Healthy & Safe Workers Improve Productivity – LogiSYM May/June 2018
It only takes a split second for something to go wrong, and in a warehouse, the consequences can be dire. Injuries can be as insignificant as skin abrasion to broken bones and worse still, loss of life.
According to 2017 global figures compiled on occupational accidents and work-related illnesses by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the estimated number of deaths rose to 2.78 million from 2.32 in 2014 while fatal occupational accidents recorded was 380,500, a 10% increase from year 2014. Non-fatal occupational accidents which resulted in 4 days absence from work was at 374 million up 72 million from 2014.
In the Storage and Warehousing industry, workers have a higher than average chance of being seriously injured out of which, 70% of these injuries are caused by hazardous manual handling, or trips and falls. Regulated safety practices provide employees with guidelines on proper procedures, practices and behavior that can prevent possible injuries or illnesses arising from accidents.
But warehouse safety isn’t only about keeping employees safe – it is also about maintaining or increasing productivity by minimising staff absence due to accident-related injuries. A healthy workforce is likely to be more effective and yield a high return.
One most practical way is to use Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to protect employees from health or safety risks. These items include; high visibility vest, hard hat, steel toe boots, eye-protection, gloves, safety harness and ear plugs. While donning all of this may take a little time, it pays off in the long run as it reduces employee exposure to hazards and reduces the risks to acceptable levels.
In fact, some of the most obvious hazards pose the greatest threats, like stray cords, exposed wires, liquids and debris (sawdust, packing materials etc) in the work path, which contribute to ‘slip and trip’ accidents. Poor ventilation and dim lighting can be equally dangerous in a warehouse.
Having regular site inspection eliminates hazards that can cause injuries. Poor site maintenance and disorderliness are also detrimental to material handling equipment. Keeping them free of accidents and well-maintained helps to keep repair costs low and reduces downtime from breakdowns. Hazardous areas needs to be identified with tape or colour-coded stripes on the floor so that employees will be able to distinguish safe zones from dangerous ones to stay clear of accidents. Safety and weight load signs must be placed in clearly visible areas and complied with, to minimise risks of structural damage to the racking system.
Regular evacuation drills keeps employees up-to-date on protocol for such emergencies and familiar with exit locations. Training and refresher courses in warehouse safety should be a permanent feature especially for Warehouse Supervisors.
Yet another way to prevent accidents is through vocalising to reveal an employee’s location, to reduce mishaps. Something as simple as “coming through”, when moving items or driving machinery, is sufficient to let other colleagues know the direction of movement to keep them out of harm’s way.
An efficient warehouse requires efficient handling of the machinery. To get the best out of the materials handling equipment, appropriate usage should be the order of the day with properly trained or authorised personnel behind the wheel of a forklift or operating powered equipment.
These days, with racking structures scaling heights up to 40 metres high, the integrity and structural stability would be a primary concern in a storage facility. Warehouse Managers must be wary when selecting vendors and ascertain if the material and racking structure is engineered to manage the weight load otherwise it may cause grave accidents and injuries if it collapses. With the proliferation of fake goods in the market, companies must investigate if they are purchasing original products especially if they are being sold products below market price.
Warehouse managers must also practice caution and select systems that meet racking standards and specified safety codes designed to bear heavy loads for the long term. Safety signs remind workers to comply to maximum weight loads and maintenance procedures to prevent damage to the racking structures. In earthquake-prone regions, seismic performance is a very real consideration to ensure the structure is able to survive severe earthquakes without major damage or endangering the lives of workers. Incidents of racking structures collapsing and cartons falling cause immense destruction to infrastructure, damage to goods and even possibly loss of life.
Indeed, safety should be a way of life for all in the storage and warehouse industry. Having clear communication to all employees, proper safety practices and processes in place and continuous reminders will keep the working environment safe and secure, and workers healthy and productive.