Demand for goods is likely at an all-time high. Many people who were stuck at home during the pandemic restrictions opted to make home improvements and upgrades. Combine that with significant supply chain slow-downs and there is a recipe for extreme demand. This has left many warehouse and construction workers pushing to move as much product as possible in a given day.
It has also pushed warehouse managers and company leaders to search for ways to gain efficiency in the movement of products. Advancements in technology have been instrumental in making improvements in this arena. New tools are increasing the ability of workers to do more with the same amount of manpower.
As imperative as many of the technological advancements have been, there are other valuable means of improving efficiency. Putting a renewed focus on warehouse safety, for instance, is one way to help ensure everything is running at its most efficient. Warehouse and construction safety start with understanding safe operations and ultimately lead to greater productivity of all employees.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an average of 16 deaths annually in warehouses and other storage sector facilities. Furthermore, the reported illness and injury rate is 5 out of every 100 workers. It is unknown how many minor or chronic illnesses and injuries are not reported.
Regular injuries in the workplace are terrible in and of themselves, but they are also bad for business. Fewer quality employees are willing to work in dangerous settings, and injuries harm the morale and productivity of all employees. There are plenty of standard daily operations in warehouses that can lead to injuries such as
- Forklift operations
- Loading/unloading docks
- Conveyor equipment
- Poorly organized material storage
- Loading and lifting goods manually
- On-site chemicals
- Construction equipment
One of the best ways to help mitigate some of the risks associated with warehouse and construction work is to start with a comprehensive safety plan. This plan should include standard operating practices for equipment, rules, and responsibilities while at work, and protocols to follow in case of injury. It could also include suggestions on self-care practices that will help employees avoid injury. These plans can be even more specific for employees with certain tasks, for example, managers could create safety plans specifically for maintenance workers.
Ensuring that all employees are properly trained on how to use equipment and workflows in the workspace is a great place to start. However, breaking down the workflow and understanding where risks increase and efficiencies are lost is another important thing to consider. After all, reducing risk will also help to improve product flow.
Ideally, your warehouse will move products in and out regularly and pretty quickly. This means utilizing a classification system — technology can make a big difference here. Taking steps to store products in an organized location (rather than just wherever they fit) can not only increase efficiency in finding them later, but it can also improve safety. For instance, clear warehouse traffic management is easier to achieve, which reduces the risk of equipment hazards.
Organized product placement can also make picking faster. Since picking constitutes upwards of half of the total operating expense in the warehouse, this is a great place to increase efficiency and lower costs. Once again, getting things up off the floor and organizing can help improve safety substantially as well.
Storage is one of the other big struggles that many warehouses are regularly dealing with. For many, organization difficulties are often dealt with by getting a larger space. This isn’t the crux of the problem though. Without addressing underlying organization and storage concerns, more space can just mean more employees tripping over items and longer time to get items from shelves to the dock.
Rather than building out, consider building up. Some racking systems can reach greater than 40 feet high. Vertical assemblage and configuration can lead to much more economical storage. With the right equipment for the job, this can also be much safer for employees.
Common best practices for safer storage include things like placing heavier items lower on shelving units, storing awkward items in positions that reduce the likelihood of falling or rolling, and placing ladders on stable surfaces. Another obvious storage best practice that improves safety and overall efficiency is not placing items on the floor where they could be a tripping hazard.
The demand for products and construction is skyrocketing. Many industry leaders are looking for ways to improve efficiencies to meet the demand. Fortunately, increasing efficiency and improving safety are two things that go hand in hand. By working to improve safety within warehouses and construction zones, managers are likely to reduce risks and find that productivity has increased substantially.