A Complete Guide To Warehouse Safety – Volume I – Back To Basics

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

You hear about it on the news, you read about it in trade mags and articles and you work about it every day – workplace safety.   It’s the latest buzz word in the media, but what does it mean and how do you begin the process of making sure you have a safe place to work?  Well my friends, we are about to embark on a journey down the Green Brick Road for Safety and will show what goes into completing a Job safety analysis to identify potential safety hazards.  A job safety analysis is usually completed by someone trained in the field of safety but there is no reason, whether you’re a manager, supervisor or employee, you shouldn’t be familiar with the process as an extra set of eyes is always appreciated when it comes to safety.

Grab your pad and pen and let’s begin our walk around the warehouse.  The analysis starts as we watch and observe each movement and action an employee takes as they complete their assigned daily tasks.   We are looking for any potential safety hazard that may occur during that action and movement.  So what is a safety hazard?  It is any source of potential damage, harm or adverse health effects on a person under certain conditions at work.  Some are obvious like a open hole in the floor that someone can fall through and some may take time to show their effects like repetitive motions.  

Forklifts unfortunately account for a large percentage of warehouse accidents and also cause at least 100 deaths a year in this country.  So we begin our observations in the dock area where the most action occurs as items are delivered, shipped, cross-docked and put away.  The main issues here involve forklifts being driven off the loading dock, forklifts striking or pinning employees, and products falling onto employees.  These incidents are related to the following hazards;  slick or wet floors (rain water, other liquid spills, ice) that is not cleaned up immediately.  Improper use of forklifts,  including excessive speeds, not honking horn coming out of trailers or at blind intersections, trailers pulling out of dock while unloading is still in process, not paying attention while driving, improper stacking of product, use of broken wooden pallets, forks left raised in air while moving product.  


As employees manually move product again observe, are they over reaching to grab an item?(strains)  Are they off-balance or have incorrect posture while they lift? (back strains)  Exhibiting other poor ergonomics like improper lifting, bending, or twisting torso for long periods of time.  In addition to the above as employees reach and move product Is there any moving machinery parts or conveyor belts in close proximity to them?

Any piece of equipment, machinery or conveyor system that is operated by or near working employees, needs to be checked for pinch points, inadequate or lack of guards from flywheels, gears, shafts, pulleys, keyways, belts, sprocket chains and any other moving parts.  For the  equipment that requires to be fed by hand, oiled, adjusted or requires maintenance, make sure employees know and understand LOTO procedures, (Lock Out and Tag Out) before performing any of those tasks.

Now as you walk around the remainder of the facility be sure to check in the battery recharging room or refuel station.  Do you have an operating eye wash station and/or shower to deal with acid spills on a individual?  There is always the chance of an acid spill from a battery charged immediately after refilling with water (not proper procedure).  The battery room should also have a venting system to prevent vapors from accumulating and creating a possible explosion hazard.  Is there a spill kit and PPE available such a goggles, face shield and gloves?  PPE, (Personal Protection Equipment).  In fact, any task an employee does in the warehouse ask yourself is there any PPE that’ll make the job safer to perform?  Besides goggles, gloves, ear plugs, bump cap/hard hat, face shield, dusk mask, what would offer better protection?


Continue your walk around with your critical eye now focused on fire safety.  Make sure fire extinguishers or fire hoses are accessible and are NOT blocked as well as overhead sprinkler heads.  Are they clearly labeled as such?  Have the fire extinguishers and sprinkler system  been inspected within the year and in working order and are the hoses properly rolled and encased?

More items to check:  emergency exits not blocked, electrical panels not blocked, poor housekeeping habits like wood debris & trash on floor.  Are storage areas full of clutter and disorganized and how are you storing those flammable liquids?  They should be stored separately in a clearly marked metal cabinet.  Are aerosol cans, parts and tools piling up at workstations or the window sills and floor? Are walkways free of clutter?  High pressure hoses clearly marked?  Is there a particular spot where you can bump your head, cut your hand or trip and fall?  You see, depending on your operations, the hazards can be numerous!

Lastly, this review is not a one time deal.  As you install new equipment or upgrade machinery or change operating procedures, make it the habit to automatically do a job safety analysis to make sure your employees can continue to work in a safe environment.  Don’t wait until someone is injured, get hold of your insurance carrier or HR department and get the process going now!

The Green Brick Safety Road is a long one.  We’ve just begun our journey.  Become a safety advocate at your place or work.  Please watch for Vol II coming soon.

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