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Making sure safety's the order of the day

06 December 2016

With more people using the Internet for their shopping, particularly in the run-up to Christmas, warehouse personnel are under pressure to get goods out as quickly as possible. This offers increased potential for accidents but, as Graham Halliday, product manager at Good to Go Safety explains, good procedures and working practices can help negate these risks

Distributors may be tempted to crowd warehouse aisles and racking to increase inventory and improve logistics. Extra (seasonal/part-time) staff may be brought in, many of whom will never have set foot inside a warehouse.

With more trucks and constant orders, racking aisles are busier than ever with stock movement and replenishment an ongoing battle – as a result the potential for racking collisions rockets. A slight scrape or knock of an upright whilst rushing to the next pick may seem trivial and go unreported at the time, but a weakened racking upright has the potential to wreak havoc in the event of a collapse.

Safety issues can arise at any time, but during busy periods, conducting self-inspections and keeping notes on what went well and what went wrong can give invaluable insights for improved logistics and safety in the New Year. 

A clear plan should be in place to optimise efficiency, with minimal interruption for the product to travel safely from storage to loading dock. Here are some tips to help ensure a safe Christmas period:

•  Keep forklift traffic and pedestrian traffic separate. Have clearly marked paths for pedestrians, provide adequate warning signage, and consider the use of mirrors in tight areas or blind spots. Forklift alarms and blue-light systems can help detect, prevent and warn of potential collisions.

•  Provide training for operators and awareness training for everyone who might enter the warehouse. Consider conducting short pre-shift toolbox talks to remind employees of forklift hazards and your safety rules. Ensure pre-shift checks of trucks are completed – trucks out of action will impact on productivity.

•  High racks, piles of storage, and the width of the aisles may impede visibility in your warehouse. Good housekeeping is key – keep aisles clear of unnecessary blockages and never store goods in areas that impair or block visibility of emergency exit routes. Spills, debris and loose pallet strapping/wrap are tripping hazards, and when an employee goes down, production will too. Prevent access to the warehouse for anyone not needing to be there. 

•  Pallet height and stability is important – the temptation to stack higher than specified to get stock out of the aisle should not be allowed. Have workers checking the height/stability of the load and report any concerns. When on a rack, ensure weight is well distributed with heavier items on lower shelves. Never exceed the safe working load which should be clearly displayed on signage.

•  Carry out routine visual checks of racking to identify any unreported collisions, if you find a damaged upright consider offloading the shelving or restricting access/usage until it has been repaired or found to be structurally sound. Encourage drivers to report any collisions (don’t force it underground by reprimanding drivers). 

  •  Ensure all staff are aware of the emergency evacuation procedures and location of assembly points in the event of a fire (especially important for new/seasonal employees). 

 •  Keep aisles, walkways, and emergency evacuation routes clear of obstacles. There should be zero tolerance for obstructions of any aisles. 

•  Encourage staff to report near misses or concerns. They are working in your warehouse and will spot potential areas of concern – listen and react to removing the problem before it develops into something more serious.

•  Maintain all material handling equipment and ensure it is used only by trained/competent personnel. Ensure staff are aware of/trained on manual handling procedures and weight limits. 

•  To ensure all warehouse equipment is in good working order and to help communicate the findings and dates of your routine checks, consider the introduction of inspection systems, such as those provided by Good to Go Safety. Our tagging and checklist systems are simple, easy to implement and affordable.

Losing personnel or equipment through an accident or breakdown can have a serious knock-on effect on productivity. A safe warehouse will invariably be a more productive warehouse.