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Preventing Common Warehouse Safety Hazards

 
Workplace safety standards continue to improve each year; however, today’s workforce, especially within a warehouse, still face dangerous conditions each day. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2015, the incidence rate for transportation and warehousing was 4.5 cases per 100 full-time workers. In addition to the concern of keeping their workers safe, employers must also face the business costs associated with these incidents. Each year billions of dollars are spent on the direct and indirect costs associated with workplace fatalities and injuries, so it is easy to see why maintaining a safe warehouse is critical for management and employees. Although safety is a year-round concern, June is National Safety Month, so it's the perfect time to look at the most common warehouse safety hazards and how to prevent them.

AREA #1: RECEIVING

Safety hazards in warehouse receiving

 

Hazard: Trailer Creep

Trailers unexpectedly move away from the dock area which creates a gap. When this happens forklifts and dock workers can fall leading to injuries and equipment damage. Prevention Solutions:
  1. Wheel chocks – A simple solution that is often forgotten, wheel chocks are small and most-commonly rubber devices that wedge under trailer wheels to prevent movement.
  2. Vehicle restraints and stabilizing jacks – There are various types of restraints that can be utilized. Most are activated by pushing a button located inside the docking area. This link shows a variety of trailer stabilizing jacks

Hazard: Product Congestion

Within the receiving area of a warehouse, pallets, boxes, scrap materials, forklifts, pallet jacks, and people are all vying for the same space, meaning things can get out of hand very quickly, leading to crashes. Prevention Solutions:
  1. Floor marking tape – Although something as simple as floor tape might not seem like a critical piece of safety equipment, marking product staging areas is the first step in keeping areas organized.
  2. Barrier rail – Along the same lines of marking tape, barrier rail helps define areas for pedestrians, equipment and storage.
  3. Forklift training – Proper forklift training can go a long way in preventing accidents in busy receiving areas. Surrounded by pallets, boxes, and people, an untrained forklift operator can easily cause a major accident.
  4. Trash receptacles or trash handling conveyor – Without a doubt, all warehouses will have trash receptacles on hand; however, the key is to have plenty of them available, have them well distributed throughout the facility, and empty them on a regular basis. Another way to keep your facility organized, is through the use of a trash conveyor.

AREA #2: PALLET STORAGE

Safety hazards when storing pallets

 

Hazard: Damaged Pallets

In most warehouses, a large amount of space is dedicated to pallet storage, making it important that pallets are stored properly and racking is well-maintained. Prevention Solutions:
  1. Quality pallets – A pallet being used for product storage should have all support legs intact and level, no serious deformities, and no major cracks or holes.

Hazard: Damaged Racking

Dents, scratches, and other damage on racking can be extremely dangerous if not repaired. Any kind of damage weakens the racking system and could cause sections to collapse. Prevention Solutions:
  1. Racking guards – There are a variety of guards that can be put into place to protect the rack such as bollard posts, upright column guards, and aisle protection beams. Each of which can be found in a range of metal and flexible solutions.

AREA #3: PICKING

Picking ergonomics

 

Hazard: Repetitive Motion Injuries

Within the warehouse environment, employees are often tasked with performing constant, repetitive motions that can occasionally lead to injury. These injuries can affect the hands, wrists, shoulders, arms, back, legs, and ankles. These types of injuries account for roughly one-fourth of reported lost-time injuries among U.S. workers. Prevention Solutions:
  1. Ergonomic workstations – These help reduce employee strain and fatigue while facilitating task performance. An ergonomic workstation often includes modular workbenches that can be customized to the job function as well as the size, strength, and range of motion of the worker.
  2. Ergonomic floor mats – Another way to provide extra comfort and support for employees is the use of ergonomic floor mats. By placing these mats in areas where a lot of standing or walking occur, leg and back injuries can be reduced.
  3. Pallet handling devices – Pallet jacks, positioners, turn-tables, and lift tables, can all greatly reduce strain on employees tasked with moving large amounts of product. These devices help reduce and even eliminate lifting, bending, and stretching that can lead to injury.
  4. Employee education – A good education program can teach employees about proper lifting techniques, correct posture, load characteristics, and safe use of equipment. If employees understand the actions needed to protect themselves, they can not only reduce injury, but also be more comfortable while working.

AREA #4: SORTATION

Sortation safety hazards

 

Hazard: Powered Conveyor

Sortation areas often use a large amount of powered conveyor to move products to the correct shipping area. When properly guarded, powered sortation conveyor is a relatively safe piece of material handling equipment; however, if necessary safety precautions are not taken, serious injury can occur. Prevention Solutions:
  1. Conveyor guards – To keep operators safe, all conveyors should have guards around moving parts, including gears, sprockets, belts, pulleys, and motors. There should also be some type of rail or netting to prevent product from falling over the edge of a conveyor.
  2. Training – All operators and maintenance personnel should be properly trained on conveyor safety, including how to operate, maintain, and shut down the system as needed.

AREA #5: SHIPPING

Robotic palletizing

 

Hazard: Human/Robotic Interaction

Demand for faster shipping times combined with the need for more ergonomic working conditions has led to an increased use of robotic palletizers. As more of these systems are introduced, it becomes increasingly important for employers to educate workers on how to safely interact with and service these machines. Prevention Solutions:
  1. Barriers – Both interlocked and fixed barriers effectively block off a robotic cell, thus preventing warehouse employees from entering while the robot is in motion.
  2. Presence-sensing Devices – The two most common presence detectors used for robotics safety are pressure mats and light curtains. Each of these devices are capable of detecting a person if he or she steps within a dangerous area near a robotic work cell.
Warehouse safety hazards are common but also easily preventable. Although only a few were mentioned above, hopefully you have a better understanding of what is needed to ensure a safe working environment. The good news is that there are a lot of companies like Bastian Solutions looking to help. Whether you are looking to purchase a few safety items or are interested in receiving a safety consultation on your warehouse, please contact us.  

References: 1. Occupational Safety and Health Administration - Home. https://www.osha.gov/ 2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. https://www.bls.gov/home.htm 3. Whitepaper: Common Warehouse Safety Hazards and How to Prevent Them

Author: Maxx Wright

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