ERP Manufacturing Insights

16 No-Brainer Warehouse Safety Tips a Distribution Business Should Implement

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16 no brainer warehouse safety tips a distribution business should implement

16 No-Brainer Warehouse Safety Tips a Distribution Business Should Implement

For warehouses looking for ways to optimize their safety practices, it pays to start by taking a look at the basics first. These 16 tips are a part of established warehouse best practices — yet a surprising number of large firms still haven’t implemented them. Many of these tips offer major opportunities to make improvements in worker safety and productivity by creating an authentic culture of safety that goes beyond lip service. 

1. Protective gear is a non-negotiable, so make it comfortable

In many warehouses, personal protective equipment (PPE) is an area in which standards are allowed to lapse. Who wants to wear those uncomfortable goggles or hi-vis vests? But workers and employers alike risk serious injury and regulatory sanctions.

In a national study of PPE practices, what was the number one suggestion to increase PPE compliance? Providing more comfortable PPE. Purchasing equipment that workers will actually wear (as well as educating them about the importance of it) is an investment in the continued safety of warehouse operations.

2. Dress code is a safety issue, so enforce it

Baggy or flowing clothing and soft-toed shoes can present a serious safety hazard in warehouses. Warehouses that let employees get away with these violations may not realize that it’s not a matter of live and let live” — improperly-dressed employees could be risking severe injury.

3. Prohibit untrained employees from vehicle operations.

No employee should operate a vehicle who hasn’t been trained (and, if relevant, certified) to operate it. An uncertified operator shouldn’t drive a forklift any more than someone who’s never taken driver’s ed should get behind the wheel of a car.

4. Help employees avoid driving in reverse wherever possible.

Although space constraints mean it’s not realistic for every facility, a warehouse’s aisles should be one-way zones for vehicles wherever possible. Restricting vehicle traffic to a single direction cuts the number of potential collisions in half so long as employees observe the rules.

5. Be proactive about managing waste

Warehouses can produce a lot of packaging waste, especially if they work with highly-packaged products. Leaving packaging waste lying around can present dangerous obstructions. Warehouse managers should set a schedule for emptying waste bins and, if possible, employees should discard packaging waste as soon as it appears.

6. Know where medical supplies are and keep them up-to-date.

Where’s the nearest first aid kit? If your warehouse staff don’t all know the answer immediately, it’s time to fix that. It’s also important to keep on-site medical supplies up-to-date, as they can and do expire.

7. Heavy on the bottom, light on the top.

This simple rule is essential for stacking items safely. The heaviest (and sturdiest) items should always be placed on the bottom of a stack and the lightest on top. This creates a more durable base that more items can be stacked safely on top of.

8. Consider anti-slip technology for floors, ladders and stairs.

Anti-slip paint and anti-slip tape are simple investments that can offer great rewards in worker safety. Strategically applying these products is a great way to improve safety in hot zones” such as loading areas, stairs and ladders.

9. Know the capacities and working loads of equipment and shelving.

Warehouse equipment is built to handle certain capacities, and if it’s pushed past those limits, the results can be dangerous. Vehicle operators should always know their vehicles’ safe working load (SWL) capacities, and shelving should never be overloaded past its capacity rating.

Manufacturing erp warehouse safety
ERP manufacturing software can help address warehouse safety issues

10. Automate your warehouse wherever it’s safe to do so.

The bottom line is that the less work employees have to do, the less their chance of injury in most cases. Many of the top ERP systems have capabilities that can greatly streamline the operations of a distribution business, and smart ERP manufacturing software offers a way to look at operational practices holistically that can be useful in addressing safety challenges.

11. Make sure fire preparations are up-to-date.

When was the last time your warehouse ran a fire drill? Have the extinguishers been tested recently? If the fire inspector arrived unannounced tomorrow, what would he or she find? Consider these questions as a framework for improving this critical safety area.

12. Use speed limits and stop signs for vehicles in large warehouses.

Driving a warehouse vehicle (such as a forklift) is as great a responsibility as operating any other vehicle. Forklifts operated at unsafe speeds and without due caution represent a major hazard to life and limb. Placing stop signs and speed limit signs in a warehouse can offer a key reminder to employees to put safety first.

13. Outfit exposed cords with cord covers.

Exposed cords are a common hazard for workers to trip over, potentially causing injury. The preferable option is to avoid exposed cords on the floor altogether — but if that’s not realistic, it’s important to secure them with heavy-duty cord covers. Consider marking them with brightly-colored tape to ensure that employees can see them.

14. Follow vehicles’ recommended inspection and maintenance schedules.

Your vehicles’ manufacturers have likely created a recommended schedule for maintaining each vehicle, and these should always be followed. It might call for more frequent maintenance than is convenient or expedient, but those are the responsibilities that a business accepts when using these vehicles.

15. Implement robust safety training and make policies accessible.

To follow a policy, an employee first has to know that the policy exists. To build a culture of safety, employees first need to have a solid understanding of safety rules imparted to them through training.

In the same vein, warehouse employees shouldn’t have to go deep into a file system or even ask a supervisor to access basic safety policies. Make sure a complete copy of your safety procedures is easily available where any employee can access them.

16. Prevent manual lifting wherever possible.

With the huge array of tools available to warehouses today, there’s often no excuse for employees to be manually lifting boxes or other containers. Manual lifting risks back injuries and is often avoidable by consolidating materials and using appropriate tools for lifting. Some employers now prohibit it in any circumstance where it’s not strictly necessary.

Erp manufacturing warehouse safety
Safety is a game where everyone wins

The most impactful changes to warehouse operations policies are the ones that, in retrospect, can often seem the most obvious. But the sooner a warehouse begins to address these concerns, the sooner it can improve. Safety is a game where everyone wins, so the only real mistake is not fixing what’s in your power to control and to correct.

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