Your warehouse safety checklist is an integral part of keeping workers safe. It’s important to do regular and complete inspections or audits of your space, equipment, and procedures. Detailed lists are an effective way to make sure you’re thorough. But workers aren’t always fond of this tool. Checklists can be tedious. And they can feel too nitpicky--almost insulting in their detailed simplicity--especially for more experienced, senior workers.

However, it’s these seasoned employees who often need checklists the most. Experience can lead to complacency and complacency leads to errors. When you’ve done something day in and day out for a long time without dire consequences, it’s easy to see how taking a little shortcut here or there wouldn’t seem like such a big deal. Until the day it is, and then it’s too late.

That’s what happened when two experienced pilots made a novice mistake that almost ended in tragedy, as discussed on AIN’s Tales From the Flightdeck Podcast, Episode 13, “Familiarity Breeds Complacency.” It’s important to remember that most workplace injuries are preventable, but appropriate maintenance, precautions, and protocols must always be followed—to the letter. Thus, checklists.

The Health and Safety Checklist for Warehouse Workers: There’s More Than One

You can have checklists for all sorts of things. A few checklist examples include:

  • Machinery condition and maintenance
  • PPE stock and condition
  • Before- and after-shift clean-up
  • Equipment tag-in and tag-out protocols
  • Warehouse safety audit preparation
  • Dangerous equipment operation protocols
  • Handling hazardous material procedures

    You may also want to have a general warehouse safety checklist that’s a catch-all for items that need to be tracked but don’t fall into any specific category. Items here may include seeing if there are an appropriate number of first aid kits and that they’re well stocked; making sure your AED machines are in good working order; keeping the hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes well stocked and available in common use areas; checking that safety signage is adequate and visible.

Some checklists will be used occasionally. For instance, a warehouse checklist for safety inspection readiness would be used from time to time to make sure that you’re maintaining inspection-ready status. If you’re in the United States, this may be your OSHA warehouse safety checklist. Something like a before- and after-shift clean-up checklist, on the other hand, should be in heavy rotation, used before and after every shift. Whenever you have a procedure or maintenance to track, you can make a checklist for that and use it as often as needed.

What Makes a Good Warehouse Safety Checklist?

Whatever type of safety inspection you’re conducting, a checklist will only work if it’s in good order. That means your checklist needs to be complete and specific to your environment or situation. If you don’t know where to start, try a sample checklist and alter as needed.

Always make sure your checklist is current. It should also be in order. If the checklist covers a procedure, think through the steps and make sure they’re listed one after another. Or, if you’re checking equipment or tools, group items in the same area together to reduce the amount of running around that’s required. Make sure your checklist items are clear and to the point. And finally, make your checklists detailed. The well-known phrase, “the devil is in the details” holds especially true when you’re dealing with safety. One small element can be the difference between a regular day at work and a disaster.

For an added bonus, throw in a few items that snap checklist users into paying attention. Break up the list with short messages like “Take a deep breath” or “Pause for three seconds.” A lot of accidents happen because people are distracted or not fully focused on the task at hand. The same goes for following checklists. Someone mindlessly going through the same old checklist may miss something.

Knowing Is Good, but Doing Is Better

You can read every cake recipe known to humankind, but knowing how to make a cake will not produce one. The only way for that to happen is to actually make it. What does this have to do with safety?

A lot of safety training is about education, which is important. But no amount of safety knowledge will be effective unless they take action. One strategy to move knowledge to action is to fold warehouse safety inspection checklist items into a toolbox talk.

Toolbox talks are often about safety awareness; that is, education. And checklists are about doing the thing to make you safer, so why not combine them? Teach cake making by making cake.

For instance, if your toolbox talk is on reducing trips and falls, you could show workers this short video about preventing this common cause of injuries:

Afterwards, you could walk around and check for cluttered, slippery, or otherwise compromised walkways as part of the training. Certainly any safety audit checklist for warehouse staff will include keeping walkways clear and safe since that’s such major cause of accidents. Now you can check that off the list and know that your workers have learned something about injury prevention at the same time.

Or, if you want to teach hand safety, you can download the Slice Hand Safety Toolbox Talk PDF and, say, cover the Punctures and Lacerations section, which discusses protective gloves. Certainly any checklist covering PPE or hand tools will include being sure they work well. So as part of your toolbox talk, have workers check their tools and PPE. Again, a few more items checked off the checklist, and your employees have learned about hand safety.

The added bonus of completing checklist items as part of a toolbox talk is that you have many people at hand, so instead of one person being tasked with checking all the cutting tools at once, many people can each check one or two cutting tools. This also reinforces that safety is a team effort.

Most people learn better and find it more enjoyable to do something than to sit and listen to someone talk about safety, so this approach may help get you workforce more engaged.
Can you think of more ways to bring your toolbox talks to life by incorporating tasks from your warehouse safety checklist?