Tag Archives: warehouse safety

Anatomy of a Fall

Anybody that comes in even the briefest of contact with the world of occupational safety knows that fall protection is a hot topic.

There are blogs, social media groups, and even entire companies dedicated to it. Falls have been at or near the top of the list for occupational fatalities for years. Rather than getting better over time, the number of fatalities due to a fall is rising. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s most recent data, occupational fatalities due to a fall to a lower level rose 11% from 2013 to 2014. So why do falls remain this great, mysterious thing? If employees understood where and why they happen, what could be done to prevent them, falls could be eliminated, right? Understanding the fall itself can help prevent them. So let’s look at one step-by-step.

Prior to the Fall

Work is proceeding as usual, you’ve had your morning meeting, schedules have been reviewed. It’s during this time, however, that a bad decision is made. It’s at this point that you choose to climb onto your inventory picker forklift and do so without your personal fall arrest system. There may have been a few options for why. Maybe you weren’t trained in fall protection and a) don’t know you’re supposed to have fall protection or b) are unsure of how to properly use it.  Maybe your manager knew that precautions weren’t in place, but put production ahead of safety. It could be that you did bring your harness and lanyard but didn’t bother to hook up to the anchor point. Falls happen due to a lack of planning or forgetfulness more than anything else.

The Moment of The Fall

Some people don’t feel it necessary to use fall protection while working at heights, you’ll hear such things as, “I’ve done this for years and have good balance,” or, “If I was going to fall I’d catch myself.” Losing your balance often has nothing to do with a fall, agility and fast reactions aren’t enough. Sometimes the equipment shifts, or you’re struck by a falling object. Maybe even a medical condition you did not know about causes you pass out or get lightheaded. The fact of the matter is, balance means nothing against and equipment malfunction or load that went astray. Balance won’t save you when the moment of fall was probably one that you never saw coming.

The Impact

The truth of the matter is, the results of impact aren’t pretty. If you are “lucky” enough to survive a fall, you could be facing medical issues for the rest of your life. A fall can break bones, rupture internal organs, cause concussions or another brain injury, and result in paralysis, a coma, or other permanent disabilities. It doesn’t take a long fall to create medical havoc. According to one NIOSH study, more than 25% of all fatalities were the result of a 6 to 10-foot fall from a ladder. That’s like walking blindly off an unsecured dock or the back of a delivery truck. Walking away unharmed from a significant fall is unlikely.

The Aftermath

People scrambling to call 911. Others rushing to your aid. Some will be frozen in disbelief. You coworkers are most likely not thinking clearly and may be putting themselves or others in danger while reacting to what just happened. This is not their fault, just human behavioral nature. In the panic to help, operators of other lifts may leave equipment unattended. As co-workers rush to help they may be traversing unsafe areas to get to you, possibly being exposed to the same fall risk that happened to you. Let’s not forget the devastating effects to your family from receiving the call, regardless if the fall was fatal or not. Worst case scenario, your spouse and children, family, and your friends will be devastated. Counseling will be needed for many of them as well as co-workers. For survivors, falls are life changing. If you’re able to work at all, you may never be able to work in your field again. Psychological issues are prevalent and marriages can fall apart. A fall affects much more than just the well-being of the person involved.

The moment of impact may seem like the end, but it’s really just the beginning. The fall may have involved just one person at first, but when all is said and done, dozens are affected. ALL of this is preventable. Being educated on the dangers and how to utilize equipment properly. A willingness to do what’s right the right way, not what’s cheapest or quickest. It’s been proven that falls can and do take a dramatic toll on personal lives and businesses. It’s also been evident that almost all falls are preventable as long as management and workers take the time and precautions to keep the jobsite as safe as possible.

 

Jef Spencer

HFA Operations

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Using Portable Ladders Safely

For any professional or retail organization, the use of portable ladders will eventually come into play on the showroom floor or out in the warehouse. Whether it’s an A-Frame or an extension ladder, we take for granted that they’re the safest way to do our jobs which may not be the case.  Ladders could be unstable, especially if they’re not being used properly.  While there are other solutions that most furniture retailers are not aware of or simply can’t make the investment in, so ladders continue to permeate our job sites.  Therefore, it is important workers know how to properly and safely use portable ladders.

Angles

The proper angle is key, for both extension and straight ladders, in order to keep them from tipping back.  This angle is a 4:1 ratio.  In other words, for every 4 feet in height from the ground to the point the ladder makes contact with the structure, the base must be a foot away from the structure.  Nobody is busting out a measuring tape, let’s be realistic.  However, there a simple way to tell if you’re at the proper angle.  Stand at the base of the ladder so that your toes are touching it.  Extend your arm at a 90-degree angle from your body.  If your hand touches a ring or a side-rail, you are approximately at a 4:1 angle.

Securing the Ladder

Most people are concerned about a ladder tipping backwards, but it’s much more likely it will actually shift laterally(Sideways).  Therefore, it is important that you secure the ladder, near the top, to the structure to prevent it from shifting.  Do not use the ladder’s adjustment rope to secure it to the structure.  Ensure that somebody is holding the ladder in place during the initial setup.

Proper Height

Your ladder must extend 3’ above the level to which you are climbing, or there must be a grab rail that extends 3’ up.  While this is important when dismounting the ladder, it is even more important when mounting the ladder from the top.  The last thing you want is somebody walking to the edge of a building or platform and having to lean down to grab the ladder.  One moment of light-headedness could end in disaster.  To see if your ladder is properly extended, count the rungs.  There is approximately one foot between rungs.

Setup

The ladder will never be a safe tool if it’s not set up in a safe location, to begin with.  Make sure your ladder is on firm, level ground and that the safety feet are in place.  If you need to kick the feet up to dig into the surface material, that’s what they’re there for.  For an A-Frame ladder, ensure you’ve fully opened the ladder and locked it into place.  No A-Frame should ever be used while folded or partially closed.  This is not what the ladder is designed for and not how it’s tested.

Maximum Height

Your A-Frame ladder has a maximum working height.  You’ll notice a label that says “Do Not Sit or Stand On Or Above This Step.”  Pay special attention to the “On or Above” part.  Most people look at that and think that they can step on that step but not above it.  This is not the case.  And definitely, don’t ever straddle the ladder or sit on top of it.  In addition, the label on the side of the ladder contains a maximum working height in case you’re unsure.  If you can’t read the labels, that’s a whole different problem and you need new ladders.

Labels and Paint

Labels on the ladder must be legible.  If they are worn off or painted over, then you cannot use the ladder.  (NOTE: You do not need to destroy or throw away ladders because the label is illegible. Instead, call the manufacturer to get a new label shipped to you.) In addition, you must be able to inspect your ladder for cracks, defects, and damage.  Painting ladders with an opaque paint may prevent you from doing so, therefore do not paint your ladders.

Safe Use

You’ve set up your ladder safely, but are you using it in a manner that invites injury? Always maintain three points of contact when climbing a ladder.  This means two feet and a hand, or two hands and a foot.  When done properly this precludes you from carrying tools or materials in your hands, which is a good thing.  While working aloft, your tools should be at the very least in a tool belt or tool vest.  At best, they should be tethered to you.  Also, maintain your center of gravity between the side rails – no leaning off to one side or another.  Keep your eyes out for other hazards or unsafe conditions.  Finally, only use ladders as intended.  Do not separate parts if they’re not intended to be separated.  Do not lash sections together.  Do not climb both sides of an A-Frame unless it is specifically designed for that function.

Inspecting

Ladders are a tool, so you need to treat them like one.  Just with any other tool, you need to inspect your ladder prior to use and remove it from service if anything is wrong with it.  A new ladder is a better option than risking injury to your staff.

Training

Don’t believe that just because we use ladders at home that your employees know how to use them safely.  People use ladders wrong ALL THE TIME.  It is your responsibility as an employer to ensure that your employees are properly trained in the safe use of ladders and that you are designating a safety manager to train and inspect your equipment.  This person must be knowledgeable enough to recognize a hazard and most importantly, have the authority to correct it.

Ladders are a very familiar and very useful tool, but as such, people tend to become complacent when working with them.  Unfortunately, complacency can be safety’s mortal enemy.  Make sure that if you are going to choose ladders as the proper means for your workers to complete their work tasks that they are fully aware how to use them safely. Ladders are cheap.  People are not.

 

 

 

                               Jef Spencer

                              HFA Operations

 

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Preventing Facility Hazards: Electrical Safety Tips You Need to Know

Three of the top ten OSHA electrical safety violations are electrical in nature; in addition, 5% of all on the job fatalities are due to improper interaction with electricity.

Electrical hazards in your facility require the proper attention from safety managers when creating safety programs.
Here are some electrical safety tips to protect your employees from electrical hazards.
 

1.

Electrical Safety is important, any workplace and position can be affected by electricity. Before you begin your day make note of any electrical equipment you may come in contact with and ensure that it is properly grounded before use.
 

2.

Standing in any type of wetness while using an electrical device of any kind is not a good idea. Try to avoid it whenever possible, this includes stationary equipment, power tools, tablets, mobile phones, etc.
 

3.

Assume power lines are always energized whenever your work brings you to an area where you need to be around them. This includes any situation that your delivery crews may encounter at a customer’s home. Use non-conductive materials, and tools when near them.
 

4.

Practice a standard operating procedure in electrical safety by bringing any machine being worked on to complete zero, fully de-energized before beginning repair or services. (Unplug it from the power source if possible).
 

5.

After bringing a machine to complete zero for servicing, always use proper lock out protocol to prevent co-workers from re-energizing a machine while it is being worked on.
 

6.

Never wear rings, watches, wristbands, or use metallic pencils or rulers while working with electrical equipment.
 

7.

Ask can this job be completed with one hand? Only using one hand to work reduces the chances of electricity going through the chest cavity in the event of an accident.
 

8.

If a spill happens on or near a machine do not try to clean it up until the machine is shut down completely and unplugged.
 

9.

Never touch electrical equipment unless you are specifically instructed to do so. It is advisable to consider the use of electrical safety signs, and make sure your hands are not wet or sweating and as precaution.
 

10.

Stay up to date on regulations or requirements to be in compliance with relevant regulatory agencies. As changes are released, regularly to see what your facility should now be doing differently to ensure maximum workplace electrical safety.
 
Jef Spencer
HFA Operations
HFA Products Store

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Head to Toe Protection Tips for the Workplace

It’s the last line of defense between you and a life altering injury, do you know the proper safety products and how they should be used in order to make sure you are protecting your employees?

Do you train your staff on the importance using the products to keep them safe? Are you guilty of not bothering to provide the correct protections because you think it could “never happen at my store”? For starters: IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU OR YOUR EMPLOYEES! Second, follow these simple tips to keep your employees safe!
 

Head:

Protect the head from traumatic brain injuries, they make up 22% of all work related fatalities. Even in a furniture warehouse the danger is real from falling object hazards. Espically if you employ any type of rack or overhead merchandise storage. Hard hats are broken down into 2 types and 3 classes, provide a hat that best fits the falling object hazard for your facility.
 

Hearing:

Measurement standards should be appropriate for the noise levels and spectral content specific to the environment being regulated. Meeting requirements is not enough. Even prolonged exposure to low frequency tonal noise (Low hum) can still be harmful. If you have any type of machinery in your facility that make loud operational noise from compactors to industrial shredders, hearing protection needs to be provided to your employees. Additional protections such as active ear defenders should be considered in areas of excessive of ongoing noise.
 

Respiratory:

When working around airborne particles or debris, be sure to wear the proper respirator for the hazard and change filters frequently. The life of these filters will vary depending on the concentration of the hazard, the storage conditions and age of the filter. Areas of concern in a typical furniture warehouse will be the touch up areas here aerosols are sprayed or use of vapor releasing topcoats or chemicals are employed. Don’t forget about areas that generate a lot of dust like compactors or industrial shredders.
 

Back:

1 in 5 workplace injuries are back related and 33% of injuries can be reduced with strength testing for appropriate tasks and proper lifting technique training. Avoid the common causes of force, repetition, and posture.
 

Hands:

72% of hand injuries were a result of hands not wearing gloves. Hazards associated with machinery and cutting are at the top of the list when it comes to workplace hand injuries, when reviewing and selecting gloves make note of flexibility, grip, cut and puncture resistance, chemical resistance and degradation. The appropriate gloves can also reduce losing grip on merchandise that could result in crushing damage to an employee’s foot or damage to the merchandise itself.
 

Feet:

Crushed, punctured, burned, shocked, sprained or broken. While often forgotten about, foot protection is just as important as the protection of the rest of your body, your footwear should provide both comfort and protection to ward off the hazards lurking around your facility. When lifting, moving or transporting furniture either individually or palletized, steel toe footwear can make the difference between an inconvenient merchandise drop and the loss of a productive employee.
 
With a few mindful employee training sessions and by supplying the appropriate safety gear you can keep your staff safe and productive.
 
Jef Spencer
HFA Operations
HFA Products Store

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