Warehouse workers—whether they realize it or not—expose themselves to dangerous situations every day. Many fail to notice their circumstances because, a vast majority of the time, people do their jobs correctly. It’s only when others neglect to perform their responsibilities safely that accidents start occurring. This can be anything from management providing unsafe tools to workers on the floor operating heavy machinery without the proper training.
The reason why being safe in a warehouse is so important is because anyone can potentially get injured, whether it’s a broken finger or something as serious as a fatality. Know what the dangers are around you every time you punch into work, and be aware of what you can do to make the job safer for you and your coworkers.
The most common vehicle you will use in a warehouse is a forklift; it enables workers to quickly transport pallets from one end of the facility to another. But while these vehicles are invaluable to facilitate more efficient business, they also pose a significant threat to workers and support structures. Collisions can happen at any time—whether it’s the operator making a turn too wide and hitting a pallet rack support beam or running into an employee they can’t see.
What Can Happen After a Collision?
When hitting employees, the damage can vary depending on the velocity of the forklift and where the vehicle hits them. Hitting an employee can result in minor bruises—or, in the worst cases, a fatality. As for hitting a pallet rack, if the support structure sustains enough damage, it will collapse, and the stored inventory will fall to the ground.
What You Can Do To Prevent Collisions
Ensure everyone who operates a forklift is certified and trained in how to use them. Provide adequate light coverage to improve visibility and install mirrors wherever necessary to see around blind corners and behind the vehicle.
Pallet Rack Failure
As mentioned, forklift collisions can result in critical pallet racking failures, but that is not the only concern. Overloading racks with too much weight is always an issue when the staff does not know the weight limits of racks. It’s easy to forget that these structures can buckle under too much weight, and that scenario will result in the same as hitting the rack with a forklift.
What Can Happen After a Collapse?
Anyone directly underneath a rack that’s about to collapse is in immediate danger of getting crushed by overhead materials. All that weight that brought down the rack is now hurtling towards unsuspecting workers passing by. Thousands of pounds can land on workers, either trapping them underneath or killing them.
What You Can Do To Prevent Collapse
Understand the limits of your pallets and ensure that everyone else knows them too. Identify if any employee regularly overloads a rack, even if it’s only a little over the limit. Make it clear that they should only store as much as the shelf can handle. Post signage to further promote safe storing habits. You must also guarantee that all shelves can adequately hold the weight of the inventory. Steel rack decking offers more durability and is less likely to collapse compared to other wire decking options.
You need to know what comes in and what goes out from your facility, and you need to understand the dangers of certain items and substances. If the staff does not have access to the proper protective equipment, they’ll be exposed to harmful substances when dealing with hazardous materials. Alternatively, some inventory may react violently with certain stimuli, such as flammable items exploding when exposed to a spark.
What Can Happen From Mishandling Materials?
Individual employees who manage these dangerous items can suffer long-term illnesses or debilitating diseases without adequate equipment. Flammable items, for example, can explode and cause an outbreak of fire.
What You Can Do To Prevent Mishandling
Store dangerous materials in safe areas away from any reactants. Sometimes, inventory can be so dangerous that you must keep it in a separate facility away from anything else. That way, if such inventory ignites, it only affects a small area of your facility.
Outbreak of Fire
Fire is arguably the most significant threat you’ll face in the warehouse and is often cited as one of the leading causes of property damage to storage facilities. Without the proper safety measures, fires can burn out of control and engulf an entire facility before anyone has time to set off an alarm.
What Can Happen From Fires?
Other than your facility burning, fires—and their smoke—can harm employees if they’re caught in the blaze. Their skin can get burned from the fire, and the smoke can suffocate them.
What You Can Do To Prevent Fires
You may not be able to prevent fire from starting all the time—as one of the leading causes of fires is intentional arson—but you can, however, develop your response to it. The basis of fire response in a warehouse is to allow for adequate flue space; this lets the hot air travel up to the sprinkler and alarm system, setting them off. You must also form an exit strategy for all employees to follow and ensure everyone knows what they must do to leave the building safely.
Protect Your Building, Protect Your Staff
The reason why staying safe in the warehouse is so important is because neglecting any facet of safety can result in significant damage to property and potentially dead workers. Your staff typically doesn’t view what they do as overly dangerous but allowing a complacent mentality among your workers can cause them to take their jobs less seriously.
Faltering for even a second while on the job can lead to anything from vehicular collisions, racks collapsing, or fires. Know what you need to do to keep everyone safe and make sure that your staff realizes and acknowledges the risks of their job.