Employee Safety: 5 Key PPE to Prevent Common Warehouse Injuries
Safety first. That can’t be stressed enough.
Over the last five years, fatal workplace injuries are on the rise and non-fatal injuries has slowly decreased. The most recent November 2020 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revealed that throughout 2019 there were 5,333 fatal work injuries, a 2 percent increase from year prior. Non-fatal injuries, however, remain mostly unchanged but are in a downward trend compared to the last few years. They stand at 2.8 non-fatal injuries per 100 full-time workers.
Employee safety and protection has been a primary concern with the COVID-19 pandemic but the leading causes for non-fatal and fatal injuries are still crucial to keep in mind – falls, slips, trips, contact with objects and equipment, exposure to harmful substances, fires and explosions, and transportation accidents.
Bastian Solutions believes strongly in practicing “Safety First. Quality Second. Production/Installation Third.” Keeping a safe warehouse environment with well stocked PPE can go a long way to mitigate both non-fatal and fatal injuries. Our engineers regularly work in warehouse and distribution sites. In fact, they can spend anywhere from 20 to 50% of their time on-site.
I talked to our team about their preferred PPE. Below are some of their top five gear recommendations.
1. Eye Protection
Safety Glasses – Protecting your eyes and vision from potentially flying debris, sparks or other potential warehouse hazards is fundamental in warehouse PPE requirements. Today, you can also find safety glasses with blue light blocking lenses. Protection effectiveness from blue light emitted by electronic screens is still up for debate and not yet scientifically proven.
Most importantly, when it comes to safety eyeglasses, note that they must meet ANSI/ISEA Z87.1 standard.
Staff Recommendation: Stoggles – Sam Smart, Technical Training Manager, Unified Support
“These safety glasses were a definite upgrade from the oversized blurry glasses I previously purchased from a home improvement store. I love that my Stoggles are not only stylish, but that they have blue light blocking lenses. They’re perfect for protecting both my eyes and my vision when I’m working onsite.”
Safety Vest – Warehouses feature several moving parts like moving machinery and fork trucks, to name a few. High visibility gear with bright colors and reflective materials helps to quickly identify staff. A Type R, Class 2 surveyors vest is constructed of a solid, lime polyester front and a mesh back. It features a front zipper closure, 2-inch reflective tape and a total of 11 pockets. It also accommodates a pad/pen, radio/phone and flashlight and is equipped with dual mic tabs. These vests also feature larger reflective strips for lower lit situations on construction sites. Sometimes the lighting isn’t the best on sites, so we recommend hi-vis as well as reflective vests.
Staff Recommendation: Type R Class 2 Surveyors Safety Vest, Dustin Morris, Site Safety Specialist, Human Resources
“This Type R, Class 2 surveyors vest is constructed of a solid, lime polyester front and a mesh back. It features a front zipper closure, 2-inch reflective tape and a total of 11 pockets. It also accommodates a pad/pen, radio/phone and flashlight and is equipped with dual mic tabs. The purpose of the Class 2 safety vest is that the reflective strips are bigger for lower lit situations on construction sites. Sometimes the lighting isn’t the best on sites, so I recommend Hi-Vis as well as reflective.”
Hard Hat – Whether you are doing a distribution site tour, conducting training or working on site, a hard hat is strongly recommended. Hard hats offer protection from falling objects, but they also protect the head, eyes and neck from bumps, scrapes and electrical dangers. If you are regularly working on-site or doing more hands-on work, our members strongly recommend upgrading to a carbon fiber hard hat. They are structurally solid but more comfortable due to their lightweight material. Also, we’ve noticed a trend towards hard hats with chin straps, which helps keep the hat securely in place.
Staff Recommendation: ULINE Deluxe Hard Hate & ACERPAL Hard Hat, Steve Nerney, Senior Project Manager, Systems
“In the event that a person will actually be conducting training/working in the site, I strongly recommend upgrading to a ACERPAL Carbon fiber hard hat. They are far more comfortable and offer better protection.”
4. Sound Protection
Ear Plugs – Warehouse sites often times have active construction or loud equipment in operation. Off the shelf ear plugs are highly recommended to have accessible. If utilizing a radio on the site use an earbud accessory in one ear and plug in the other.
Noise Cancelling Headphones – Headphones with noise cancelling functions help to block out loud noises but also let you accept phone calls. Note that if phone calls must be made, they should be made from a safe location. It’s key to remember that phone calls are a distraction that can lead to incidents.
Staff Recommendation: AirPod Pros or any noise cancelling wireless earbuds, Kayla Jeremiah, Project Manager II, Robotics and Sean Walsh, Project Manager I, Georgia Sales
“I use my AirPod Pros, since they have the silicone tips with active noise canceling, I have found them incredibly valuable for taking calls.” – Kayla Jeremiah
“As far as tech I can’t do without, I would have to say a good pair of wireless ear buds. I use air pods, but any good noise cancelling wireless earbuds will work.” – Sean Walsh
5. Durable, Protective Clothing
There are tons of protective clothing options today that include different degrees of protection layers – jackets, shirts, pants and more. When working on site, our engineers have found that a pair of durable pants goes a long way to preventing cuts and exposure to grease or other substances.
Pants with extra pockets are a plus to carry daily tools like tape measures, screw drivers, safety knives and Allen keys. While you can carry these in your safety vest, they might not be as secure in vest pockets. Also, pay attention to the materials. Some cargo pants are specifically designed to be comfortable in both hot or cold environments whether it’s changing weather or on-site conditions like cold freezer storage, for example.
Staff Recommendation: Duluth 511 Taclite-Pro cargo pants, Steve Nerney, Senior Project Manager, Systems and Alex Suarez, Advanced Technology Support Engineer, Controls Support
“Duluth Trading has an extensive offering of work clothing for individuals that will be working in the facility. It’s nearly indestructible and has extra pockets. I’ve destroyed so much of my personal clothing bumping into sharp corners, grease, etc… that I only use Duluth Trading Clothing in the work area.” – Steve Nerney
“We carry many tools in our pockets daily from tape measures, screw drivers, safety knives, Allen keys, ext. You can carry these in your safety vest, but I always felt like my tools would fall out of the vest’s pockets. Duluth has some good cargo pants but my go to are 511 taclite-pro-pants. I have multiple of these that I rotate thought the week on a jobsite. Very comfortable in the heat or cold.” – Alex Suarez
No matter what PPE brand or style you choose, the application and functions of each piece of gear is the most important. Whether it’s for greater visibility or protection from potential exposure, seemingly small accommodations can make a difference in preventing workplace injuries.
Bumps, scrapes, muscle strain and other non-fatal injuries may still occur and being prepared for those is key. Small first aid kits that you can keep in your backpack make sure you have the necessary tools and aids right at hand to treat and alleviate issues quickly.
Sites are dynamic environments full of heavy equipment, machinery and countless moving parts. Each facility looks different and may have different safety considerations. Staying vigilant, using your PPE appropriately, and keeping in mind “Safety First” helps to ensure we meet and exceed minimum safety requirements to prevent fatal situations.
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