Warehouses today move faster than ever before. Thanks primarily to Amazon’s massive popularity, e-commerce customers now expect fast shipping, and the industry has shifted to meet these needs. More than half of all retailers offer same-day delivery, and 65% plan to offer it within two years.
Fast shipping is quickly becoming the norm. And as warehouses adapt to sustain these speeds, they should keep worker safety in mind. You can undoubtedly enable fast shipping without jeopardizing safety, but it may take some work.
These five strategies can help ensure warehouse safety while providing faster shipping.
1. Reduce worker motion
Amazon leads the fast shipping trend, delivering products within two hours for some Prime members. A 2019 study of Amazon facilities also found that 66% of their workers have experienced physical pain while working. Most of these injuries are musculoskeletal issues from repetitive strain and overexertion.
The key to preventing these injuries is to reduce how much workers have to move throughout their job. The less employees have to bend over, twist, or lift things over their shoulders, the less likely they’ll be to develop musculoskeletal problems.
Place items workers need within reach and provide tools to help move things below or above their torso to reduce this motion.
2. Train workers more thoroughly
Since warehouses typically rely on seasonal employees, it can be easy to let workers start with minimal training. If you want to increase efficiency while preventing injuries, though, you should provide thorough training. Highly trained employees are less likely to make mistakes that could endanger them or their co-workers.
Make sure to stress proper lifting and carrying techniques during training to prevent musculoskeletal injuries. Anyone operating a forklift or other machinery should receive extra training, including periodic tests or refresher courses. If your workers are better trained, they’ll work more safely and more efficiently, providing benefits all around.
3. Reconsider how to enable faster shipping
There are more ways to create a more efficient warehouse than pushing employees to work faster. Finding alternative solutions to enable fast shipping can help meet customers’ demands without raising safety concerns. If you don’t have to push workers harder, they’ll be less likely to strain themselves or make dangerous judgment lapses.
National Fulfillment Services expanded two-day shipping to 98% of its customers by adding a new warehouse. Optimized fulfillment center location can make it easier to offer fast shipping without pushing workers.
Alternatively, you could artificially expand your workforce by implementing automation. Automated tools work faster than people and give them more time to focus on other tasks safely.
4. Rethink shifts and breaks
Many warehouses operate on two shifts: one during the day and one at night. While these 12-hour shifts have become an industry standard, they’re not always ideal for safety. Injury rates are highest among workers with little sleep and more work hours.
Switching to shorter shifts can help workers develop healthier sleep schedules, reducing fatigue-related injuries. Requiring them to work fewer hours throughout the week can do the same. Running more but shorter shifts can create scheduling complications, but it can be a tremendous help in improving safety.
Giving workers more breaks throughout the day can also help. When they have time to rest, they can stay at their most productive for longer, working more efficiently and safely.
5. Improve visibility and awareness of machines
Many warehouses are turning to automation to improve efficiency as fast shipping becomes standard. These machines are a valuable resource, but make sure workers are aware of their presence at all times. If employees don’t hear or see them nearby, they could run into them, causing injury.
Installing lights and auditory signals on all automated machines can help improve visibility. Another possible solution is to use wearable devices that alert workers through vibrations or noise when they sense a machine nearby. With these measures in place, warehouses can improve shipping times while keeping employees safe.
Speed and safety can coexist
The demand for fast shipping will continue to grow along with e-commerce. As you prepare to create a more efficient and agile warehouse, remember to keep worker safety in mind.
At first, it may seem like warehouses have to compromise safety to enable faster delivery times. Thankfully, this is far from the truth. If you follow these steps, you can simultaneously speed up your operations and protect your employees’ safety.
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