5 Tips for Warehouse Health and Safety

At Christmas time there is real pressure on retail warehouses, which means warehouse health & safety can sometimes get overlooked. They often have to go over and above compliance, to make sure temporary staff can cope with the accelerating pressures. 

Warehouse Accidents

News reports recently have suggested that contract employees at the headquarters of a major UK retailer were so afraid to take time off work that 80 ambulances were called to the company’s HQ over a two year period. The company claimed to provide working conditions in compliance with applicable employment and warehouse health and safety legislation, However, simply complying with legislation is not necessarily enough, especially where warehouse operations are concerned.

With the Christmas rush well and truly on, and online purchases peaking, warehouses need to safely manage the increased pressure on both permanent and contract staff.

Although turning a blind eye to potential safety risks and failing to encourage and maintain safe behaviour among contract staff can lead to serious harm or injury, the real danger comes when safety management is seen as ‘tick in the box’ exercise that doesn’t need to be revisited or revised, especially during busy periods.

Here are our 5 tips for making sure your warehouse is safe this Christmas.

1. Go beyond simple compliance

Best practice and inductions for new workers need to be routine. This means creating procedures are beyond statutory requirements and are directly related to your working environment, equipment and the person carrying out a task. This is especially important at Christmas with temporary staff, or when English is not the first language.  For example, the operation of vehicles like forklift trucks should only involve trained and accredited operatives who are regularly assessed, with absolutely no exceptions.

2. Use the right technology

Not all warehouse facilities have the budget for every technological advance and system that’s available, however, it is important to investment in health and safety. Systems exist that can make operations and health and safety monitoring easier and less prone to human error. For example, many large warehouses now use technology to monitor the movements of operatives, assessing where additional training might be needed – useful for contract staff where their training history may be sketchy.

3. Learn from mistakes

Be strict about reporting. Warehouses are dynamic environments where accidents do happen, even with the most rigorous procedures in place. Near miss reporting allows managers and employees to assess how a process or working practice needs to change, to reduce or eliminate the risk in the future. Near miss reporting can also highlight teams or areas of operation that are perhaps not following procedures correctly.

4. Use the protective equipment

It may seem obvious, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) does protect workers.Where possible, trial any proposed changes to PPE and find out the views of the employees who will wear it and establish if it is suitable for the task undertaken.

5. Make communication easier to flow

Consider regular safety improvement groups to address health and safety matters. These should involve all staff – permanent and contract, management and safety representatives. Some managers encourage teams to ‘huddle’ before each shift begins. If contract staff have any health and safety concerns, they can raise them in this forum, allowing management to review existing procedures and make changes if necessary. Any informal setting is good as it allows individuals to share concerns without feeling as though they are ‘blowing the whistle on colleagues’. It’s important always to allow views to be aired and for staff not to be afraid to raise issues formally. It is also important that management steer any discussions in a non-threatening manner.

 

Safety doesn’t stand still. There is always room for processes and procedures to be improved especially busy periods such as Christmas.

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