Creating a Culture of Safety in Your Warehouse: Best Practices
by Steven John Cumper, Founder – Directors at Medshop
Tired of workplace injuries? Here’s how to build a culture of safety in the workplace by minimizing risk with prevention and the right safety measures.
According to Murphy’s Law, “anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” These same rules apply to the workplace dynamic inside a warehouse. No matter how trained your employees are or how many years of experience they have, safety should always be top of mind. If it’s not, you risk violations, fees, injuries, and fatalities.\
As a leader, creating a safety-first culture can help you optimize your team’s performance and give them the tools they need to meet your safety expectations.
Here’s what you need to know about the best practices for warehouse safety:
The Importance of Safety in Warehouse Management
According to the National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, an employee died of a work-related injury every 101 minutes in 2021. That’s over 5,000 work-related deaths in the United States in a single year. A warehouse can be a dangerous place for employees. Heavy machinery, vehicles, and equipment can pose a threat to your team.
Many of these deaths and injuries are preventable. The best way to avoid accidents or fatalities is to ensure safety is a top priority in the workplace and that your team has the tools and training they need for their job.
Here are a few ways your warehouse can benefit from safety training and regulations:
- Prevent accidents, fatalities, and illnesses
- Improve the workplace experience and streamline productivity
- Ensure your warehouse complies with state and federal regulations
- Increase customer satisfaction and improve your organization’s financial health
Warehouse Safety Standards & Guidelines
1. The Presence of Hazardous Materials
Many warehouses have hazardous chemicals, flammable liquids, and gases on the premises. When these dangerous materials are improperly stored, handled, or disposed of, it can lead to accidents and injuries. Your team should always have the proper PPE and safety equipment to handle these hazardous materials.
2. Forget Regular Equipment Maintenance
Forklifts, pallet jacks, and conveyor belts require regular maintenance. If any of this equipment fails while in use, it could lead to a preventable injury or fatality.
3. Vehicles and Pedestrians
In Australia, over 20% of all forklift accidents that are reported include a pedestrian, which equates to over 19,000 injuries in a year. The warehouse is a busy place where heavy machinery and pedestrians need to learn to coexist. Workers are walking around, and some individuals are operating vehicles. If someone isn’t paying attention, it could lead to a collision or an accident. With a traffic management strategy, you can prevent these injuries and help your team stay alert during their shift.
4. Lack of Training
There is an average of 35,000 to 62,000 forklift-related injuries every year in the United States while in the EU, there were over 3,355 forklift related injuries in 2020 alone. If your team doesn’t have the training to operate machinery like this, it can lead to serious injuries in the workplace.
5. Inadequate handling of materials
If your team isn’t handling materials properly, it can lead to big problems. Every employee should be able to easily lift heavy items, know how to operate machinery, and be mindful of their surroundings.
6. Slips and Falls
In Canada, the most common workplace injuries are slips, falls, and trips while in Australia these types of injuries make up 25% of all workplace injuries in the warehouse. All of these injuries are all preventable. Whether there’s a spill that wasn’t cleaned or debris on the floor, these problems can lead to serious injury and negatively impact the workplace experience for your employees.
7. Proper Lifting Techniques
Musculoskeletal injuries are twice as likely to happen in a warehouse setting than in a private setting. If your team isn’t lifting heavy boxes or equipment properly, it can lead to back pain, strained muscles, or carpal tunnel syndrome.
Faulty wiring, improperly maintained equipment, and improper use of electrical equipment are common electrical hazards every warehouse is susceptible to.
Many warehouses have chemicals and other flammable materials. If these hazardous materials aren’t properly stored or disposed of, it can lead to warehouse fires.
10. Clutter and debris
A warehouse needs to be properly cleaned regularly. All clutter and debris can cause falls and slips in the workplace.
Best Practices to Create a Safety Culture in Your Warehouse
With the right training and approach to building a safety-first culture, many of the risks and common challenges listed above are preventable.
Here’s what you need to keep in mind:
Have a Plan
Every warehouse or facility needs a safety plan. This plan keeps all safety policies, regulations, and procedures top of mind in the workplace. Without a safety plan, your team may panic during high-stress situations.
Schedule Regular Training Sessions
You can’t just train your employees when they’re first hired. You need to have regular and consistent training sessions throughout the year. This ensures that your team is aware of the hazards in the workplace and knows how to use heavy machinery or equipment correctly.
The best way to keep workplace safety top of mind is with ongoing safety training programs. Planning quarterly or even monthly training will ensure that safety practices are always top of mind.
Set an Example for Your Team
Warehouse leaders and managers should lead by example. They should encourage the team to complete training, uphold all safety policies, and always keep the safety guidelines of the workplace top of mind.
Have Clear and Concise Signage
Signage helps your team identify hazards and keep safety on top of your mind. All areas of the warehouse should have clear and easy-to-read signage.
Provide Employees With Safety and Emergency Equipment
Every employee should have access to safety equipment. This includes gloves, safety glasses, hard hats, and earplugs. In the event an accident does happen, emergency equipment and supplies should also be on hand to help mitigate injuries and save lives. This would include everything from a basic first aid kit to an AED defibrillator.
Schedule Regular Inspections and Maintain
The equipment you use daily needs to also be inspected regularly. This will help you avoid any equipment failures, accidents, and problems. To do this, have a weekly or monthly inspection to ensure all equipment is working efficiently.
With the right safety measures, you can create a safer environment for your team and avoid preventable accidents and fatalities. When creating a culture of safety, always remember that prevention is key and training is essential.
About the Author
Steven John Cumper, B.App.Sc. (Osteo.), M.Ost., is a businessman with a strong background in biomedical science and osteopathic medicine. He founded Medshop while studying at RMIT University in Australia, expanding its reach to markets in Papua New Guinea, Singapore, and Malaysia. In September 2021, the Bunzl Group acquired a majority stake in Medshop, but Cumper remains involved as the Managing Director (Medshop Group). His journey from Zimbabwe to the UK and Australia reflects his dedication to academia and entrepreneurship, combining diverse knowledge and experience.