The COVID-19 pandemic taught a lot of hard lessons to the logistics sector about the importance of preparedness, visibility, and safety. As warehouses and fulfillment centers rushed to implement health and safety initiatives to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, it became obvious that existing warehouse safety practices were lacking in many ways. While most industrial facilities have long since established viable COVID-19 protocols, it’s important to regularly review and modify overall safety practices to reduce the risk of accidents, product loss, and employee injuries.
To this end, we’ve compiled this list of tips to help warehouse operators identify gaps in their current safety measures. We’ve divided these tips into four categories.
Category #1: Forklifts and Heavy Equipment
- Designate walkways. Putting pedestrians and moving heavy equipment in the same space drastically increases the risk of an accident. Use safety tape or barriers to designate safe walking areas free from forklifts and other moving equipment.
- Eye contact. In areas where foot traffic and moving equipment will cross, train employees to make eye contact with the equipment operator before moving. This practice ensures that the driver has seen the walking employee and minimizes the risk of an accident.
- No loose clothing. In warehouses with conveyors, lifts, and other moving machinery, employees should avoid wearing loose clothing that can catch in machinery.
- Trained operators. Ensure all equipment operators have been properly trained and licensed on the equipment they need to use. Additionally, make sure you have extra employees properly trained to fill in, so you aren’t tempted to use unlicensed operators when the usual operator is on vacation or out sick.
- Zero tolerance. Sometimes employees may be tempted to race or participate in other horseplay with forklifts and equipment during slow periods. Institute a zero-tolerance policy for this type of behavior to mitigate the risk of accidents.
Category #2: Slips and Falls
- Cover up cords. If you have electrical cords or data cables running around your facility, make sure they’ve been properly covered and marked so employees don’t trip over them. This will also keep cords from catching on moving vehicles.
- Anti-slip paints and tapes. Concrete warehouse floors and stairs often become slippery when dirty or dusty. Apply anti-slip paints to floors and stairs where appropriate to avoid the risk of slips and falls. Anti-slip friction tapes offer a viable alternative where paint isn’t practical.
- Wet floors. Make sure your employees and maintenance staff always place wet floor signs out during mopping and other housekeeping activities. Also train workers to prioritize spill cleanup.
- Remove obstructions. Any time an employee has to step over or around an object, this creates an opportunity to trip and fall. Be sure to keep walkways free from debris and obstructions.
Category #3: Lifting, Ergonomics, and Gear
- Proper lifting techniques. Train employees on proper lifting techniques to avoid stress injuries. Institute maximum safe lift policies for single-person lifts so employees know not to lift heavy objects.
- Minimize lifting. When possible, avoid manual lifts altogether. Provide employees with sufficient pallet jacks, carts, and dollies to avoid lifting and carrying heavy goods around your warehouse.
- Repetitive stress. Musculoskeletal disorders from repetitive motion account for 1/3 of all workplace injury cases, according to OSHA. When manual lifts must occur, provide proper lifting belts and other safety equipment to minimize the risk of injury. When possible, it’s often best to automate repetitive stationary tasks to eliminate the risk to employees.
- Provide personal protective equipment. Warehouse associates should wear personal protective equipment (PPE) such as safety glasses/goggles, ear plugs, high-visibility vests, gloves, hard hats, and safety shoes or boots. Basic PPE can protect against many of the most common workplace injuries.
- No climbing. Instruct employees in the proper use of ladders and lifting equipment. Don’t allow them to climb on racks or pallets to eliminate the risk of falls.
Category #4: Drills
- Fire safety drills. Regular fire safety drills will ensure your employees know what to do in the event of a fire. This knowledge can prevent panic and safe lives in a real fire emergency.
- HAZMAT drills. If your warehouse has hazardous materials on-hand, assign an emergency response team and conduct regular spill response drills. These practices will help your team to respond as quickly as possible in a real hazardous material spill, shortening the amount of time your overall staff is at risk.
Implementing these basic safety practices in your warehouse will create a safer working environment for your employees and ensure compliance with OSHA and other industry standards.
About Phoenix Logistics
Strategic Real Estate. Applied Technology. Tailored Service. Creativity. Flexibility. These fundamentals reflect everything we do at Phoenix Logistics. We provide specialized support in locating and attaining the correct logistics solutions for every client we serve. Most logistic competitors work to win 3PL contracts, and then attempt to secure the real estate to support it. As an affiliate of giant industrial real estate firm Phoenix Investors, we can quickly secure real estate solutions across its portfolio or leverage its market and financial strength to quickly source and acquire real estate to meet our client’s need.