Are you making these warehouse H&S mistakes?

Justin O’Sullivan identifies five common health & safety warehouse mistakes, and explains how to solve them.

Justin O’Sullivan – the only SEMA Approved Racking Inspector based within London
Justin O’Sullivan – the only SEMA Approved Racking Inspector based within London.

Workplace safety is of paramount concern for every employer; even more so in recent years as regulations grow tighter and legal action becomes more damaging.

However, some working environments are inherently more dangerous than others and require far greater safety precautions, with warehouses being a prime example.

While there may be pages of regulations that need to be followed in warehouses, there are still some common issues out there not covered under safety laws which can lead to serious problems.

Ignoring near misses

This might be a familiar story for some of you. Somebody is hard at work on the warehouse floor, a forklift driver turns a corner without looking and nearly swipes the poor worker, but they miss.

There might be soem shouting, even laughter, at what could have been, but everything is fine, it’s all brushed aside and forgotten. However, this is not something that should be ignored.

A near accident has the potential to be a serious one, and if it can nearly happen once, and nothing’s changed, there’s nothing to stop it happening again.

Take advantage of this opportunity and bring in changes to rectify the cause of the near incident. Sheer luck should not be a defining factor as to whether or not something is serious enough to warrant investigation. Next time, luck might not be on your side.

Poorly controlled warehouse pathways and traffic

Warehouse
Warehouses are a bustling hive of man and machine.

Warehouses are a bustling hive of man and machine. However, machines and man don’t always go hand-in-hand, and having forklifts and other vehicles roaming around the same space as people can be seriously dangerous.

To counteract this problem, areas of specific traffic should be formed in warehouses, so vehicles and workers can be separate. It might reduce efficiency by having workers take longer routes to different areas, but in the long run it keeps people safe and removes the possibility of expensive lawsuits. Tape, barriers or paint can all be used to effectively mark areas.

Unclear signage

Of course, safety training is a mandatory part of working in a warehouse, but sometimes there are events or items you simply can’t provide comprehensive training for, or people can start to become comfortable at work and therefore careless. For these circumstances, signage is an important part of keeping people safe and working in the correct manner, but this in itself can cause issues.

Firstly, signs can be expensive, and cheaper options can fade easily or might not be as relevant as their higher cost counterparts. As much as it might be tempting to try and cut costs, signs are not the place to do it.

Image courtesy of Compliance and Safety
Too much information can cause the same problems as too little.

The second problem with warehouse signage is the sheer number available. Putting up a large number of different signs in the same area causes confusion, too much information can cause the same problems as too little. Instead of going overboard, try to have custom products made that combine all information into one clear, concise sign, removing the clutter and ensuring workers and visitors to the site are aware of everything they need to be.

One-off training

It is usually part of warehouse protocol for a worker to undergo training before they are allowed out onto the floor, but after that first day on the job, that’s usually it in terms of training. The worker may remain there for many years, but continue without further training. This can lead to misunderstandings with new safety protocols and lax attitudes that ignore developing safety issues.

Training should be a constant occurrence within the workplace. Most often it will be things workers already know, but it will cement good practice into their minds and make them aware of any changes that come up in the course of their career.

Inspection anxiety

Many accidents involving forklifts in the workplace are easily avoidable so long as companies follow some simple rules - image courtesy of Yale UK
Instead of aiming for inspection standards, use them as a base from which to become even better.

Inspections are a time fraught with stress and worry about possible fines, stricter monitoring and tighter regulations. These all increase costs and that isn’t good for any business. However, this isn’t a good sign.

If there is worry over safety procedures that leads to changes being made specifically for inspection, then that means that safety standards weren’t high enough in the first place. Instead of aiming for inspection standards, use them as a base from which to become even better. The benefit of this is there’s no chance of running into costs that come with poor safety regulations and it ensures your workers are safe all the time, not just on inspection day.

Justin O’Sullivan is the only SEMA Approved Inspector based within London. With more than 25 years’ experience within the storage equipment industry, O’Sullivan provides pallet racking inspections and training for SME’s through the South East of England. For more information, visit the SEMA Racking Inspections website.