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Health & Safety Considerations in Warehouses

Health & Safety Considerations in Warehouses

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.


Harmful Substances

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.


When Should You Remove Asbestos?

When Should You Remove Asbestos?

Asbestos is well known as a dangerous substance since it was fully banned in the UK in 1999.  Once breathed in the fibers can eventually lead to serious health issues, including cancer.

Upon discovery that your property has or might have asbestos it is only natural to want it gone.  It might seem counterintuitive but when it comes to the best methods for dealing with asbestos, removal isn’t always the right choice.

Buy why? If it’s so dangerous shouldn’t it be removed as soon as it is discovered?

Asbestos is most dangerous when it is disturbed and the fibers are released into the air, this includes attempting to remove it.  Definitely do not try to remove it yourself, or hire someone inexperienced.

While this is true for most cases, the only way to know for sure is with an

.  By getting a survey from an experienced asbestos survey company, you will be able to determine exactly what state the asbestos is in and whether removal is needed or not.

Removal Can Pose a High Risk

Sometimes removal is not the best cause of action.  In some cases removing asbestos containing materials poses a high risk in both the removal and disposal process and you may be advised against it.

If it is out of the way it may be less likely to be disturbed and any deteriorating fibers are kept away.  One of the methods to managing asbestos is to make it safe by containing it.  This means that even if any fibers are released through deterioration they will be contained and you won’t be at risk from breathing it in.

Cost Can Play a Role

Asbestos removal is time consuming and costly. It can also be disruptive to businesses and homeowners. For these reasons alone many people opt for a maintenance plan instead.  This doesn’t mean it is an inferior, or less safe option.  In a lot of cases little action if any is required. So long as the asbestos is contained or not disturbed it doesn’t pose a risk.

If money and disruption isn’t a concern you may choose to have the asbestos removed for complete peace of mind.  Again, before making this decision be sure to have a survey to ensure that the asbestos can be safely removed.

Thinking of Refurbishing? You Need an Asbestos Survey..

One case where removal may be needed is if you plan to do any refurbishments.  Since such work can disturb the asbestos, it may be necessary to have it removed before the work commences.  It all depends on the location of the asbestos.  Again, as asbestos has no obvious warning signs, it is critical to know where all, if any asbestos is in your property.  The only way to know this is through a professional survey.

Other people are having asbestos removed, does that mean I should?

Asbestos is being removed from buildings up and down the country all the time, but that doesn’t mean it is unsafe to leave it.  Every case is different and removal isn’t always the appropriate cause of action. In most cases it is perfectly safe to keep it where it is, with the appropriate measures the dangerous fibers can be kept from being released and the asbestos poses no threat.   Never assume this to be true without first getting a professional survey done!


What Are the Risks of Asbestos

What Are the Risks of Asbestos

What is Asbestos and why was it used?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that has been used in construction for thousands of years.   It was a cheap, convenient material used in buildings for its strength, ability to add insulation and fire resistance.

The use of asbestos was widespread in the 1930s – 1960s.  For many years the reported dangers of asbestos were ignored, particularly by the construction industry.  It wasn’t until the 70s that regulations came into force once the dangers of asbestos were more known.

What are the dangers of asbestos?

Asbestos is very harmful to human health.   Once released into the air and breathed in, asbestos particles can remain in the lungs for many years and cannot be removed.  In the worst cases asbestos exposure can lead to lung disease and cancer.  Symptoms do not always present themselves until many years down the line, which is what makes it so hard to spot.

There is no safe level of asbestos exposure, however most problems occur with repeated exposure.

It is important to remember that buildings built with asbestos are generally safe.  The risk to health only occurs when the asbestos has been disturbed.

Use of asbestos was not fully banned until 1999, so houses and buildings built up until this period could still have asbestos containing materials present.

If you are concerned, you can put yourself at ease with an inspection from a reputable asbestos survey company.

Who is at risk from asbestos?

The people most at risk from asbestos are those doing work in old buildings such as roofers, carpenters, electricians, plumbers and even homeowners doing DIY.

People may come into contact with asbestos through drilling, or cutting into walls or removing roof tiles.

As a building owner, especially commercially, proper steps must be taken to manage the risks associated with asbestos.

There is far less chance of coming into contact with asbestos containing materials today.  Strict regulations help to protect workers.  By knowing that asbestos is present procedures can be put in place to keep people working on older buildings safe.

If you are not sure whether your home contains asbestos or not, it is safest to not drill or cut until you are sure that the area is safe.

Asbestos is still present in many buildings and there is still a risk that should not be ignored, even for homeowners.

Kent Tyre Firm Fined £1million

Kent Tyre Firm Fined £1million

To highlight the importance of employee training, the following article defines the risks faced when a strategy for staff training has not been clearly defined and implemented within an organisation.

A Kent-based tyre company was fined £1 million after pleading guilty to breaching sections 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 that led to safety failings that caused the death of a 21 year old tyre worker.  The incident took place on company premises when the individual was carrying out repairs on the tyre of a ‘dresser loading shovel’ when it exploded and killed him.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found that he was not properly qualified or competent enough in this particular area of expertise to be completing these repairs safety. The equipment provided was also inadequate..

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Prosecution for Canterbury School – the importance of strategic approach to staff training and competency

Prosecution for Canterbury School – the importance of strategic approach to staff training and competency

In August 2014, an incident took place at a school in Canterbury that highlights the seriousness of this issue. The school was running a summer camp for local children and during one of the swimming sessions, a seven-year-old boy got into difficulty whilst in the water. It took approximately three minutes for the lifeguards to notice that he was in distress, they then removed him from the water and performed CPR. As a result of the incident, the young boy developed a condition called pneumonitis, which is inflammation of the lung tissue.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive concluded that the lifeguards were not effectively managed by the employer to ensure that they were fulfilling their duties as lifeguards. In this instance, the employees were not properly vigilant whilst on duty, which resulted in the incident that took place. It was also discovered that two of the three lifeguards on duty at the time did not hold current, up-to-date lifeguard qualifications. The school was taken to court where it pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974; it was fined £18,000 and had to pay £9,669.19 in costs.

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Addressing musculoskeletal conditions within the catering industry…backs and reducing the likelihood of ill health from repetitive minor injury

Addressing musculoskeletal conditions within the catering industry…backs and reducing the likelihood of ill health from repetitive minor injury

Working within the catering industry can result in a number of musculoskeletal conditions that can affect the back, hands, neck and legs. They are often caused by repetitive, forceful tasks, and/or poor posture whilst performing such tasks; lifting heavy loads can also cause issues in the longer-term.

There are a number of ways that management can help to reduce the risks of employees developing musculoskeletal disorders. In order for this to be deemed suitable and sufficient in the eyes of the law, the hierarchy of control measures must be followed. The hierarchy of control measures require an employer to eliminate a risk activity wherever possible. This can be as simple as ordering smaller boxes to reduce the size and weight to carry, arranging storage to prevent the need for lifting and providing lifting aids and trolleys where possible. The residual activities of the task must then be subject to a risk assessment – drawing out the detail of the task to address specific areas of risk, and adopting suitable control measures. The risk assessment should use the MAC tool provided by the Health and Safety Executive if it includes manual handling tasks, such as pushing, pulling, lifting or carrying. Continue reading

Work Equipment and Staff Competency – Know the pitfalls

Work Equipment and Staff Competency – Know the pitfalls

The Provision and use of Work Equipment Regulations and their applicability within the catering industry.

All work equipment whether manual or mechanised will fall under the Work Equipment Regulations 1998. This requires an employer to ensure that all machinery and tools provided are suitable for use, and that the people using them have received training in their correct operation.  Even very simple equipment within minimal operational requirements can pose a significant risk if procedures stipulated by the manufacturer are not communicated to staff.

One such example of this was when a supermarket was taken to court after failing to ensure that their workers had access to appropriate equipment for safely emptying deep fat fryers, in line with the requirements of the equipment design. Continue reading

Dermatitis in Catering – is your employer doing enough?

Dermatitis in Catering – is your employer doing enough?

Dermatitis in the Catering Industry – do you know a sufferer? Is your employer doing enough?

Dermatitis is a skin condition that is caused by skin irritants and results in red, sore, dry and even cracked skin that can become infected and painful if not treated correctly.
This is can occur frequently in people who work within the catering industry due to the cleaning agents that are used and contact with water, as well as some food stuffs that can result in allergic reactions. As an employer, there is a duty to manage the risks posed to all employees, as detailed under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and expanded in the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. Health surveillance is also necessary for staff where dermatitis is present.

With allergic reactions, the exact cause can be difficult to diagnose. It is important that the employer does not adopt generic management strategies for dermatitis without monitoring the outcomes, believing that this is suitable and sufficient.

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Preventing slips and falls in the catering industry

Preventing slips and falls in the catering industry

Slips and falls are accidents that can be generally be prevented with appropriate safe systems of work and careful management. However, it is possible for very significant and costly injuries to occur without adequate consideration.

A recent case involved a chef that slipped over due to unsuitable floor surfaces and debris on the kitchen floor. He suffered severe burns on his arms, hands and face when he reached out to regain his balance, but instead plunged his arm into boiling hot oil. The chef had to have surgery and spent five months off work.
An investigation into the incident discovered that there was an issue with water collecting on the floor around the dishwasher, steamers and vegetable prep area; there was also an issue with the flooring being unsuitable for the kitchen environment – it was confirmed that these problems had been regularly highlighted by the staff, yet the employer had done nothing to rectify the situation.

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