There are a lot of things that you have to do to stay healthy while trying to be an active member of the workforce. We talked about some of the risks of spreading COVID-19 at work.
However, there are a number of other workplace health risks that cannot be ignored. One of the biggest concerns is the risk of workplace injuries. If you are injured at work, you may deal with long-term disabilities and other serious problems.
Keep reading to learn what steps you should encourage your workplace to take if you are an employee that is concerned about your health. If you are a manager, then you will also want to take these steps to keep your employees safe and healthy.
Make Workplace Safety a Priority to Prevent Injuries
Warehouses may not be the most dangerous place to work, but they are home to many of the most common workplace injuries. 33% of non-fatal workplace injuries in the UK were slips, trips or falls on the same level, and 18% were as a result of handling, lifting or carrying. Among fatal injuries, the most common were falls from height, being struck by a moving vehicle or object, and being trapped by something collapsing – all occupational hazards common to warehouses.
Combatting these issues is a matter of good training and reinforcement, but it can also be influenced by factors as wide-ranging as warehouse design, workplace culture, and a reduction in the physical and mental workload of employees. We’ve explored some of these factors below, and how introducing changes to your warehouse design and patterns of work can improve efficiency as well as saving lives.
Warehouse safety training
There are numerous safety courses that can be applicable to the warehouse environment, and it’s likely that all employees will have taken at least one of them. However, most warehouse operators tend to stick to what’s legally required, and not venture beyond this. Investing in additional safety training for employees at all levels can help them to work more safely, and to develop a better understanding of why health & safety is important.
The most catastrophic threat to both the business and individual safety is a racking collapse, and Racking Safety Awareness Training will help to avoid this. Individuals with this training will be able to spot developing issues with racking prior to scheduled inspections, and will have a better understanding of factors such as loading configurations, and how different equipment interacts with racking. This will help them to identify potential or existing issues in racking prior to routine inspections, improving safety and saving money.
More general safety training can also be extremely useful. Workplace safety courses such as the NEBOSH General Certificate or IOSH Working Safely can instil safe working practices, and help to identify a broader range of risk factors, including working at height (for mezzanines and multi-tier racking), musculoskeletal health and mental health. Forklift safety awareness training is also useful for individuals who are not forklift drivers (and therefore not required to be trained) to keep safe when working around forklift trucks and other industrial vehicles.
Management and oversight
It’s all well and good telling people how to keep themselves safe, but there also needs to be some level of enforcement and reinforcement. Not everyone will comply with every rule, and not everyone will remember every aspect of their training or toolbox talks. It’s here that good management and oversight is required to reiterate the most important aspects of health and safety, and provide a guiding hand and positive influence for employees.
Training can help here too, whether you’re the one giving or receiving it. Regular toolbox talks and assessments can help to reiterate key safety information, and the correct processes for safe lifting and handling. Management training meanwhile can help you to better communicate this information with your employees, expressing both the benefits of working safely and the best methodologies.
Some of this comes down to assessing the employees at your disposal, and what their capabilities and preferences are. Some people will need more hands-on guidance, while others will absorb advice quickly. You should also get a good sense of who is keen to adopt and apply safe working practices, and who is eager to learn and advance their career. These individuals can be an ideal target for further safety training, applying their knowledge and work ethic to improve safety for the whole team.
Sometimes, the design of a warehouse space actively impedes safety. Some elements of a warehouse might be inherently unsafe, and in need of urgent action, such as damaged racking or a lack of mandatory signage. Other times, the problems may be less obvious. Edge protection for instance may be required for mezzanine or racks themselves, while blind spots around aisles might pose a risk of collisions between vehicles and pedestrians.
Reconsidering – and reconfiguring – your warehouse can bring some of these safety benefits to bear. The first port of call should be how people and vehicles move around the warehouse, and where aisles obscure people’s vision. Changes in aisle widths and orientations can mitigate this, while the use of mirrors, signage, cameras, or even a traffic light system can prevent collisions in busy warehouses.
You may also look to reconfigure your racking to make storage and retrieval easier. An AS/RS or autonomous vehicles could reduce the workload of employees, contributing to fewer strain and fatigue injuries. More dramatic changes meanwhile – such as the creation of a mezzanine floor or multi-tier racking system – could create new avenues for traffic using stairs and lifts, reduce congestion on the main floor, and create new storage space from thin air.
The most intricate training and best laid plans will fail if there isn’t a desire to follow through on them. Beyond simply being there to manage health and safety on a day to day basis, leaders and managers have to personally invest in safety, and understand how critical good safety practices are to employees’ efficiency, productivity and happiness. Putting safety policies in place and then failing to take them seriously sets a bad example, and undermines the effort to introduce them.
This starts with visibility. Making safety rules explicit in employee handbooks and on signage around the warehouse will remind people of key safety practices, and reinforce the importance of safe working. But this should also be supplemented with regular training, toolbox talks, briefings for new employees, and careful scrutiny and oversight by managers.
Above all else, good managers lead by example. By being there to oversee employees and offer guidance on a regular basis, you’ll demonstrate your own commitment to their safety. If managers and other leaders are seen to be cutting corners or not applying some of their own rules, it stands to reason that employees lower down the chain won’t either.
Make Workplace Safety a Priority to Keep Employees Safe and Healthy
There are many things you need to do to keep employees safe and reduce the risk of accidents. Preventing injuries is among the most important.
Workplace injuries are part of the scenery in many warehouses, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Both in terms of obvious injuries and more debilitating, long-term health problems, carefully managing the warehouse environment can reduce the physical impact of work, as well as the propensity for risks. Most importantly, it’s about taking your own rules seriously – setting a standard for everyone else to aspire to.
This post was written by James Beale, Operations Manager at Invicta Racking: the UK’s top Warehouse pallet racking provider. With more than 30 years of experience designing, installing and inspecting high density pallet racking systems, Invicta Racking has built a legacy of trust with some of the world’s most prestigious companies. Invicta also offers safety training services, including racking safety awareness training for warehouse personnel.