Warehouses are home to all sorts of technology and machinery, but their most valuable occupant is also perhaps the most vulnerable: human employees. When it comes to ensuring the safety of warehouse workers, shortcuts aren't an option.
Warehousing has a higher fatal injury rate than the national average across all industries. Employees in this sector work with potentially dangerous equipment and heavy objects every day, so extensive safety measures are paramount. To keep warehouse workers free from harm, safety officers must continually readdress their methods to ensure the efficacy of their critical work.
Physical security perimeters
One of the first areas of safety to consider is a warehouse's physical security perimeter (PSP). Without a well-secured PSP, operations within a building are potentially at risk from outside factors like intruders or traffic accidents. Those in charge of security should protect any entry points with systems like CCTV and alarms.
PSP safety measures should start outside of the warehouse itself. Extensive fencing such as vehicle crash barriers that surround the perimeter is a worthwhile investment. Additionally, gates should feature checkpoints where entrants must provide identification.
Forklifts are one of the most common tools used in warehouses, but they can also be one of the most dangerous. Malfunctions or improper use can lead to severe injury or even death. To protect against accidents, managers and safety officers should pay close attention to both forklift usage and functionality.
Before anyone uses a forklift, they should examine it to ensure it's in safe working order. Any forklift operators should be competent and well-trained. Managers should perform regular evaluations and training so that operators never lose sight of safety standards.
Safety is an ongoing endeavor, so safety officers should take steps to ensure constant and consistent security. Collecting and analyzing data through EHS software can provide actionable insights into how to improve employee's safety.
The human brain, however complex, is fallible. Robust EHS software can point out potential areas of improvement that would otherwise go unnoticed. Warehouse managers can use these programs to fill in their blind spots and generate more well-rounded safety procedures.
Lockout/tagout (LOTO) procedures are a cornerstone of proper warehouse security. Only trained personnel should have access to dangerous equipment, and even those employees need a system to hold them accountable. A thorough LOTO program can prevent a substantial amount of accidents.
LOTO procedures shouldn't just involve signing equipment in and out. Employees should have to shut down and store energized tools properly to comply with the program. Without LOTO programs in place, there wouldn't be any official policy to hold workers accountable for their equipment usage.
It may seem insignificant, but appropriate signage is one of the most critical aspects of warehouse safety and one of the easiest to implement. The expansive space and high shelving of a warehouse can make it challenging to see improperly posted signs.
Signs indicating things like exits and fire extinguishers should be prominent and easy to recognize. If people within the warehouse can't see these, it could cause panic or harm in the event of an emergency. Clear and visible signage ensures operations and emergency procedures go smoothly.
To make sure all safety and security procedures are effective, warehouse managers should conduct regular inspections. Necessary reviews include everything from emergency evacuation drills to checking the physical integrity of the building. Without these routine checks, there may be areas of concern that no one knows about until it's too late.
Safety officers can choose either to perform inspections themselves or to hire a professional service. In either case, the checks should be thorough and regular to maintain a consistent level of safety within the warehouse.
Creating a culture of safety
It may be tempting to write off warehouse security as the duty of safety officers or managers, but this is a misconception. Safety is everyone's responsibility, and so everyone in the warehouse should be well-versed in proper safety procedures.
Workers should undergo routine hazard awareness training, especially if they're licensed or permitted to use equipment like forklifts. Carelessness is a leading factor behind workplace accidents, and the cure to negligence is regular re-education.
Once safety and security become second nature to employees, the chances of an accident sharply decrease.