Massive storage spaces are popping up around the globe in response to the recent eCommerce boom. The demand for warehouse safety has also gained greater economic significance as a result. Missteps here have serious repercussions for businesses – fatalities/injuries to workers will invite lawsuits and compensation claims, as well unwanted fines and potential loss of clients.
There are many dimensions to the concept of warehouse safety. Obvious measures include greater investment in safety equipment, more training for warehouse workers, better quality structures, and improved security measures.
That being said, there are many indirect measures that can improve warehouse safety that are often overlooked. We discuss some of them below.
1. Insist on proactive maintenance
Warehouses are dangerous places – the combination of complex machinery and stacked loads of heavy objects are the main culprits. On top of that, there is the constant hum of activity and incessant movement of people and shipments, often in tight space that do not leave a lot of room for errors.
Equipment failure and stress-induced damage to structures like shelves and stacks will increase the risk of accidents. Given the importance of deadlines in the eCommerce business, warehouse managers cannot afford to take any risks.
Waiting for equipment to fail is not an option. Planned preventive maintenance of important equipment should be mandatory. After all, machines and infrastructure that is kept in good condition has significantly lower chances to be the cause of a safety incident.
2. Reduce labor turnover
The warehouse sector has a significant problem in employee retention. Due to the demanding nature of the job and low pay, attrition rates tend to be higher than in other industries.
Some businesses like fast food and take-outs may thrive despite high employee turnover. But warehousing does not belong to this category, mainly due to training requirements. A fast-food restaurant can survive with poorly trained employees – but in a warehouse context, it is a recipe for disaster.
Inexperienced workers have a direct impact on the overall risk of and accident at a warehouse facility. Businesses should do more to retain their floor workforce and managers. This could involve better pay, more flexible working hours, equipment that can help with physically demanding tasks, and other benefits. While they can be quite expensive, the long-term benefits are often worth the investment.
3. Enforce a “zero clutter” policy
Training can only go so far in preventing accidents at a warehouse. For maximum safety, it should also be accompanied by positive workplace culture. A zero-clutter policy is an ideal starting point as it compels employees to pay more attention to their surroundings at all times.
It also has a massive impact on accident prevention. With rows of shelves, stacks of parcels, packing material, and other myriad equipment, a warehouse floor has the potential to become cluttered. This in turn affects the smooth and efficient movement of consignments and people.
In cramped spaces, it significantly increases the chance of accidents and injuries. A zero-cutter policy will improve productivity and drastically reduce accident potential in any warehouse area.
4. Maintain employee feedback loops
Companies like Amazon are receiving a lot of flak due to negative press. A lot of it is generated by disgruntled employees who feel unheard and ignored. Beyond an obvious PR nightmare, employee unrest can have other negative consequences as well.
When morale is affected, it also affects the safety standards maintained in a warehouse. Keeping effective communication channels between management and employees can help prevent this, and indirectly strengthen warehouse safety.
As they are the ones on the frontline, workers can have a better understanding of potential safety risks in the workplace. Warehouse businesses that listen to the safety concerns of their employees tend to have a much better safety record than those that ignore them.
Warehouse safety is a complex issue that cannot be effectively addressed with a top-down approach. Managers have to work in close cooperation with lower-level employees to effectively mitigate the risk of accidents, fire hazards, theft, and other common warehouse safety challenges.