Warehouse environments are hectic places at the best of times. The sheer amount of people working under one roof to process packages, move freight and load and unload vehicles means that safety must be considered at all times if incidents are to be avoided.
Turning a blind eye to potential safety risks and failing to encourage and maintain safe behaviour among staff could lead to serious harm or injury.
For some companies, safety can slip as they race to create a more efficient, first class service for customers. Simply seeing safety management as a tick in the box that doesn’t need to be revisited or revised carries a high level of risk, especially during busy periods. It is at times of increased demand that incidents are most likely to happen and promoting best practice is vital.
It is important to take a holistic approach to the management of health and safety by considering the task, the working environment, equipment used and the person carrying out the task. Good practical safety standards combined with safe behaviour should therefore be part and parcel of an efficient warehouse operation.
Safety experts are more and more looking at the use of technology to mitigate safety risk and reduce the risk of human error. For example, supplying all operatives with technology that monitors their movement and posture means training needs can be quickly identified and addressed.
Warehouse spaces are lively by nature and although health and safety measures are implemented as preventative steps to protect employees, sometimes incidents do occur. There is a strict protocol that should be followed to investigate, identify the causes and introduce corrective or preventative action.
The investigation should capture information about what happened, who was involved, when, where, how and why the incident occurred. Interviewing everyone involved is a crucial part of the investigation process.
Attention to detail here helps get to the root cause of the incident quickly and lead to an analysis of how the incident could have been prevented and whether procedures need to be reviewed and revised.
Workers must also feel there is an open forum where they can raise issues as they see fit. Regular safety improvement groups to address health and safety matters involving staff, management and safety representatives is a great way to encourage this.
Managers can also facilitate discussions by encouraging teams to meet in "huddles" before each shift begins. If staff have any safety concerns, they can raise them in this forum, allowing management to review existing procedures and make changes if necessary.
Safety doesn’t stand still. There is always room for processes and procedures to be improved to safeguard employees and create an efficient and safe warehouse operation.
Maintaining robust safety procedures, managers leading by example, adopting technological innovations in health and safety and encouraging safe behaviour among staff should create a positive safety culture. Prioritising health and safety will protect a company’s most important asset – its people – and reduce the risk of safety incidents and the resultant cost. Good safety is simply good business.
☛ Neil Griffiths is director of health, safety and environmental at TNT