Improving Warehouse Safety within your Facility
When attempting to improve the safety of your facility, it is important to not only look at the things that are being done right, but also the mistakes that people are making. Review the following types of mistakes that are all too often made, and sadly, result in some pretty serious problems.
In addition, you’ll see how simple warehouse safety improvements could have helped to prevent these mistakes and kept the facility and employees much safer.
Top Ten Warehouse Safety Mistakes
1. Multi-Lingual Signs
In today’s global economy it is not uncommon to have people working in a facility that speak a variety of different languages. In the United States, most people will speak English, but many may also speak Spanish. Depending on the part of the country, there could be any number of other languages spoken in your facility as well.
With that in mind, some safety managers have started publishing safety signs in multiple languages. On the surface, this isn’t a bad idea. For example, if you have a workforce where there are many people who natively speak Spanish, it can be helpful to publish the signs in English and Spanish. Once you get past two or three languages, however, it really just becomes a distraction.
When printing safety signs or LEAN signs, you want to make sure they clearly convey the message. If you have people who speak all different languages, it is a good idea to try to use signs that use pictograms to alert people to potential dangers or provide other information. Fortunately, this is quite easy to do when you have a high quality industrial label printer (like this one) in the facility to use.
2. Lowering Lights to ‘Go-Green’
As more and more facilities work toward becoming more environmentally responsible, many of them are making some pretty serious safety mistakes in the process. For example, some facilities are turning off some lights to help conserve energy. While this will certainly cut down on the electric use, it can also create some big safety hazards.
A facility should always be properly lit at all times to help ensure everyone can see where they are going without any problems. You can save energy by converting to energy efficient light bulbs, but never by removing or turning off lights where they are needed. Even with the best of intentions, this is always a bad idea.
3. Poor Regulation of Facility Traffic
Another big mistake some facilities have made is planning where people walk and vehicles drive strictly based on efficiency. While efficiency is extremely important, you also have to think about safety. For example, if you direct people and vehicles to all travel through one central corridor because it is the shortest way to get from place to place, you will likely experience far more accidents.
Instead, you’ll have better results by taking steps to ensure that vehicles like high-lows are never driving in the same area where people are walking. You can help to identify where people should be by placing floor marking tape (which you can find here) on the ground. Use one color for driving traffic, and another for walking. This way everyone will know exactly where they should be at all times.
4. Signs, Signs, Everywhere are Signs
Safety signs are one of the most important and effective ways to improve the safety of your facility. Unfortunately, this has caused some safety managers to really go overboard in their facilities. If you have so many signs posted in your facility that they become almost impossible to read them all, you are actually causing more harm than good.
The important thing is to make sure all your signs are easy to read and not distracting. Using safety signs properly is a balancing act, but when it is done properly, it will help everyone to be aware of risks and know how they should respond to each situation.
5. Confusing Labels
Another problem that many facilities run into is related to confusing labels. This is often the result of trying to use all the different standards that are published at the same time. When working with chemicals, for example, you will be required to include certain information on a label that is placed on the chemical.
This is important, but if you are adding too much information, or the information listed is difficult to read or understand, it can actually cause people to react improperly. With this in mind, you should always focus on including only the necessary information that will allow people to work safely with the chemicals. Any additional information can be made available in a safety office or other part of the facility.
6. Saving Money with Cheap Labels
When it comes to safety labels, another common problem is purchasing cheap label stock. While it is a good idea to try to save money whenever possible, you never want to sacrifice quality just to save a few pennies.
Discount label stock won’t stick to surfaces well, and they tend to rip or tear more easily. In addition, they won’t be able to stand up to moisture, heat or cold very well. With this in mind, it is much smarter to invest a little bit more money to get high quality vinyl labels, or labels that are made for specific areas in your facility.
In addition to just looking and lasting longer, this actually might save you money in the long run since you won’t have to replace them nearly as often.
7. Focusing on Inspections
Getting ready for inspections from OSHA or other organizations can be very important. Unfortunately, some facilities make the mistake of focusing only on passing an inspection, and not on becoming a truly safe facility.
You should always look at the safety requirements that are being evaluated in any inspection as a base line to start from, not the goal. Working to exceed the requirements provided by OSHA or other organizations will help you to keep your entire facility safe, and it will also help make it so you don’t need to worry about these inspections at all.
8. One Time Training
Proper training is essential for avoiding a host of different types of safety problems. Sadly, many facilities give their employees safety training when they are hired in, and then never again. There should be an ongoing safety training program in every warehouse to help ensure everyone is as safe as possible.
Even brief refresher courses will help make sure everyone remains focused on safety, and understands that it is a priority for the facility. The safety department should create a warehouse safety program that creates safety classes and tracks them to ensure everyone is getting the training that they need throughout their career.
9. Ignoring Avoided Accidents
In some facilities it is a common experience for someone to be almost injured. Whether this is due to something falling off a shelf and luckily missing them, or someone slipping a bit but then regaining their balance before injury, these types of things need to be tracked.
It is these ‘near misses’ that can help to point out that there is a safety problem in the facility. Any good warehouse safety program will want to be notified by the employees when these near misses occur, so they can start to watch out for patterns. In many cases, a good safety manager will notice that there is a problem and get it fixed before anyone is actually injured.
In order to ensure employees are comfortable reporting these types of incidents, make sure they are not punished or otherwise negatively impacted from talking about them. The important thing is to get the information so that the risks can be minimized.
10. Not Listening to Complaints
Most facilities in general, and safety managers specifically, claim that they have an ‘open door policy’ to listen to suggestions or complaints. Sadly, many of them don’t take what they hear seriously, or worse, the employees don’t take advantage of the policy.
There is nobody in a ware house that will know more about the potential dangers than the people who are working on the front lines. They deal with them on an everyday basis, which is why they are an invaluable source of information.
If you want to improve warehouse safety, you need to find ways to encourage people to report concerns and provide suggestions about safety. Some great options are to have an anonymous way that people can submit concerns and possibly rewarding people when they find a way to significantly improve safety.
Warehouse Safety Mistakes and Root Cause
The root cause of all of the above safety mistakes can be traced back to people in the facility. Since machines will largely do exactly what they are designed to do, the most important part of warehouse safety will be attempting to overcome the fact that people are imperfect.
Finding ways to help everyone make smart choices and respond to situations properly can be difficult, but it is certainly not impossible. By always putting safety first, you will find that you can dramatically reduce potential problems throughout your facility. This will, of course, help to improve the efficiency and profitability of the warehouse both immediately, and for many years to come.