Warehouses, distribution areas, factory floors, and other materials handling workplaces can be dangerous places. There’s no doubt about this, and most managers and employees learn about the most obvious dangers during their first forays into the industry. But some hazards are more evident than others, and some are tragedies are almost entirely preventable if the right precautions are taken. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you work to build a culture of safety and protect your co-workers and direct reports from harm.
Loading and Unloading Areas Present Two Key Dangers
Loading docks experience heavy traffic in the form of trucks, forklifts, overhead cranes, carts, and other motorized vehicles. Some of these vehicles have considerable mass and some are moving at high speed, which means the momentum of an impact can cause serious damage. Add compromised visibility and signaling and you’ll increase the risk of two primary injuries: impact and pinning. Employees can easily be struck by a moving object or pinned between moving and stationary objects.
Loading and unloading areas also involve heavy objects that are lifted off the ground by cranes or high metal shelving units. This can generate a risk of objects being dropped. It can also create problems if shelving supports are unstable, if objects are pushed off the backs of the shelves, or if unsecured objects walk off shelves as a result of workplace vibrations.
Employer and Supervisor Responsibilities
First and foremost, it’s the employer’s job to provide information, instruction and supervision that can allow employees to protect themselves from various workplace hazards. Far too often, employees are hurt in incidents that could have been prevented if the employee had access to vital training or necessary warnings. OSHA posters and placards should be prominently positioned in the workplace.
Employers also need to maintain and manage equipment in a safe way. Equipment should always be available, clean, properly fueled, and in good working order. Employees should never be asked to compromise their health, safety, or productivity by working with dangerous or subpar tools.
Workplace security also matters. The environment surrounding employees should be free of static hazards including insecure loads, weak shelving, leaks, faulty wiring, or environmental toxins. As far as possible, environmental hazards like temperature and noise extremes should also be controlled. If the environment can’t be controlled, employees should be provided with adequate protective gear including warm clothing, ear guards, vision protection, and hard hats.
For more on the extent and limits of employer responsibility in the face of workplace hazards, reach out to the materials handling experts at Liftow.