Written by: Steve Damsker & Kirsten Hedden
In 2012, Amazon sold 306 items every SECOND during the holiday rush. As more and more people shop the Internet for their holiday treasures and the next best deal, it is important to remember the method behind the madness.
All of the goods purchased online begin their journey in a warehouse, organized and piled high with care (and safety compliance)—or at least they should be.
Distributors can be tempted to crowd the warehouse aisles to increase inventory and improve logistics. But think twice! OSHA is not concerned about soaring sales—safety is key, especially significant during this busy time of year.
Safety issues can arise in a warehouse at any time, but since Americans spend the most money around the holidays, conducting self-inspections and keeping notes on what went well and what went wrong can give insight for improved logistics, and safety, in the New Year.
However you choose to organize your warehouse, a clear plan should be in place for optimal functionality, with minimal interruption for the product to travel safely from storage to the loading dock.
Seasonal Warehouse Safety Tips:
- Keep forklift traffic and pedestrian traffic separate. Have clearly marked paths for pedestrians, provide adequate warning signage, and consider the use of convex mirrors in tight areas or blind spots.
- Provide certification training for all of your operators and awareness training for everyone who might enter the warehouse. To assist you in awareness training, consider using the OSHA Pocket Guide, Worker Safety Series: Warehousing. If there is no time for full and formal training at the holidays, consider conducting a five-minute safety chat to remind employees of forklift hazards and your safety rules.
- High racks, various piles of storage, and the width of the aisles may impede visibility in your warehouse. The best approach is to keep unnecessary people out of the warehouse.
- Pile height and stability can be a severe danger, and getting crushed by the holiday spirit is no laughing matter. Have every worker check and double check the stability of the load. All pallets should be stacked evenly to protect against sliding and collapse. Pile and stacked pallet storage is also a fire loading hazard. We recommend following the NFPA’s guidelines for storage safety codes and standards.
- Keep it tidy. Cleanliness is important in all seasons, but can get left in the dust when your company is at its busiest. Spills, debris, cords are all tripping hazards, and when an employee goes down, production goes down too.
- Beware of idle pallets—don’t store too many inside or pile them too high. You could actually negate the effectiveness of your fire protection systems. Read about the do’s and don’t of pallet storage here.
- Check around your electrical panels for storage. All electrical areas need to have 36” of clear space per the National Electrical Code. It might be helpful to outline these areas with yellow paint or a barrier to ensure storage does not accumulate near electrical panels and equipment.
- Ensure you are following OSHA requirements for aisles, walkways, and emergency evacuation routes. There should be zero tolerance for obstructions of all aisles.
- Once the year ends, compare your injury rates and exposures to industry experience using the OSHA Industry Profile for Public Warehousing and Storage. This resource can give you a good idea of where to target your safety training in the next year.
If you need help with determining how your warehouse stacks up to the industry standards and OSHA guidelines, give your local risk control representative a call. Westfield is happy to conduct hazard evaluations for your warehouse, and help you with your continuous improvement goals this New Year.
Photo credit: Gwan Kho, Flickr Commons