Every warehouse comes with different safety issues and knowing which can apply to you is vital to maintaining a safe work environment for everyone. From slips and falls to hazardous chemicals, workers and managers need to know how to keep safe on the job.
Keep reading for a guide on how to identify Australia’s top warehouse safety issues and how to keep your warehouse safe from potential danger.
1. Slips, trips and falls
Slips and trips cause approximately 25% of workplace injuries each year. They can happen in any workplace and occur at any time. Often, these slips do not result in serious injury, but there is always the potential for it to occur.
There are many factors that can cause these slips or trips to happen, but they usually occur when there is a contaminant between the workers foot and the floor. Though seemingly innocent, slips or trips can result in more serious injuries, such as:
- Sprains or strains
- Broken bones
- A back injury
- Cuts or scrapes
- Burns (if near hot surfaces or fluids)
Prevention of warehouse slips, trips and falls starts with good design of the workplace. Making sure the workplace is clean and well maintained and all workers are trained in the health and safety procedures will also help prevent more serious falls and injuries.
Even at low speeds, a forklift can cause serious injuries or even fatalities – operators and pedestrians can be struck, pinned or even crushed in extreme cases. Forklifts overturning is one of the biggest dangers to an operator as well. See our article on Forklift Hazards to make sure you and your workers know how to deal with potential accidents.
Making sure your forklifts are fully maintained and serviced is one of the first ways to prevent any potential accidents. Simple actions like observing speed limits and warning signs, wearing safety gear or even sounding the horn at warehouse intersections can make a big difference for the safety of all workers.
3. Machinery or vehicle noise
Noise related injuries are most common in the manufacturing and construction industries and too much noise at work can lead to temporary or permanent hearing loss. Throughout an 8-hour shift, a worker shouldn’t be exposed to more than 85 decibels – which is about as loud as listening to a food blender.
Workers who are also exposed to vibration and noise at the same time are more likely to suffer hearing loss than workers exposed to the same level of noise alone. This is also known to increase their chance of musculoskeletal problems.
Take action to reduce the amount of noise in your workplace by providing workers with ear-plugs or other noise or vibration-reducing equipment.
4. Worker fatigue
Fatigue is more than feeling tired or drowsy. In a workplace fatigue can be mental and/or physical exhaustion that reduces a workers ability to perform work safely and effectively.
Signs of fatigue can include:
- Tiredness even with regular sleep
- Reduced hand-eye coordination or slow reflexes
- Short term memory problems and an inability to concentrate
- Blurred vision or impaired visual perception
- A need for extended sleep during days off
Shift, night or on-call workers generally have the highest risk of fatigue. Talk to your workers, examine their work practices and review the workplace conditions to make sure that they’re less at risk of fatigue.
Providing information on fatigue and implementing control measures – such as scheduling and shift rosters – will raise awareness of the problem for your workers and help them to identify any causes if they were to occur.
5. Strain from manual labour
Improper lifting and repetitive motion can cause manual workers strain and – in more serious cases – can lead to musculoskeletal disorders. Promoting safe manual labour techniques will help your workers in the long term for both their health and productivity levels.
Teaching floor staff how to lift items correctly and getting them to practice machine assistance when lifting heavier loads will be rewarding for them in the long run. For machine operators, consider getting backrests, anti-vibration seat cushions or other ergonomic devices to improve their comfort on the warehouse vehicles.
6. Falling from heights
Working from heights refers to any circumstance where a person is exposed to a fall risk. Almost 7700 people claim serious fall injuries in the workplace each year. Falls occur in many situations, but some more common examples of fall risks include:
- Climbing on top of trucks or loads
- Using a ladder
- Working from an unprotected edge
- Standing on a platform close to a pit or hole
- Working near an unprotected trench
Even experienced workers need to fully understand safety procedures and be comfortable when working at heights of over 3 metres as this is where more serious falls and accidents occur. 70% of all injuries from falls were related to workers over 45-years of age, so make sure they are more than comfortable being in high conditions.
7. Accidents with pedestrians
Nearly 20% of all forklift accidents involve a pedestrian – that’s roughly 19,000 people injured each year. The best way to stop these serious accidents from happening is for safety barriers to be installed. Physical barricades prevent workers from walking into the path of a vehicle and being seriously injured. Signage, red zones or audible hazard indicators are also helpful and increase workers awareness of danger areas.
8. Exposure to harmful substances
Many industrial and agricultural organisations use hazardous substances, however the danger often depends on the concentration of – or exposure to – the chemical. Common hazardous substances in the workplace include:
- Caustic substances
- Heavy metals (mercury, lead, cadmium and aluminium)
- Petroleum products
Make sure workers are not handling any chemicals when they don’t need to and be sure to isolate hazardous substances in separate storage areas. All workers should understand any risks associated with chemicals they could potentially be handling, so make sure it’s properly outlined in the health and safety manual.
Many warehouse workers have jobs that expose them to dangerous situations. Making sure everyone working in a warehouse is fully briefed on the health and safety protocols is the first step to a safe work environment. Remember that each workplace must meet the Workplace Health and Safety requirements for your state or territory. Businesses face penalties if they are not met. To reduce risk to your workers, use smart safety tips and follow any WHS safety guidelines.