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Prevent Employee Accidents in the Warehouse: Five Key Steps

by Jerry Matos
Cherry's Industrial Equipment

Companies that proactively implement safety measures to help prevent employee accidents are leading the way in creating a winning business environment. Let’s face it, down time in any company means productivity has to stop. Add to that the resources (time, insurance claim deductible payments, worker’s compensation benefit payouts if applies, training the back-up employee, etc) required to restore an injured employee back to 100% health and strength and to keep production going and you have a financial deficit that could probably have been avoided. While accidents cannot be totally prevented in a work place taking proactive steps to preventing unnecessary injuries can go a long way to ensuring a safer work environment. Here are five fundamental steps that should be implemented right away.

Keep the walkways clear
It is easy to become a bit lax in putting materials away or allowing things to accumulate. Excess supplies and even employee property cannot be allowed to spill out into pathways where the items present a trip hazard. Do not allow materials to stack in a way that blocks a view around corners or other areas where equipment may be moving.

Extension cords or cables cannot be run across walkways or in areas where equipment will run over the cords. Cords not only present a trip hazard, they can be damaged by rollover and cause an electrical short or fire.

When spills occur, they must be cleaned up promptly to prevent a slip hazard. If a spill cannot be taken care of immediately, it must be clearly indicated with a wet floor marker. Workers also need to understand how to clean up spills. Some materials could present a hazard if not handled correctly. As a rule, if an employee does not know what a substance is, they should request assistance.

Wear appropriate attire
Casual clothing is fine in most warehouse environments. However, this does not mean that sandals or flip-flops are acceptable footwear. Toe protection is required and the soles of the shoes should be slip-resistant. Shorts may sometimes be acceptable, but full-length pants provide more protection.

Ill-fitting or loose clothing can get caught while employees are working. This also applies to many jewelry items: bracelets, necklaces or dangling earrings are not a good idea in a warehouse environment. Wearing rings will depend on the type of work being performed.
Personal protective equipment must be worn for any operations that require it. Many jobs call for safety glasses or protective gloves — employees need to be trained in the correct use and the use must be enforced.

Do not overload shelving
Warehouses are often short on needed storage space. Unfortunately, overloading shelving can result in serious accidents. If shelving is not properly anchored and balanced, even a slight overload could cause the shelving to topple. Items stacked improperly can create an avalanche onto anyone below.

Single shelves may also collapse under excess weight and this creates a potential for a chain reaction. Make sure that the shelving in use is rated for the amount of weight being placed on it. It is much safer to purchase additional shelving than risk the serious potential for an accident.

Operate equipment properly
Forklifts are frequently used for moving materials in a warehouse. No one should be allowed to operate this equipment without complete training. Failure to follow safety requirements regarding forklift safety is the sixth most cited OSHA violation. Improper use can cause injury to the operator and to bystanders. Forklifts or handcarts require proper loading techniques and overloading can create hazards.

Any other equipment or machinery used in a warehouse must be inspected periodically to make sure that it is functioning properly. Maintenance intervals must be followed. For example, dull blades in a cutting machine create a hazard if material becomes jammed. Employees need to know what to look for and how to take equipment out of service if a problem occurs.

Follow material handling procedures
Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) must be available for any chemical products in the warehouse. Each employee that uses a particular material must be fully aware of the proper handling procedures. First aid instructions must be readily available in the event of exposure. If items like adhesives, cleaners and other products are stored, they must be adequately labeled.

These are some of the major steps that you can take to keep your warehouse employees safe and prevent accidents. You should also remember that standard safety training is required. Employees must learn proper lifting techniques to avoid injuries. General first aid training should also be provided. Employees must be aware of safety exits and all protocol required in the event of a fire.

With the estimated average cost of an injury at $53,000, taking a few steps to prevents accidents will more than pay for itself.

Jerry Matos is a Product Specialist for Cherry’s Industrial Equipment, a manufacturer of warehouse equipment for the industrial industry.

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