When it comes to warehouse health and safety, its importance cannot be underestimated. While some threats to safety may seem obvious, such as heavy machinery and moving vehicles, they still pose a significant problem in the many factories and warehouses across the UK.
The manual handling of loads for example is the main cause of 3 day + absence from warehouses and factories; In addition to this as many as 13% of injuries are caused moving/falling objects, and 10% were hit by moving vehicles. Much of this is however avoidable. Let’s take a look at some of the considerations warehouse owners should take when it comes to health and safety:
Trips & Falls
Trips and falls might seem like easily preventable problems but they continue to pose a threat to worker safety in a large percentage of warehouses. You may be surprised to learn that ¼ of major injuries are caused by trips, falls and slips (source HSE). Considerations to help avoid such injuries include:
- Proper guard rails
- Installing anti-slip tape
- Remove obstructions as quickly as possible
- Ensure adequate lighting in poorly lit areas
- Remove bumps from flooring
- Use bright, visible signs to indicate tripping hazards
It’s a good idea to walk around the warehouse, noting any potential hazards, including that of how workers are positioned and whether they are over stretching, or lifting unnecessary weights. You can take this further with a full risk assessment, this can form the basis for a general health and safety policy within your warehouse and gives staff the confidence that you are invested in their safety. In fact any business with more than 5 employees must have a health and safety policy written down.
The OSHA found that 95,000 injuries are caused while operating forklifts every year. This highlights the need for good housekeeping which could help to prevent many of these injuries. Ensure that aisles are kept clear and at busy times extra care is taken. Consider specific legal requirements for forklift truck drivers and that safe use is enforced. The HSE has a useful guide for employers regarding fork lift trucks.
Growing in popularity among workers and employers, ergonomic practices have become more prevalent in recent years as people become more aware good working posture.
Many hours of productivity are lost due to poor ergonomics. Working in one position for several hours a day, leaning or stretching awkwardly can all take their toll on workers bodies. There is now plenty of advice and research into the topic, with the term coming somewhat of a buzzword in recent years.
There is plenty that can be done to help protect employers from sustaining posture and ergonomic related injuries. This covers basics such as proper lifting practices, as well as adjusting VDU stations to comfortable positions.
- Look around the warehouse for awkward postures
- Utilise lifting equipment where possible to reduce strain on workers
- Use platforms, ladders and steps to avoid awkward reaching
- Be wary of situations where workers are in one specific position for prolonged periods of time. Many ergonomic related injuries are caused by repetitive tasks or postures.
There are some regulations employers should be wary of too, including the display screen equipment regulations 1992. This applies when workers use visual display units. Employers must:
- Assess and reduce risk
- Provide eye tests on request
- Plan work so there are breaks or changes of activity
- Avoid aches and pains by adjusting chairs & VDU equipment
Contractors and Agency Workers
When hiring external contractors it should be assumed they have adequate knowledge of good health and safety practices, however you may wish to make them aware of your own procedures. Their level of experience should be a good indicator of health and safety knowledge and adherence.
When it comes to hiring agency workers employers should risk assess and take into account their familiarity with the job and level of experience. It is in an employers best interest to consider the health and safety of all agency workers and provide basic training applicable to each job role.
Training and Involvement of Staff
It can be tempting to cut corners, skipping or minimizing training to keep costs low. Often however health and safety is overlooked. It may be assumed that workers have the adequate knowledge; however this is when accidents happen. Inadequate training can end up costing more money in the long term from lost productivity, time off and potentially legal matters.
Make sure that all staff more than enough training related to their job role, consider:
- Heavy machinery – Many injuries are caused by inadequate training on the equipment staff are using such as press machines.
- Moving parts – In a lot of warehouses there will be equipment with a lot of moving parts, staff should be aware of warning labels and the proper procedures for safe use of such equipment.
- Refresher/updating training – It’s good practice to check that staff are still using equipment and working in the correct way from time to time. Consider refresher training and if equipment changes, updating training if necessary.
One of the more obvious health concerns. You should be well aware of your requirements as an employer in relation to COSHH (control of substances hazardous to health). Another consideration for factories and warehouses may be asbestos, particularly if the building was built before the year 2000.