The fundamental principles behind health and safety tend to be similar across a variety of industries, however, given the different nature roles in different working environments can have sometimes the applications of the principles can change. Warehouse work tends to be predisposed to a lot of open hazards that have the potential to lead to major incidents. If you are responsible for managing the health and safety of a warehouse, here are some rules of best practice to follow.
Ensure you have a good policy associated with vehicle safety
Vehicle use in warehouses is a good example of how different aspects of health and safety all have to be managed within the environment. For standard machinery like forklift trucks and sorting equipment make sure you maximize the visibility of both the vehicles and the areas that they operate in. This will help to indicate to workers where to operate and where to avoid.
Try to also encourage workers to keep aisles clear so that vehicles are not obstructed during their operation. This can be done through training and positive reinforcement, however, in many cases, it will require a large scale behavioural safety change to be implemented correctly.
Picking is one of the key areas associated with warehouse management and an area that should be looked at when it comes to vehicle safety. The use of a warehouse management system will help you keep the operation running and minimise the picking distance, this reduces the chances of incidents occurring.
Encourage the use of personal protective equipment among employees
Sometimes the complete absence of hazard exposure is unavoidable, this is where personal protective equipment can be used to help to mitigate the risks. Items like hardhats, high vis jackets and steel toe-cap boots are good for reducing the likelihood and severity of possible injuries, promoting safety within the warehouse. Failure to wear PPE is one of the most common OSHA violations and this is one of the reasons why it is important to remember to regularly remind warehouse workers to wear the correct gear.
Foster an environment that nurtures mental health and encourages discussion
In the past the focus for managing health and safety in the workplace has been centred on compliance and environmental issues; however, safety professionals are increasingly waking up to the issue of poor mental health within the workplace. Often when workers do not safely perform tasks it could be down to them being in a poor mental state. Because of this a good mental health strategy is essential for the development of good behavioural safety.
Another method that you could implement that may be beneficial to both mental and wider health and safety is the discouragement of lone work. This type of work is often commonplace in warehouses and can lead to isolation which can lead to damaging loneliness in employees. Having workers operate in groups also means there is someone to sound the alarm if something goes wrong.
A holistic approach is needed to optimise the health and safety of any warehouse
As shown a holistic approach is really needed to create a warehouse environment that is safe to work in for all the different types of staff. Our article on PPE shows you the benefits of different kinds of protective equipment and we also discuss how to improve your management of behavioural safety here.