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Revealing Hidden Warehouse Hazards

Just about every industry that handles inventory, manufacturing or shipping utilizes warehouses.

Lots and lots of warehouses. Not surprising, the difference in safety culture from one warehouse to the next is as varied as the products they store. Some are in new buildings with safety compliant paint lines, signage, well maintained equipment and highly trained warehouse staff.
Others…well, not quite up to par.

Most warehouses are somewhere in between with a basic safety program that attempts to address their hazards, usually born of reacting to an incident along the way. In warehouses like these, the common problems are the ones with some sort of program in place: operator training, safely stacking product, wheel-chocking of trucks, and similar basic practices. This leaves practices that take a more in depth knowledge of warehouse safety overlooked. Let’s take a look as some of the most overlooked hazards that could be looking in your warehouse.

Fall Hazards
In most warehouses, the majority of work happens at ground level and fall prevention is overlooked. Warehouses typically utilize a racking system for the storage of product. Product stored high up may be palletized but cases or units need to be retrieved individually. The temptation to use a forklift to send someone up rather than bring the pallet down is often seen as a shortcut that creates an unintended fall hazard. The employee being raised would not only need to be on something designed to lift a person, but may also be required to be tied off, depending on the type of lift being used. If your warehouse requires people to frequently involve people working at heights then you might like to consider using the services of a place like brisbane – whsmoreskills.com.au. This could help improve the skill set and confidence of workers when faced with such situations.

Fall protection hazards in the warehouse may not end there. Does your warehouse have mezzanines or elevated walkways? It’s pretty standard to have well maintained railings, but if not now is the time. The area that is more likely to be overlooked in the loading dock or roll up doors. Breaks in the rails with no way to close them up when a loaded forklift is not present, leave an opening begging for someone to fall through. If an accident such as this happens, workers might seek help from someone like this Portland Oregon Workers’ Compensation Lawyer to help them to get compensation for their accident. While manually secured ropes and chains serve as a visual warning, self-closing gates ensure that nobody leaves the gate open, exposing your employees to a fall you thought you’d protected against. Don’t forget to address breaks in the railing at the top of fixed ladders in the same manner.

Struck By Hazards
Vehicle to vehicle and vehicle to pedestrian collisions can be deadly. Properly trained forklift operators know to stay within the center of isles, stop at intersections, use mirrors, maintain proper speeds and keep safe distances from other equipment and personnel. Regular training is key to maintaining adherence to safety practices. Equipment operator training is only one aspect of eliminating collision hazards.

Strategically placed physical berries like bollards can help protect sensitive areas in the warehouse. In addition to protecting product, barriers can discourage collisions with utility infrastructure and pedestrian walkway areas from your forklift traffic. It can also encourage your equipment operators to give a greater safety cushion when travelling. It can also protect equipment such as CKS Industrial Computers. Barriers or safety rails to designate pedestrian walkways also discourage employees from wandering into equipment traffic lanes or other areas of work.

Hazardous Materials
You may not stock or sell products that are consider hazardous materials, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have hazardous materials. Even the smallest amounts of flammable liquids need to be properly stored so they don’t present a hazard. Most maintenance teams have materials that fall into this category to use during a typical workday. OSHA has clear guidelines on how you should store hazardous materials based on the nature of the different materials that you my have. This can include separate designated areas, locked cabinets or cages and even signage to warn employees. Employees handling this material need to be properly trained and SDSs need to be available.

Finally, depending on the type and amount of material, can you legally store such material in your building and is your fire suppression system sufficient to fight a fire involving what you have on site? Consult and expert to make sure that you meet any regulations for the handling, transfer and storage of the hazardous materials on your property. You don’t want to open yourself up to fines and your employees up to illness and injury.

At the end of the day, knowing that you have considered and implemented a full hazard assessment is key to ensuring that you are properly prepared for any situation. Designate someone on staff capable of doing supervising warehouse safety. Don’t wait for an employee injury or a warehouse fire to perform the due diligence you should already be performing. It’s better to not have an accident than have to respond to one that could have been prevented.

Jef Spencer
HFA Operations
HFA Products Store

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