Case study

A Practical Approach to Warehouse Safety

One of the most important aspects of your operation, warehouse safety should be prioritised and continuously maintained. The industrious nature of a warehouse environment poses a risk to health and safety and this must be minimised through purposeful intervention. Not taking health and safety seriously can lead to poor business performance with staffing issues, damage to reputation and even legal issues which come with high costs.

The risk levels in your particular warehouse will be determined by a number of factors including how the space is configured, processes, equipment and staff training, however most warehouses will find following are common risk areas:

Traffic

People and fork lift trucks moving around the warehouse raises the risk of collision which can cause catastrophic injury. Pedestrians are particularly vulnerable in the presence of a moving fork lift truck and the consequential human cost in the wake of an accident has the potential to be significant. This can lead to prosecution and prolonged damage to the business, making the need to act on safety precautions evermore vital, and here are a number of things that can be implemented:

  • Awareness training: The most likely cause of a collision between a fork lift truck and a pedestrian is lack of concentration. Raising awareness of potential risks through guidance and training will help to increase attentiveness and caution as duties are carried out.
  • Operator training: If a fork lift truck is to be operated safely, the operator must legally hold a fork lift truck license gained from operator training provided by a formal training body. The license must then be renewed through refresher training every three years in order to ensure operator competence is maintained.
  • Fork Lift Truck safety standards: Although it is the responsibility of the operator to handle the fork lift truck safely, by health and safety laws LOLER 1998 and PUWER 1998 the vehicle is expected to be in good working order. The law requires you to ensure that regular maintenance and thorough examinations are completed at regular intervals and depending on the use of the truck, this could be every six months or every twelve months.
  • Designated Walkways: Pedestrian walkways are created to allow safe travel on foot away from moving vehicles. In the form of floor markings and/or railings which create an actual barrier between the pedestrian lane and the vehicle lane, pedestrian walkways are a highly effective way to reduce the risk of truck and pedestrian collision.

Floor painted walkways around pallet racking system

Another great risk when operating a fork lift truck is a collision with structures and equipment which can lead to an immediate or delayed catastrophe where significant injury or damage could be caused. Even the most competent and fully trained operator can be involved in accidental bumps and scrapes whilst travelling or carrying out manoeuvres. During a collision the truck would come into contact with the lower part of the structures, an area constrained by the weight above. Storage structures such as pallet racking are made from robust steel; however they can weaken over time after being repeatedly knocked and eventually give way which can result in structural collapse.

  • Upright protectors: Placed around the uprights, which are vital component of a pallet racking structure, these form a robust barrier between the upright and moving truck ensuring that there is no contact between the upright and truck.
  • End of rack barriers: As the fork lift truck travels the space at the end of the racks, barriers can be placed to ensure the truck has no contact with the end frames.
  • Guide rails: Running the length of each racking row, guide rails are used to keep the fork lift truck aligned as it travels the aisle. Implemented in narrow aisles where narrow trucks are needed, guide rails ensure that the trucks which travel in a forward and backward motion do not veer towards the racking structure.
  • Column Guards: Mezzanine floor columns bear significant weight which is why column guards are an essential safety feature in facilities where fork lift trucks are active on the ground floor. In the same way as upright protectors, the column guards are robust guards which are wrapped around the bottom of the column, ensuring that a collision will only impact the guard and not the structure itself.

Falling items

The most effective way to save money and utilise space when storing palletised goods is to store at height, however there is a risk of items falling from height and causing injury or becoming damaged.

  • Anti Collapse Mesh: If the rear of a pallet racking system backs on to an area which is busy with staff and visitors, anti collapse mesh is definitely worth implementing. The mesh panels cover the entire back of the racking, ensuing that any loose items are unable to drop from the rack level they were placed at.
  • Decking: Whether timber, steel, mesh or chipboard, decking is the ideal support for smaller pallets or loads when placed onto a racking structure, because decking creates a solid level by closing the gap between the front and back beam. This ensures the smaller load can be securely stored without risk of falling between the beams.

Chipboard decking on pallet racking system

Out of bound areas

For some operations, certain machines or equipment or activities are restricted to specific personnel whose training and expertise allow them to be operated safely. Segregation barriers and wired mesh can be used to prevent unauthorised personnel from entering the hazardous areas that could be a danger to them.

Warehouse area segregated by orange barrier

Unawareness

It’s pretty easy to get things wrong when your not made aware of the correct procedure or if your new to the environment. Warehouse safety is reliant on procedures being followed correctly and one way of ensuring all personnel have access to that information at all time is to use labels and signage.  These can include:

  • Weigh load bearings to ensure structures are not overloaded
  • Caution signage such as wet floor or fork lift truck route
  • Emergency exits
  • First aid kits
  • Fire extinguishers

Warehouse signage eliminates confusion and misinformation which can often result in incidents that risk health and safety.

Activities on upper platforms

An upper level in the form of a mezzanine floor is not an uncommon site in warehouses today and although these platforms create a significant amount of usable floor space, the fact that these are above ground mean that safety should be prioritised. A mezzanine floor is categorised as workplace equipment and under PUWER 1998 (Provisional Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998) it is a legal requirement to ensure it is safe.

Edge protection: A mezzanine floor is an open edge level which is why edge protection in the form of railings with infill should be placed around the exposed areas. Depending on the activities on the platform, edge protection is available in different materials so it is crucial you choose the most appropriate one for your environment.

Pallet gate: Loading a pallet onto a mezzanine floor level using a fork lift truck is highly effective; however, it does pose a risk to those on the mezzanine level as the operator cannot see their position. A pallet gate makes the process much safer because once opened this indicates to the operator that the area around the loading area is clear of personnel. The gate closes all exposed edges to allow the pallet to be loaded safely whilst preventing the immediate area from being entered. Once loaded, the gate is closed from the entry side but opens on the mezzanine level to allow operatives to collect the pallet safely.

Safe access: In accordance to Document M of UK’s Building regulations, when using a staircase to enter and exit the level, it is crucial that the user is not at risk of falls due to inefficient step dimensions or treading and that the handrails are adequately placed.

Emergency exit: In order to exit the mezzanine floor in an emergency, there must be a clear route without obstacles using staircases which are located for easy access.

Storage mezzanine staircase rear exit

There is an overriding need for every warehouse to prioritise safety and who better to ensure your warehouse has the most effective safety measures in place than WSL. For over three decades, we have been implementing solutions to improve the safety of warehouses as well as processes and productivity. As a Full SEMA member, WSL is actively engaged in the advancement of warehouse safety rather than just following the required standards, so the safety of your warehouse is in the right expert hands. To discover how you could improve the safety of your warehouse contact WSL today on 0113 2045350 or email sales@wslmail.co.uk.

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