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Warehouses are filled with many hazards, from fork lift trucks being used to shift stock, to heavy items that are stored on high racking. It’s important to get your health and safety measures in these large buildings right so that staff can perform their work as safely as possible. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 section 2, states that every employer has a duty to ensure the health and safety of their employees so far as is reasonably practicable, and it is your duty to operate within the legal requirements of your business.
Considering key areas, including vehicles, signage, racking and handling stock, we’ve put together some health and safety tips for you to consider when operating a warehouse.
Flooring is a big part of a warehouse and should be considered as part of your risk assessment. You should take steps to prevent slips and trips from happening by making floors are kept dry and clear of obstructions, like boxed stock or trailing wires, such as between racking and where vehicles are used. Your risk assessment should consider what to do to prevent risks. If it does happen, the first step is to always try to remove the risk, such as a spillage, which could potentially be a fire hazard and cause someone to slip. If wires pass across a section of floor but can’t be moved, you should consider how slips and trips can be prevented and how damage to wires from passing vehicles can be minimised, such as being covered with heavy-duty cord.
You should consider installing anti-slip measures on flooring if there is a risk of slipping. For instance, you could use anti-slip tape in areas where stock is carried most to reduce the risk of accidents. Ensuring suitable footwear is worn also needs to be considered as it could prevent slips and trips. You should also make sure the edges of elevated areas are made safe, such as by fitting barriers around loading bays to prevent falls and marking the edges with warning tape. Sufficient lighting in your warehouse is also essential to make sure all areas are well lit.
Many types of vehicles pass in and out of, and work around a warehouse, such as fork lift trucks, pallet trucks and distribution trucks. You should ensure that drivers have the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to use the vehicles. The Approved Code of Practice from the Health and Safety Executive, provides useful guidance on training for fork lift trucks and can be found here.
Vehicles can also be the cause of accidents and injuries if driven carelessly, so it’s important to adhere to legislation and enforce strict rules for staff to follow when driving them in the warehouse. Your risk assessment should help you identify what you can do to prevent accidents or injuries. You should consider the following:
Fitting signage in a warehouse can be important to draw attention to hazards in the workplace or remind staff of what they should do to avoid accidents, such as wear personal protective equipment (PPE). This includes warning signs, such as where vehicles are being loaded with stock, or where toxic chemicals or dangerous machinery is used. You should consider installing illuminated signs above fire exit doors if the signs cannot be seen if there was a fire. Warning strips on hazardous areas of floors, such as steps, platforms and slopes should also be considered as part of your risk assessment.
You should also make sure you have suitable and sufficient equipment for staff to do their jobs safely. This includes any PPE that you need to meet legal requirements when running a warehouse. PPE can include things like protective footwear, hardhats, high visibility jackets, and eye goggles. You can learn more about this in our blog, How do I provide safety equipment for my staff.
The safety of the racking and storage where you store your stock should be a priority in a warehouse. This includes making sure racking is erected by a competent person in line with the manufacturer’s guidelines, as well as looking at how to prevent items falling off high shelving, such as by fitting anti-collapse mesh or netting to the back of racks . You should consider protecting racking so that it won’t be damaged and affect its stability, if, for example, it is accidentally hit by a passing vehicle lifting stock into place. You should have rules in place to make sure staff know not to climb on racking. It’s also wise to have an expert regularly inspect your racking to ensure it is safe, such as an approved rack inspector from the Storage Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA).
It’s wise to consider safer methods of handling stock as much as possible to prevent employees suffering injuries from lifting, carrying and shelving heavy items. This includes considering mechanical processes to avoid staff having to move heavy stock manually where you can. This could include using lift trucks, pallet trucks and trolleys as much as possible. When manual handling is the best option to move and store certain items, a risk assessment of the area and the job itself should be carried out, and adequate staff training should be provided to maximise safety.
You should have already carried out a risk assessment across your warehouse as part of your initial business health and safety review. To find out more, read our guide to risk assessment.
Training is essential for all staff working in a warehouse. You should carry out training for your new starters to make sure they are aware of, and abide by, all rules and regulations through supervision. This ranges from knowing what to do in the event of a fire, through to how to carry stock, and how to use equipment, machinery and vehicles correctly and safely. You should also carry out additional training for staff during their time in the role, such as every six months or each year to make sure safety standards remain high.
It’s wise to also keep up to date with news from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to make sure your training continues to meet current legislation and covers everything it should. You can read more about employee safety in the workplace in our helpful guide, Providing health and safety for your staff.
Ensuring your company is a safe place for your staff to work is essential when running a business, whether it consists of a warehouse, a factory, or is office-based. But, with a lot to think about, it’s wise to have an expert to lend a helping hand.
With our expert health and safety services, we can do just that - offering you the best help and support that allows you to get back to running and developing your business.
To find out more about these services and how they can help you, please visit our FSB Health and Safety Advice web page. The service is included as standard with our Business Essentials package. You can visit our package comparison page or speak to a member of our team to find out about the benefits of this package and others.
A dedicated resource destination for Health & Safety advice and news with regularly updated documents written by Health & Safety experts.