Implementing Proper Safety Practices in the Warehouse
What Colorado warehouse operations need to know about safety features, requirements, and how to make safety a priority in every aspect of business.
Warehouses are an essential component of the modern supply chain, and plenty are found in Colorado. Despite their societal importance, however, many modern warehouse facilities and distribution centers are underperforming, largely because of improper safety practices. Without proper safety standards in place, warehouses could see repercussions like floor issues, shutdowns, and even worker injury or death.
Warehousing is one of the most dangerous jobs out there, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Potential hazards in the warehouse industry include unsafe forklift operation, improper stacking or storage of products, inadequate fire safety provisions, and/or failure to utilize proper personal protective equipment (PPE). From forklift safety to OSHA compliance, education and planning are the best lines of defense for warehouse operators and their employees.
Business leaders in warehousing can do their part to protect workers by implementing a safety plan and sticking to those goals. In warehouse settings, implementing proper safety practices can also help streamline operations and drive business while boosting revenue. What’s more, safety in the warehouse aids in employee retention, as workers are happier when they feel safe.
Here’s what Colorado warehouse operations managers need to know about safety features and requirements, and how to make safety a priority in every aspect of business:
What’s more, safety in the warehouse aids in employee retention, as workers are happier when they feel safe.
Warehouse Safety Essentials
Warehouses are massive structures, and a lot happens in those walls. As such, implementing proper safety practices in the warehouse is a multi-tiered job, and business leaders should ensure that all of the bases are covered. The process starts from the moment a new employee walks in the door, with managers outlining safe practices and procedures as part of the onboarding process.
It sounds simple enough, but signage is a crucial component of smooth business operations. In warehousing, proper signs and labeling can help prevent accidents, and they may be legally required by OSHA or a local ordinance. All hazardous and dangerous materials on the warehouse floor should be clearly labeled as such, with functional eye and hand wash stations located nearby. Further, employees should be trained on proper use of these safety stations from day one.
Easy-to-read signs are just the beginning when it comes to warehouse safety equipment essentials, however, and business leaders should be prepared to invest in protective gear as appropriate. While some types of PPE are job-specific, such as chemical-resistant gloves and boots for workers dealing with harsh chemicals, others are warehouse industry standards.
Generally speaking, warehouse work requires proactive eyewear, helmets, and proper foot protection, and specific gear requirements should be clearly outlined in the employee handbook.
The True Cost of Workplace Accidents
The machines that keep warehouses up and running present hazards of their own for workers. As such, companies should adopt a strict lockout/tagout system in an effort to keep employees safe. Lockout/tagout systems are intended to safeguard workers from hazardous energy sources and chemicals, as well as malfunctioning equipment, and are a requirement for Colorado businesses that want to stay OSHA compliant.
That’s because, no matter the form they take, safety violations can be costly. Fines for OSHA violations can set business owners back tens of thousands, depending on the severity of the violation, and whether the company is a repeat offender. And if a worker is injured or killed due to a safety violation, warehouse operators may be responsible for medical bills or other expenses incurred by the victim.
For example, a worker injured at HelloFresh’s Aurora facility in June 2021 received company-paid workers’ compensation following the accident, as reported by CPR News. The worker was injured when a large plastic pallet slid off a shelf and plummeted 30 feet onto the warehouse floor. Unfortunately, the accident cost HelloFresh even more: numerous employees have lost faith in the company and feel as though HelloFresh hasn’t done enough to improve working conditions. A union vote is forthcoming.
Addressing Warehouse Industry Safety Concerns
For Aurora’s HelloFresh employees, glaring safety violations served as a catalyst for change, with workers banding together in the name of worker rights. Yet employees don’t always get along, and unsafe working conditions can compound stress levels among workers even further. Company leaders looking to improve safety measures shouldn’t overlook the potential for conflict among employees, and have a plan in place to address concerns.
When a warehouse facility is experiencing safety issues, for example, visual documentation of the problem and a path forward allows business leaders to maintain transparency and mitigate concerns among employees. Company leaders can begin the visual problem-solving process by defining the issue at hand (such as a safety violation) and brainstorming solutions. Employees can also be involved in the process, especially if the issue is a personal conflict among workers.
Warehouse managers who need additional help creating a problem-solving flowchart or otherwise looking for solutions have several resources at their disposal. The Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences even offers free consultation services to qualifying business owners throughout the state, including warehouse operators. CSU’s consultation program provides safety training and education, OSHA compliance assistance, and more.
Within the field of warehouse operations, there are a number of things that can go wrong. In the pursuit of zero injuries and a safe work environment, business leaders should prepare accordingly, and prioritize safety in every corner of the facility.
Noah Rue is a journalist and content writer, fascinated with the intersection between global health, personal wellness, and modern technology. When he isn’t searching out his next great writing opportunity, Noah likes to shut off his devices and head to the mountains to disconnect.