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Warehouse Safety Guide: The Best Practices and Principles

Keep your employees and facilities always safe and government-compliant, using the time-tested tips and insider information that we simplified here for your quickest execution.

What Is Warehouse Safety?

Warehouse safety is a set of guidelines, principles, and practices of companies to manage their employees, physical spaces, and equipment. Its main purpose is to ensure the well-being of employees, teach them how to improve warehouse safety, and protect the client’s bottom line.

It’s also one of the most important aspects of running a business because it promotes maximum productivity while minimizing injuries and the risk of death.

Warehouse safety involves creating an environment where employees feel comfortable working hard without fear of injury, especially in logistics warehouses. That involves installing all necessary precautions to prevent them from getting hurt. When employees feel like their workplace is safe, they’re more likely to stay satisfied with their jobs than if they felt unsafe at all times during their shifts.

What are the benefits of safety practices?

At its core, warehouse safety rules are created:

  • To make sure that your employees and customers are safe and protected by preventing all kinds of work accidents. A worker who is injured or killed on the job is not only a personal tragedy but also an economic one. From a labor point of view, injuries are expensive, and many companies end up paying out more in workers’ compensation claims than they would have if they had taken care to protect their employees from harm.
  • To train employees on how to handle various incidents in the workplace. This is especially important if your storage warehouse is in an area with high temperatures. It’s also worth noting that many companies provide their employees with safety equipment such as hard hats or steel-toe boots at no cost because they want their workers to feel safe while performing their duties.
  • To protect the company’s bottom line. These rules can make your business more sustainable and profitable, resulting in creating more jobs for the people and helping the economy thrive. Workers who feel safe are also more productive and less likely to get sick or quit their jobs, which means fewer expenses on training new employees and lost productivity from absenteeism.

    This can be especially important for businesses that rely on the efficiency of their workers who are still learning how to improve warehouse safety rules. If your warehouse has a high turnover rate, or if it’s not conducive to good working conditions, then it’s going to be difficult for you to maintain productivity levels.

  • To keep up with current regulations and legal warehouse safety rules so the company can be on top of any changes that might affect the business. This is also to avoid costly lawsuits and expensive incapacity benefits claims.

In this article, you will learn:

1. The basics of warehouse safety: Why is it so important?

2. The OSHA warehouse safety standards to follow

3. The actionable steps to make warehouses safer

4. The definition and importance of HSG76

5. The critical warehouse safety tips and best practices today

Warehouse safety during the work shift

THE BASICS OF SAFETY: Why Is Safety Important in a Warehouse?

It’s no secret that a warehouse is a high-risk place. Warehouse safety rules are important because the warehouse is where employees are at high risk of being injured by moving equipment and materials, or by falling off of loading docks. Employees in all types of logistics warehouses are also working in close quarters with heavy equipment and toxic chemicals.

Warehouses are often large, open spaces whose dangerous accidents can scale faster, making safety protocols even more important. For example, if there’s an electrical malfunction or a fire breaks out somewhere nearby, a workplace safety policy can guide everyone to a proper evacuation plan, so everyone can get to it safely.

If it’s dark with objects and equipment lying around, accidents can happen while loading trucks. In other words, to ensure that your warehouse is safe, you should make it clear in the warehouse safety procedures what the purpose of safety is in your firm and how it affects the business.

What Are the 5 Types of Hazard in Warehouses?

There are many hazards in warehouses that can endanger the lives of employees, as well as the safety and security of the building. Using the UK government’s Health and Safety Executive as the guide, here are the five major categories of warehouse hazards that justify why maximum safety is important in a warehouse:

  • Chemicals
  • Ergonomic
  • Health
  • Physical
  • Psychosocial

What Are the Four Most Common Safety Hazards in Warehouses?

The yearly survey of the U.S. National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries showed that there were 4,764 fatal work injuries recorded in the United States in 2020 alone. The four most common causes of safety hazards in warehouses are the following:

Falls: Falls can result from a lack of proper lighting and preventive measures from misaligned pallets and boxes that create tripping hazards. They can be particularly dangerous in warehouses because these areas are often multi-story structures with high ceilings, spotlights, or skylights that can be hard to see around. To prevent falls, make sure there are adequate safety rails around all raised surfaces and that all elevation equipment is stable.

Heavy Equipment: Heavy machinery can be just as dangerous as falling objects—especially when it’s moving or vibrating. This is especially true in logistics warehouses when it’s operated by inexperienced staff members who don’t know how to use them properly.

People who operate forklifts in storage warehouses may also be at risk if they do not take precautions to avoid back injuries. Accidents can occur if they try to lift something they’re not used to lifting without proper training or equipment. This is why it’s vital to make sure operators wear appropriate protective gear. They also need to contact your local OSHA office if they suspect any issues with machinery could lead to injury or death.

Moving Parts: Moving parts like conveyor belts also pose a significant danger—especially if someone isn’t paying attention while working near them without guardrails. They can get caught between two moving pieces of machinery—it’s best practice to keep them covered when possible. Avoid wearing loose clothing while operating machinery that has exposed moving parts.

Slips & Trips: Slips and trips can also be hazardous for warehouse workers who aren’t vigilant about keeping their shoes clean and dry during their shifts. These can occur when there are no warehouse safety procedures posted on slippery surfaces, such as wet floors or wet stairs.

These usually happen in areas leading up to higher levels, where there is a greater risk of falling off ledges. In fact, slips and trips account for more injuries than any other type of accident in warehouses—and these accidents can happen anywhere: on stairs, floors, or even sidewalks outside the building itself.

Other major warehouse hazards, injuries, and risks include:

  • Cuts and lacerations
  • Broken bones and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)
  • Crushed fingers or toes (the most common MSD)
  • Chemical burns, skin irritation, and respiratory problems from contact with hazardous materials (such as fertilizer or pesticide)
  • Sprains and strains caused by bad workstation posture and overcarrying of heavy loads
  • Repetitive stress injuries (RSI) like carpal tunnel syndrome, upper-limb disorders, and visual discomfort, mostly caused by long screen time, occupational stress, long work hours, excessive noise, and by sitting or standing for lengths of time.

What Are the OSHA Warehouse Safety Standards?

The OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) warehouse safety guidelines are in place to ensure that all workers are able to perform their jobs in a safe manner. These guidelines cover everything from ladders and scaffolding, to forklifts and conveyors for employees who work in distribution centers, storage facilities, and retail stores.

In an effort to ensure that these standards are met, OSHA audits have set forth a number of regulations governing the safety of warehouse workers.

Their general warehouse safety guidelines include:

  • fall protection
  • machine guarding
  • electrical hazards
  • respiratory protection
  • chemical hazards protection

For warehouse workers’ general safety, falling more than four feet from an elevated work surface is considered a serious hazard. Employees who work on the ground or in areas where there are holes or gaps in elevated surfaces must be protected by a guard rail system or personal fall arrest equipment.

This includes platforms that may have been constructed without adequate safety precautions in mind but must nonetheless be used as part of a daily workflow or business operation. The failure to follow such warehouse safety rules could result in serious injury or death due to falling off of these platforms.

As a warehouse worker, you have to be aware of the safety standards that are in place to protect you and your co-workers. That’s why it’s important to make sure that you as an employee request from your employer all the OSHA protections in place, including protective measures such as slip-resistant mats or flooring systems like polypropylene or rubberized asphalt on work floors.

If you have any questions about how to keep your storage warehouses safer and compliant with OSHA standards, visit its official website HERE.

How Do You Do a Risk Assessment in Warehouses?

Rigorous warehouse safety guidelines can identify the risks that matter most to your business. To create a risk assessment, management needs to think about what could happen in each area of the business first, e.g. a manufacturing plant or office that would put the company at risk of losing money or damaging its reputation. Then it should write down all of those risks in order of priority: which ones pose the biggest threat? Which ones pose the least?

Once all of these potential threats are ranked in the warehouse safety procedures based on severity, take a step back and look at them as a whole—you may find that some are more common than others or that certain types of risks have more widespread effects than others do.

This will help guide how much time and energy should go into assessing them individually later on when you start talking about how to actually create an assessment plan. Download a free assessment plan in our template library.

How Do You Make a Warehouse Safer?

Warehouses are often busy and noisy, with employees moving quickly throughout the space. This is what makes it important for managers to not only learn how to improve warehouse safety but also to take measures to ensure that workplace hazards are identified and addressed.

However, the first barrier that prevents companies from making their warehouses safer is that employees often don’t know how to get help if they are injured on the job. They may be afraid to report their injury because they feel that they will be fired or demoted if they do so.

Another challenge is that many warehouses are not designed with safety in mind. For example, many work environments are crowded, which can make it difficult for workers to communicate with each other about potential hazards.

So how do you improve storage warehouse safety? A good strategy is to create a simple but powerful checklist with practical warehouse safety protocols. Here are some effective examples to include in your straightforward checklist:

To solve the problem of too many employees working in one place at once, the best solution is to break them up into smaller teams. Send them out into different areas of your warehouse for certain tasks. If possible, let them work remotely from home so that they don’t have to spend time commuting in between locations.

To solve the issue of fear of reporting, companies should create a clear reporting process that allows workers to identify workplace hazards and report injuries without fear of reprisal. This can create an environment that encourages safe behavior among workers by implementing procedures for handling potential hazards without fear. It also helps to establish a system for reporting incidents, accidents, or near misses in real-time.

To solve the problem of employees being injured by forklifts or other heavy machinery, a good solution is to hire a professional to teach them. Let the expert teach them how to drive safely around these types of vehicles and how to avoid any dangers associated with them (such as getting caught underneath one if it falls over).

To solve the problem of inadequacy of knowledge, create a culture of safety at work by putting in place a comprehensive training program for employees who operate heavy equipment. This includes teaching people how to use the equipment safely as well as how to conduct regular maintenance on their machines. This can include both formal training sessions on warehouse safety procedures and on-the-job training as needed.

To solve issues of accountability in injuries or accidents, a good solution is to install CCTV cameras throughout your facility so you can monitor activity from afar without having someone watch over every corner 24/7. These should be done throughout the facility so that any accidents can be recorded and analyzed later on to improve safety practices further down the line. Should they occur again due to similar circumstances, the damage will already be lessened.

To solve the inadequacy of access control systems in storage warehouses, management must provide regular inspections of all forklifts used in the warehouse, including regularly checking the tires and brakes to ensure they are working properly. The reports should be transparent and accessible to assigned parties.

To solve the issue of lack of lighting and fire protection systems, install centralized lighting throughout the entire warehouse to save on costs. This is especially true when they work at night, when visibility is low due to foggy weather, or during bad weather conditions, like rainstorms or snowstorms.

To solve underperforming staff that results in more injuries, always make sure they are taking enough breaks on. Coach and help them avoid, for example, feeling scared that someone else will steal their spot on the schedule if they don’t come back right away.

To solve the risks of slips and other injuries, make sure that the environment and equipment are clean and free from hazards, such as sharp edges or toxic materials. This includes providing workplace inspection templates to check for safety gear, such as goggles and hard hats. Ensure that there are no distractions like loud music playing in the background, which can cause people to lose focus on their tasks.

To solve the risk of falls, create a secure environment for employees by ensuring that there are no gaps through which someone could fall. Create barriers to avoid third parties to crawl into an area where they shouldn’t be working alone.

Warehouse employee with glasses and beard safely moves boxes

What is HSG76?

HSG76 is a guidance document for people with management and supervisory roles that were first published by the Health and Safety Executive Department of the UK in 1992.

It’s designed to help businesses understand their legal obligations when it comes to managing and commissioning health, safety, and welfare issues in their warehouses and storage facilities. It also guides businesses on how to assess hazards, eliminate risks and protect workers from injuries or ill-health.

The document is divided into three sets of warehouse safety guidelines:

Part 1 covers general issues relating to health, safety, and welfare at storage warehouses.

Part 2 looks at specific risks related to materials handling which might be present in some workplaces and provides advice on how to manage those risks.

Part 3 covers how to make sure your warehouse safety procedures have effective systems for managing automated storage. This includes retrieval systems and temperature-controlled storage of packaged dangerous substances.

This act makes it illegal for an employer to put any employee in a dangerous situation and then fail to do anything about it. It also makes it illegal for an employer to fail to provide a safe working environment or fail to provide employees with adequate training on how to keep themselves safe.

In order to comply with HSG76, companies must take several steps:

  • They must conduct risk assessments at every site where they have employees working;
  • They must identify any hazards that exist at each site;
  • They must work with employees on ways that they can be protected from those hazards;
  • They must provide information about all risks identified during the risk assessment process (including any possible solutions).

To read the complete HSG76 guide that applies to all industries, refer to the official FREE document here, so you don’t have to pay for a PDF copy.

Warehouse Safety Tips and Best Practices

You’re probably thinking: “What could possibly go wrong in a warehouse?” After all, if you’re working in this industry, it’s likely that you’re very familiar with the safety precautions one needs to take.

But it’s easy to get complacent. To avoid that, here are some dos and don’ts, safety tips, and best practices for quality managers to keep their team and employees safe:

  1. Make sure your employees have proper training on how to recognize hazards, handle dangerous situations, and process hazardous materials safely. This way, they can consistently avoid or address the issues before they become serious problems. Make sure all new hires are familiar with the equipment they’ll be using, so there’s no risk of contamination being spread through your warehouse space.
  2. Train your storage warehouse employees in fire safety and evacuation procedures. Even if there’s never been a fire at your facility, it’s important to have a plan in place in case one breaks out. That way, you can ensure everyone gets out safely and quickly—without getting injured or harming your business property.
  3. Install incentives for wearing protective clothing and gear at all times. This includes additional performance points when employees wear gloves, steel-toed shoes, and safety glasses when handling chemicals and sharp objects. The more precautions you take, the less likely you will be hurt by an accident at work, such as cuts by sharp edges or tips on tools used for cutting pallets and crates.
  4. Keep all flammable materials away from heaters, ovens, and other sources of open flame or heat. Make sure to add in your warehouse software checklist an inspection of the electrical connections, making sure they’re properly grounded so workers won’t be at risk for electrocution.
  5. Make sure no one can get inside your warehouse without going through a clearly inspected entrance door first. This will help prevent unauthorized access to dangerous areas, like loading docks where trucks come through regularly that can cause accidents for pedestrians.
  6. Conduct comprehensive safety inspections regularly.
  7. Encourage workers not to take shortcuts by using equipment improperly or working too fast. This puts them at risk of injury or death if something goes wrong when you’re not around to help them out.
  8. Execute rigorous research into what types of equipment may need additional safety features. Make sure your managers are aware of any dangerous conditions that may exist in your warehouses, such as slippery floors or other hazards that could lead to injury or death if not corrected immediately. Having a lackadaisical attitude towards safety procedures in this area could mean non-compliance lawsuits that could harm your business or job security.
  9. Keep an eye on injuries and accidents by documenting them in a warehouse inspection checklist. Not only will this help prevent future incidents, but it also ensures that injured employees get immediate attention and treatment so they can return to work as soon as possible.
  10. Don’t overload the conveyor belts. If there is too much weight on the belt before it reaches its destination, then there is a risk of slipping or falling off altogether. This is something that could result in serious injury or even death.
  11. Encourage employees in storage warehouses to report any injuries they may have suffered while on the job. This will help ensure that any work-related injuries are addressed immediately and prevent future problems.
  12. Establish warehouse safety guidelines for using equipment and tools. For example, it’s important that workers follow safety precautions when operating machinery or lifting heavy objects. It’s also wise to limit how long workers can be on their feet without taking a break so they don’t get tired and make mistakes as a result of fatigue.
  13. Foster a work culture that makes safety a priority at the end of the day. It’s always better to itemize safety precautions in your warehouse safety checklist template before something happens, instead of waiting until after it did.

    For example, if you know that there are some areas of your warehouse where employees tend to get hurt, make sure those areas are marked off with caution signs or barriers so nobody goes near them without thinking about it first.

  14. Make sure that you have a written safety policy that outlines what all employees are expected to do if they see a safety hazard. This should include how to report the hazard, what happens when they report it, and who they can go to if they have questions or concerns about their rights as an employee.
  15. Make sure your trucks are equipped with full-functioning seatbelts and other safety features. This is to ensure that the drivers won’t get hurt in an accident while delivering products/items from or to your warehouse.
  16. Using your workplace safety guide, always remind the employees to take regular breaks and stretch. They should be always hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day—it’ll keep them alert and focused on all the safety protocols.

Warehouse manager monitors workplace safety with a tablet

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