warehouse is free of harmful substances. If you are dealing with chemicals always make sure that all safety measures are implemented
- Ergonomics: Working in a warehouse can be a tough job and the wrong movements over and over again can lead to pain and injury. Once again train your employees so proper lifting techniques is one of the most important things to learn. Moreover design your warehouse in an ergonomic way so that the human body is not forced to perform unusual poses.
- Moving Parts: Machines with moving parts can be a safety hazard when they are used improperly or you wear jewelry or loose clothing. Therefore always pay attention to warning labels and be aware of your surrounding.
- Falling objects: When things are stacked it is quite likely that once and again something might fall. Store heavy loads on the ground and always make sure that everything is stacked properly to avoid a shifting load or round objects from falling down the shelves.
- Lack of safety education: As mentioned before training and safety education is a key aspect of a safe warehouse. Therefore the lack of it can pose a serious safety threat. Don’t be afraid to spend some money on training and repeat the training after a few years. Another method that can be helpful is the 5S method (for details about consult Alirio’s post from April, 26th 2016)
And if you are not yet convinced that working in a warehouse can be a dangerous job you might want to watch the following video.
Still not convinced? Here are some statistics about the warehouse safety in the United States:
- 20,000 workers are injured in forklift accidents alone each year and 25 percent of those accidents happen when a forklift overturns.
- 100 people are killed in those forklift accidents each year.
- Tripping, falling and slipping make up most of what it calls “general industry accidents.” Slip and fall accidents make up 15 percent of all accidental deaths, 25 percent of all injury claims and 95 million lost work days each year.
- How much can a worker injury cost a company? According to the National Safety Council, the average direct cost to a company is $38,000 and $150,000 in indirect costs.
If you want to know more numbers you can take a look at http://www.kokeinc.com/material-handling/warehouse/shocking-safety-warehouse-statistics/.
So I hope I could convince you all that warehouse safety is a very important topic that every company should consider when planning and operating a warehouse.