Your warehouse is a dynamic environment, with objects being refilled, moved, and shipped out all day long. With heavy equipment, high shelves, and fast-paced operations, accidents can happen quickly and have serious consequences. However, if you were aware of a warehouse, you would know how busy that place is and how every process going on in a warehouse occurs so quickly, and doing so requires efficiency. Warehouses can be dangerous if proper health and safety protocols aren’t followed. However, such a busy workplace would always risk someone’s health. This makes it crucial that whoever enters the warehouses practices warehouse health and safety. With the right procedures, warehouse managers can create a safe and healthy working environment for their employees while protecting their businesses from costly legal and financial penalties.
In this blog, we will discuss some of the common risks of injuries in warehouses and some essential tips and best practices for maintaining warehouse health and safety.
Warehouse health and safety regulations
Every workplace has some legal regulations placed upon it, which play a role in contributing to workplace safety. Similarly, considering the risk that a normal worker is exposed to in a warehouse, some regulations are placed on the employer’s shoulders, which they should comply with. An employer is legally required to comply with these regulations in the warehouse to maintain the warehouse’s health and safety, ultimately creating a safer and more secure work environment. Let’s look at some of the laws you, as a warehouse employer, are most likely subjected to.
- The Health & Safety Act 1974: You are responsible for complying with this regulation as an employer. The HSA emphasizes the health and safety of your workers and states some of the common safety measures you should carry out in your workplace to maintain safety.
- The Provision & Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER): Th PUWER places a responsibility on you, as an employer, to ensure that the work equipment used in the warehouse is safe for use. This workplace equipment includes any machinery, appliance, tool, or installation that could pose a risk to someone’s health.
- The Lifting Operations & Lifting Equipment 1998 (LOLER): LOLER is a regulation that ensures that all the lifting equipment, such as cranes, winches, or lifts in warehouses, are used safely.
- The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992: This rule ensures that all the manual handling activities that are taking place in the warehouse are done properly with safety equipment to minimize the risk of injury.
- The Work at Height Regulations 2005: Working at height in warehouses is a common task in most warehouses, and generally, there should be a law concerning height work as it can be very dangerous to the worker’s health if done with improper care and safety. This regulation dictates how every working height task should be planned properly and then carried out.
- The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health 2002 (COSHH): Hazardous substances are common in many workplaces. And the rule of COSHH is there to protect the workers from exposure to these hazards.
Why is warehouse health and safety important?
As an employer of a warehouse, you must understand the importance of upholding a very high standard of health and safety to protect your employees and business. Below are some key reasons why maintaining warehouse health and safety should be your primary concern as an employer.
· Reducing injuries, illnesses, and fatalities
According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, in 2019, there were approximately 240,000 workplace injuries and illnesses in the warehouse industry. This underscores the importance of implementing effective safety protocols in warehouses to protect workers from harm.
Injuries and illnesses can be common health issues in most warehouses. With more carelessness and poor safety measures, even casualties can occur. By implementing the right warehouse health and safety policies in your workplace, you can ensure your workers’ safety and allow them to perform their jobs safely.
· Reduction in lost working days
According to a study by the National Safety Council, the average time away from work for a warehouse injury was 14 days in 2019, resulting in 31,880 lost workdays in the warehousing and storage industry.
With injury and illness among the workers comes the loss of working days. The loss of working days is the time loss in productivity due to the worker being injured and unavailable for work. It is a cost that the organization has to pay in terms of lost productivity. By installing safety measures and reducing the chances of workplace accidents and injuries, you can minimize the employee absenteeism rate significantly. Doing so would allow you to reduce the cost your firm would bear in the event of missed working days and loss of productivity.
· Employee turnover
Implementing employee health and safety policies in the workplace would allow your business to have a greater employee turnover. It would allow you to retain your already skilled and competent staff and hire more skilled labour, avoiding the tension of repeating a costly recruitment process. Another benefit of health and safety policies is that they reduce the chance of your workers needing to leave their jobs.
· Boost productivity
With your warehouse health and safety policies, you can boost productivity in your warehouse. With the proper health and safety policies, your workers would feel much safer and more protected while doing their job, allowing them to do their tasks more effectively and efficiently. Meaning that they could accomplish more in a working day than usual. Your employees would be healthier, happier, and better motivated, knowing their employer cares for them.
· Complying with the law
It is a legal requirement for employers to comply with health and safety regulations in warehouses. By ensuring that your warehouse maintains the highest health and safety standards, you can comply with these regulations and reduce any chance of non-compliance. Being compliant would save you from legal fines, sanctions, and cases.
Common warehouse safety hazards
Now that you know the laws and benefits related to warehouse health and safety, we can look at the most common health hazards employees can face while working.
· Slips, Trips, and Falls
As a warehouse has a busy environment, it is common for spills and items to left in the pathway, which can act as a hindrance and cause tripping. Falling from stairs, tripping over leftover objects in the pathways, and slipping due to uneven or slippery surfaces are common health hazards in a warehouse.
· Manual Handling injuries
Manually handling objects is a regular part of many tasks in the warehouse. Employees perform manual handling tasks in their daily work lives. However, doing so incorrectly can risk the worker’s health. Improper manual handling techniques could cause minor, major, or musculoskeletal injuries. These injuries can frequently be life-threatening, making manual handling injuries a common health hazard in warehouses.
· Heavy Equipment Accidents
Heavy warehouse equipment, such as forklifts and pellets, results in most injuries and even fatalities. This is due to the worker being unable to operate the machine causing an accident properly. Workers risk being hit, run over, falling in between, or falling from an elevated platform due to these machines.
· Exposure to Chemicals
Many warehouses devoted to working with and storing chemicals. If these chemicals handled improperly by an untrained professional, they can pose a serious risk to the worker’s health. Accidental spills and leaks can cause skin burns and tissue damage if they come in contact with the skin and threaten the safety of warehouse employees.
· Being hit by a falling object
Although there is a minimal chance, there is always the possibility of a person hit by a falling object from above. This is mostly due to overstocking of the items on the shelves. These injuries caused by human error or an incompetent operating setup.
· Working at height
Working at height is a common task in warehouses. Often, workers would need to step up on lifts or ladders to stock objects on the shelves or perform another task. But this comes with a risk of falling, as workers can lose their grip anytime. Falling from heights can cause serious injuries and create a high chance of the person falling to their death.
Fires can quickly spread around a warehouse, where many flammable objects can quickly caught on fire. Even the slightest of fires can become massive in a warehouse and cause a lot of damage, such as property damage and harm to workers’ health.
· Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
It is your responsibility as an employer to provide your employees with the proper PPE to ensure their safety while at work. Proper PPE is one of the key reasons for reducing the chances of workplace accidents. With proper safety equipment, workers can saved and use it to get themselves out of dangerous situations and ensure their well-being. However, the provision of PPE is not always the solution to the problems, if the workers are not aware of how to effectively use it, how could they benefit from it and save themselves? Therefore, it is also important that you provide your employees with PPE training, which would educate them on how to wear and handle this safety equipment properly and save themselves from hazards. Examples of PPE include; hard hats, visibility jackets, safety shoes, eye protection, and hearing protection.
Training is the most crucial aspect of achieving a safe workplace environment. Therefore, it is your responsibility as an employer to focus on providing your employees with appropriate training. Training plays a very important role in educating an individual with a new skill set and making them competent for their job. An incompetent and untrained worker is more likely to cause accidents when working with chemicals, working at heights, working with machines, and performing manual handling activities compared to a person who properly trained a competent in their field. Ultimately, giving your employees training would reduce most workplace accidents. The workers would skilled in their jobs and know how to handle their own safety and well-being.
It is always important to substitute for the hard and risky work in the warehouses. For example, a worker and a machine can perform the work of loading objects onto the shelves while being at eye level. In such cases, performing the task with a machine would be more sensible and safer. as it would reduce the chances of accidents such as, in this case, the person falling from a height. Other examples include handling chemical substances with the help of robots and machines, limiting the worker’s exposure to these hazards.
· Fire safety measures
Fires can quickly escalate inside a warehouse, with numerous flammable substances in the workplace. A small fire can quickly become massive within seconds. Therefore, the only safety measure against fire is eliminating it before it escalates or evacuating from the workplace before the fire injures you. Your responsibility as an employer is to provide fire extinguishers and water sprinklers inside the warehouse so that the fire can put down before it escalates. Another safety measure would be training your employees on fire evacuation procedures and teaching them how to handle fires and evacuate safely out of the workplace to minimize the risk of injuries or casualties.
· Risk Assessment
Risk assessment is a crucial practice for workplace safety. It is the process of analyzing and identifying the risks present in the workplace, usually conducted by the employer or a professional. Conducting a risk assessment helps identify workplace threats, allowing you, the employer, to take safety measures accordingly to eliminate or reduce these risks.
You, as an employer, should carry out these five essential safety practices in your workplace to ensure its safety.
Warehouses are an example of workplaces where numerous hazards can found that could harm the health and safety of employees at any time. So, you must take the time to install the safety measures in the workplace to ensure your and your employee’s health and safety. This guide has provided you with the types of hazards present in warehouses and the safety measures you can take to ensure workplace health and safety.
Also, this guide has highlighted the regulations that make it legally required for you as an employer to ensure that your staff in the warehouse is provided with a safe and secure work environment, along with the benefits of having a safe and healthy work environment. Considering the benefits of health and safety measures, ignoring them is nearly impossible. These benefits include legal compliance, cost savings, improved productivity, reduced injuries, and employee turnover. Remember, with a commitment to warehouse health and safety, your business can also ensure the well-being of your workers and the success of your operations.