Creating safe facilities is crucial for the warehousing and manufacturing industries. Organizations lucky enough to build their facilities from the ground up can design safe, efficient, and user-friendly work environments that avoid many of the most commonly found hazards. However, companies operating out of prebuilt facilities do not have the same luxury, but it does not mean they cannot make significant upgrades to safety.
Striving for continuous improvement is the only way to stay ahead of the ever-changing hazards confronting workers and employers today. Follow the checklist below to help your organization create a safer workplace for your employees.
Are only Certified Personnel Operating Mobile Equipment?
A high-risk area within warehousing and manufacturing is dangerous interactions between people and mobile equipment like forklifts. Unfortunately, the labor strain created by the covid-19 pandemic has negatively affected overall workplace safety. Many experienced workers have left the workforce, and the high demand for labor means that companies are settling for less skilled workers than they would have in the past. This knowledge gap can have significant consequences, particularly when applied to hazardous activities like equipment operations.
While OSHA does mandate that employers train and certify anyone who will operate a forklift, do not do it just to check a box. Taking the process seriously and making meaningful and consistent efforts to check operator skills and understanding of safe working practices can significantly affect overall safety.
Have You Eliminated Blind Spots and Clearly Marked Hazards?
You must take proactive steps to avoid a forklift from hitting other equipment, materials, the facility, or pedestrian workers. Many negative interactions between workers and forklifts result from poor visibility or lack of recognition of each other. Increasing operator line of sight by placing mirrors around corners and other blind spots gives pedestrian workers and equipment the necessary visibility to avoid accidents.
Also, high visibility protectors for walls, corners, and storage rack posts shield your equipment, facility, and workers from accidents and injuries and ensure that operators can proactively avoid them in the first place.
Does Mobile Equipment Have Pedestrian Sensors?
Humans make mistakes, and accidents are still possible even with increased visibility and robust training programs for equipment operators. Unfortunately, those mistakes can be costly or even deadly when it comes to forklifts.
Pedestrian detection sensors for mobile equipment alert the operator when something or someone is within a certain distance. Pedestrian detection sensors act like a second set of eyes for operators and offer management peace of mind knowing that their employees, facility, and equipment have an extra level of protection.
Are Driving, Walking, and Working Areas Clearly Defined?
Creating rules around your facility similar to those found on a public street can vastly improve overall safety. For example, having set walking and working areas for your people can prevent hazardous interactions between workers and equipment. In addition, it sets clear expectations for where people and equipment should be and where they should not. These administrative rules can go a long way, but physical barriers are sometimes needed, and putting up guardrails or bollards where people or equipment should not go is also a good idea.
Are You Following Best Practices to Avoid Falling Objects?
The risk of falling objects is always present, but following some best practices when stacking or storing materials can prevent their occurrence. First, the heaviest materials should always be stored or stacked as low as possible. When using racks, ensure that they can support the weight of the materials you plan to store and that their weight capacity is clearly marked. Finally, protect rack supports and other stacked materials from accidental contact with mobile equipment. Rack post protectors and bollards can help.
Are You Preventing Spills with Proper Containment?
Proactively preventing spills with proper containment can save you a lot of headaches. In addition, it can help reduce the potential for slip trips and fall accidents among your employees and avoid the unintentional release of chemicals into the environment. Many spill prevention products on the market today are specifically designed to meet your facility’s specific needs. For example, if your facility receives products by rail, having a track pan in place will catch potential spills while loading and unloading materials.
Are Workers Qualified to Use the Tools and Equipment Required?
There are many specialized tools within warehousing and manufacturing. Even the operation of standard tools can vary between brands, models, and applications. Never assume, even if someone says they have experience, that employees know how to operate specific tools and equipment; always field test their knowledge.
Also, ensure that the equipment and tools are maintained by a designated, well-trained professional, not by users. Many life-altering accidents occur because the wrong people attempt to maintain equipment and do not understand safety best practices or proper lockout-tagout procedures.
Are You Supplying Workers with the Proper PPE for the Task?
Do you have the proper PPE for every process in your facility? For example, if your workers wear air-purifying respirators when encountering airborne hazards, have you confirmed they have the right filter for the hazard? Unfortunately, many companies leave their workers exposed because they do not do the groundwork necessary to identify proper PPE. They assume that workers are protected because they have a respirator on, but if that respirator does not filter the airborne hazard, it is just providing a false sense of security. Every process, product, and material requires specific PPE, so investigate every part of your process to ensure you provide your people with the proper protection.
Are You Following Best Practices to Avoid Slips, Trips, and Falls?
Slips, trips, and falls are among the most common workplace accidents, with poor housekeeping being a leading contributor. For example, a slip, trip, and fall accident may be around the corner if you go to a work area and have to step over equipment, tools, power cords, and materials to get where you need to go. Creating clear expectations for housekeeping, eliminating clutter, and protecting power cords can go a long way toward preventing this common issue.
There are many hazards in warehousing and manufacturing facilities, and this is by no means an exhaustive list. However, if you follow this straightforward checklist, you will be well on your way to creating a safer and more compliant facility.