As a material handling equipment supplier, analyst, and consultant, I get the opportunity and privilege to see a lot of companies from the inside out. I’ve also had the experience of seeing firsthand some of the common mistakes that warehouse supervisors or employees make during the workday. While sometimes the errors are committed by the rookies, experienced warehouse veterans sometimes overlook taking simple safety precautions during peak work hours.
While the main reason for a keen eye, workplace safety isn’t just about personal protection and the protection of your employees. We live and work in a very litigious society and the lack of a $20 safety sign can now lead to a $10,000,000 lawsuit. Based on both the top 10 warehouse safety information issued by OSHA in 2010 and personal experience (in addition to the laws of common sense,) here are 10 warehouse safety information tips that can help you to keep yourself, and your job, safe.
1. Scaffolding/Fall protection – #1 & #2 highest ranked for citations issued in 2010 with 15,864. Scaffold planking or support giving way, slipping, or being struck by a falling object were the biggest culprits here. Employees must be provided the proper fall protection at 4′ in general industry, 5′ in maritime environments, and 6′ in construction settings. Incidentally, these two violations were ranked #1 and #2 in 2009 also.
2. Hazard tags – Material Safety Data Sheets. Learn them, live them, love them. Pay attention to them as an employee and post them as an employer and they can and will save your life. Also, always keep spill containment kits, wash stations and showers close by.
3. Respiratory Protection – Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) is required to be provided by companies whose products or manufacturing processes are hazardous to the health of the employee. It is not just up to the company to provide them however, it’s also up to the employee to use them.
4. Ladder falls – Moving up two spots since 2009 with over 3,000 violations, falls from ladders are perhaps one of the most avoidable accidents that exist. Simply take the extra 10% of time that it takes to make the climb correctly, at the correct angle, and with the proper footing for the ladder. Make sure the ladder isn’t falling apart, shaky, or leaning to one side and the next, and if you find yourself pausing to guess if you can make the climb, it probably isn’t worth the try. Find another way.
5. Lockout/Tagout – Again, take the time to make everybody aware of the problem by tagging out or locking out the machinery or equipment that is malfunctioning. Most people would think that this is pretty self-explanatory, but it bears noting that there were over 3,000 violations last year nationwide.
6. Electrical wiring/design – Please don’t do this yourself unless you are a professionally certified electrician. We can all save the “weekend warrior” jobs for the house. Shortcuts may save money in the short-term, but you’re one mistake away from possibly putting the company out of business by lawsuit, fire, or worse (and you may be one misplaced screwdriver away from not seeing the kids graduate from high school.) Don’t take the chance.
7. Guarding against floor or wall openings, holes, or hazards – Guard rail, safety nets, harnesses, floor striping, hand rails. These are all ways to avoid free falls in the workplace. And if you’re the employee (or boss for that matter), ask yourself, “Is climbing up the rack a good idea?” Use your head to think, not to break your fall.
The above constituted the top 10 citations issued by OSHA (some were combined) and the other tips below are here for additional information:
8. Exits and signage – Having enough emergency exits to evacuate the building sounds like simple logic, but I’m in Chicago. There are plenty of buildings that were constructed decades ago and while you may have been told that the building is “grandfathered” in with regards to codes, lawsuits don’t care about that. Even if you win, you’re still paying a lawyer. Check with your OSHA rep. If all that is needed are signs, spend the $100 or so.
9. Head/eye protection – We all know that 99% of the time, nothing happens that requires the dire or immediate need for protection. Everybody has to remember that you’re not protecting yourself against the 99%, but the 1%. Wear the gear, and if you don’t like what it does to your hair (yes, I’ve heard that reason before,) then go work in the office.
10. Clean workspace – Pallet shards or oil spills on the floor, blowing then melting snow on the dock, or anything else that might seem small has the potential to turn into a ten-million dollar problem. Take the extra couple of minutes and keep it clean because a dirty workplace can actually contribute (or exacerbate) any of the other nine concerns outlined above.