For warehouses and manufacturing, week three of National Safety Month (NSM) – preventing falls – is particularly relevant. When you get into work-related injuries, these industries top the charts in reported incidents. Falls top the charts in frequency of all reported work injuries. So preventing the most common injury should catch the attention of those managing of the most injured employees.
Falls (including slips and trips) are easy to prevent, but clearly, risk factors are not being addressed. Issues related to falls actually showed up twice on OSHA’s Top 10 violations for Fiscal Year 2017. Falls lead the list, and by a lot at that:
- Fall Protection – General Requirements (1926.501): 6,072 violations
- Hazard Communication (1910.1200): 4,176
- Scaffolding (1926.451): 3,288
- Respiratory Protection (1910.134): 3,097
- Lockout/Tagout (1910.147): 2,877
- Ladders (1926.1053): 2,241
- Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178): 2,162
- Machine Guarding (1910.212): 1,933
- Fall Protection – Training Requirements: 1,523
- Electrical – Wiring Methods (1910.305): 1,405
If you’re wondering how to improve safety, diligently follow these five simple guidelines.
- Hold Everyone Accountable
This isn’t to say companies can skirt responsibility when an accident happens, but it’s up to everyone do his or her part in safety. You need everyone to cooperate to accomplish the rest of this list, too, so communicate to employees the importance of:
- Wearing proper shoes
- Cleaning up after oneself
- Identifying hazards and taking action to remove them (either individually or by telling someone who is designated to attend to it)
- Avoiding distractions – walking too fast or while on the phone, not paying attention to where one is going, and carrying objects that obstruct views are all examples of distractions to minimize
- Attend to Slippery or Wet Surfaces
Perhaps the most obvious advice, keeping surfaces dry can be tough to keep up with. It’s easy for wet floors, parking lots, and sidewalks to go unnoticed. Weather in particular creates hazards – even indoors as people track in mud, rain, and snow. Here is a basic checklist of indoor traction control to monitor from Grainger’s blog post:
- “Use moisture-absorbent mats with beveled edges in entrance areas. Make sure they have backing material that will not slide on the floor.
- Display “Wet Floor” signs as needed.
- Use anti-skid adhesive tape in troublesome areas.
- Clean up spills immediately. Create a procedure for taking the appropriate action when someone causes or comes across a food or drink spill.
- Use proper area rugs or mats for food preparation areas.”
- Routine Cleaning
Make that proper, daily housecleaning. Soiled or littered walking surfaces are common reasons for falls. Maintaining a clean working environment should be built into each worker’s daily responsibilities. You should be able to check all of these boxes:
- Start a program and stick to it — Establish official daily housekeeping procedures, and train the staff on them. Be sure to include a way to hold everyone accountable.
- Appoint responsibilities — Each individual should be responsible for cleaning up after him or herself, but you may also want to assign specific tasks to teams or individuals to ensure they get done.
- Be specific — Know exactly what cleaning assignments will be completed, when, who is completing them, and what “complete” looks like for each task.
- Clear Obstacles in Aisles and Walkways
This is another tip that sounds obvious, but mindless behavior is how many of us operate. Until you practice paying attention to the safety of a walkway, it’s easy to accidentally leave a file drawer open or neglect to pick a box back up. In addition to a room’s general cleanliness, help employees become aware of:
- Carts, equipment, or anything else abandoned in an aisle or walkway
- Cords, cables, or hoses that cross or interfere with any walkway/path
- Leaving an area as good or better than you left it – this is remembering to close a door, return a tool, pick up clutter, and other considerate/professional practices
- Ensure a Well-Lit Environment
It’s hard to avoid an obstacle you can’t see. Whether that’s the result of shadows or complete darkness, proper lighting can eliminate many hazards. For a warehouse manager, you want to:
- Check the lighting in all areas, particularly stairwells, corners, dock bays, and other places that are sheltered from an open floorplan. Replace bulbs where needed
- If it’s impossible to illuminate a trafficked area well, keep it clean and free of obstacles at all times
- Ensure light switches are consistently easy to find
- Make necessary repairs immediately
Employees have a responsibility, too, to always first turn a light on when walking into a dark space, and report any lighting issues they notice.
At Packnet, we care about the protection of your employees as well as your goods. We encourage routine reviews of all safety and wellness plans. When the time comes to think about the integrity and effectiveness of your packaging, give us a call. 952.944.9124.