As you're choosing points to cover in your safety program, the list of possible warehouse safety topics is probably almost as big as the warehouse itself. You have a host of fire-safety and OSHA regulations for which you need to account on top of your own staff's personal challenges. More people die in warehouse accidents than any other industry, according to OSHA, so addressing key safety points is vital to protecting your employees and your company. Start with these key points as the center of your safety plan.
Top Safety Rules for Warehouses: Pay Attention to All the Ways You Lift
In a warehouse environment, lifting, moving and storing are the basics of the job. How your teams get that work done takes many forms, and each one deserves its own safety focus.
Lifting Safely by Hand
As man power is the cornerstone of any warehouse, safety tips to support ergonomics should be in constant rotation in your ongoing program. Remind your employees to maintain proper posture not just when they're lifting but in general. Urge them to use pickers to pull objects from deep on shelves rather than stretching across to grab what they need. If they have to lift anything heavy without machine help, encourage techniques that protect both the back and knees from injury. Here's a simple video to show employees how to lift correctly.
Employees often try to lift weight that's outside their comfort zone. Post reminders with "buddy system" warehouse safety slogans in high-traffic areas to remind employees to use the buddy system to move heavy items or anything that's not in an easy-access location.
Use Forklifts Correctly
The employees at your warehouse who operate forklifts should have proper certification. Develop separate warehouse safety checklists for those drivers, so they remember to inspect and maintain their equipment as well as how to use it correctly.
Operate Lifting Tables with Safety in Mind
Like forklift operators, your staff who use lifting tables need their own certification. Remind them of their training when it comes to load capacity on the table and the right way to situate loads. Unless you have tables specifically for carrying people, keep staff members off the machinery itself.
Manage Safety Near Loading Docks and Conveyors
Common sense tells you to keep the loading dock clear and avoid overhanging items nearby. Unfortunately, common sense isn't common. Employees need reminders to pick up after themselves on the dock and, if something is sitting in their way on the dock, to push or lift that something out of the way instead of kicking it.
If your warehouse uses conveyors, they, too, are ripe with warehouse safety meeting topics. Repetitive motion injuries are common for employees who work at conveyors all day, so consider bringing an ergonomics expert into your meeting for on-site corrections of employees' bad habits. Likewise, awareness is crucial to safety near conveyors because awkward shapes, heavier items, and overhanging edges can call knock into or fall onto distracted workers.
Fire Safety 101
Chances are, your warehouse has all the requisite sprinklers, extinguishers and alarms to fight back should a fire break out at your facility. But do your employees know how to use it? Schedule regular training to make sure each shift in your warehouse knows how and when to put out the different types of fires that are possible based on what you store. Enlist employees to check for damage to fire hoses, extinguishers and other equipment. Also, post evacuation paths on flame-resistant signage all around your property so employees can find their way out should the worst-case scenario happen.
Of course, the best defense against fire is an inhospitable environment for one to start in the first place. Reinforce the importance of storing plastic materials according to regulations, for example, because fires involving plastics often burn so hot that traditional sprinkler systems can't contain the blaze. Designate a safe space for smokers, too, far from charging equipment and paper storage, to avoid inadvertent fires from still-burning butts or flicked ashes blowing in the wind. Provide sand or a similar snuffing agent for another layer of security.
Curb Cutting Dangers
In a warehouse environment, packing and unpacking are the crux of much of the work. Your employees are cutting corrugated, metal, plastic straps, and plastic pallet wrappings constantly. Without the proper protective equipment and safety knives, your employees are at risk of injuring themselves seriously -- and your company is at risk of losing an average of $30k in direct costs per cut or laceration and $33k in indirect costs. Look for safety knives that limit the amount of exposed cutting surface, retract automatically, and stay sharp.
Even the safest equipment isn't foolproof, however. Proper cutting techniques are vital to protecting your staff. Train your employees to stand at an angle and cut away from their bodies, and teach them to hold straps in place with one hand while cutting with the other so plastic doesn't go flying. Also remind them to never leave a blade sitting out on the floor or in their pocket. Invest in high-quality safety cutters, including box cutters and precision cutting tools and train your team how to use them properly to reduce the risk of injuries.
As you narrow down which warehouse safety topics your company should prioritize, think of how these standards apply to your unique workplace. Your employees' understanding of these and other warehouse nuances can mean the difference between a healthy workforce and costly injuries.