Improve Safety Performance in Your Warehouse
What Can You Do to Improve Safety Performance in Your Warehouse?
In large industrial plants and warehouses, safety is an immense concern. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, out of every 100 workers, 5.1 were injured in the warehousing and storage industry in 2017.
It’s a dangerous environment, clearly, albeit one that can be made safer through the use of the right practices and applications.
Training, Education and Awareness
No matter how clean or safe an area is, it’s up to those spending the most time inside to follow best practices and remain aware of their surroundings. Some accidents occur regardless of external events or elements, and they often play out because those involved were not paying attention.
Proper health and safety training should be mandatory for all employees, executives included. Furthermore, regular safety audits should take place to ensure not just the surrounding environment but also workers are taking the necessary precautions.
Not wearing the proper safety equipment, such as a helmet or body shield, can cause irreparable damage, and sheer negligence should always be met with appropriate action. Additional training may also be necessary to ensure the worker understands his/her responsibilities.
In general, safety practices, audits and reviews should never be white-knuckle experiences. You don’t want to intimidate or even scare workers. Yes, they should be reprimanded for willful neglect, but that stands on its own. Otherwise, things should remain collaborative and lighthearted.
The primary reason for this is to foster a culture of safety, where everyone looks out for one another, as opposed to a more cutthroat setting. It can also build up the brand and its reputation, by posing your company as one that cares about its employees — which it most certainly does. Workers aren’t reduced to a statistic on paper, and their peers actually care if they get hurt, not just because it gums up productivity.
The same ideals should be adopted in upper management, too. Corporate safety managers and facility inspectors should be more concerned about those working within the facility instead of focusing on boosting numbers.
Employ IoT and Data Analytics
Consider this: A particular machine or system has been malfunctioning for some time, but the maintenance and safety reports just haven’t been passed on to the right person — or worse, they’ve been ignored. The machine malfunctions again, only this time injuring one of the operators. It’s an event that could have been prevented through simple data recognition.
With the right modern IoT and reporting tools, events — like our hypothetical one — can be avoided entirely by ensuring the right people are informed. A facility outfitted with smart and connected sensors is generally referred to as a smart warehouse or factory. The technology it calls for can be used to improve safety and efficiency within industrial environments, including the average warehouse.
Real-time alerts can be sent to the appropriate managers and safety teams so they can take action. Performance and operational data can be reported to technicians, allowing them to administer preventive maintenance. Even via the assessment of regular data, predictive tools can be used to identify potential hazards and mitigate risks.
Proper Equipment Availability
Some activities, such as regular lifting or bending actions, can damage the human body. Due to the repetitive and strenuous nature of these activities, OSHA often has regulations in place for appropriate protective gear. For the manual lifting and handling of beer kegs, for example, proper protocols and protective gear are necessary. One person alone should not be lifting the kegs, so in addition to secondary help, there are certain precautions that workers must take to improve safety.
It is the responsibility of safety managers and administrators to understand the risks for workers under their care and to ensure they have the appropriate safety gear. Plus, workers should also be aware of the potential risks, as well as the proper protocols for equipment handling and operation.
It highlights the need for employers and managers to make all necessary gear, resources, and documentation available to ensure optimal safety conditions are met.
Assess the Warehouse or Facility
Workplace inspections are necessary to help prevent accidents and injuries, but that’s common knowledge. In fact, one of the first things any health and safety auditor will do is tour the facility to assess its overall condition. However, you should already be doing this in some way and as part of a continuous process.
One thing property managers can do is encourage and even hire additional staff to explicitly find potential safety hazards in the warehouse. Hiring additional staff may not be necessary for new and recently built facilities, but in older warehouses, the extra eyes can help significantly.
Of course, the entire concept is really about taking a proactive approach to identifying and dealing with facility dangers. If you include awareness and discovery practices as part of the regular training regimen, existing workers can aid in calling attention to or discovering hazards.
It should be more of a collective effort, where everyone that steps foot inside a facility or warehouse is doing their part to ensure safe working conditions, both for themselves and their peers.
Megan Ray Nichols
STEM Writer & Blogger
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