Workers in warehouses can experience a wide range of accidents, ranging from loading dock falls to injuries caused by racking. The causes of accidents are sometimes simple, but other times they stem from a combination of causes like lack of training and poor lighting or safety markings.
The vast majority of materials handling accidents are avoidable and may result in citations from state or federal health and safety authorities. Companies are legally obligated to take all necessary precautions to protect employees, and even a temporary lapse in following best practices can result in fines.
In order to keep a facility as safe as possible, managers must use a multi-faceted approach to maintaining and monitoring racking. Front-line employees play a huge role in the warehouse safety process as well, especially if they must manually load and unload pallets and boxes.
Monitor for Accidents
Forklifts are a common cause of accidents, even among experienced employees. Collisions between forklifts and racks can cause severe structural damage to racking, which may be serious enough to cause it to collapse.
Employees should be carefully trained to report all forklift impacts, but even if they know the rules, they may not always notice or care when a minor collision occurs. Frequent walk throughs and video monitoring by supervisors may help managers catch accidents and even reduce accidents through better enforcement of speed limits and safety rules.
Keep Racking Plumb
Racking can start to lean due to a variety of factors, including uneven loading, improper installation, or forklift impacts. This leaning can become worse over time, causing the racking’s load capacity to decrease and possibly causing a collapse.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) uses ANSI MH16.1-2012 to determine whether or not a rack is safely plumb. This standard states that the maximum allowable out-of-plumb distance is the height of the rack in inches divided by 240. This means that a 20-foot rack cannot be more than 1 inch out of plumb in any direction.
Train and Re-Train Employees
Employee safety can only be achieved if the employees themselves are properly trained. All employees should be trained on basic measures for reporting rack damage, and forklift operators should be trained on all maintenance and safety issues pertaining to forklift usage.
Employees should never use forklifts unless they have been fully trained in their operation. Human Resources and other administrative staff should avoid entering the warehouse floor unnecessarily, and must be fully trained on what equipment and routes to use in order to stay safe.
Maintain and Inspect
Frontline employees are busy and may not always notice subtle damage and leaning racks. Regular inspections are the only way to make sure rack uprights, safety netting, and other key parts are undamaged and exactly where they should be.
Walkthroughs should be done once a week or as often as managers’ schedule allows, and in-depth racks inspections should ideally be done once per month. Inspections become especially important on older equipment that may begin to have rust or other signs of age.
If any damage is discovered during an inspection, the racking must be fully unloaded until repairs can be done. Although preventative measures can cost the company time and money, they are essential for pallet racking safety and accident prevention.
Mark Aisles and Overheads
Forklifts can be tricky to operate because of the bars in front. In order for drivers to move safely, aisles, supports, and overhead beams must be as visible as possible. This may require brightly-colored paint or tape in key areas.
Lighting is also an essential feature in aisles, especially inside drive-in racks. A combination of good lighting and clear height markers can prevent most, if not all, forklift and other equipment accidents.
Invest in Safer Equipment
Facilities can also become safer by investing in new automated equipment. Even small facilities can benefit from high-capacity vertical storage systems and other cutting-edge technology that reduces human error and accidents.
The up-front cost associated with new equipment usually pays for itself quickly due to the reduction in accidents and operating costs. Orders can often be fulfilled much more quickly without picking errors or product damage.
Warehouse Storage Solutions
Shelving + Racking Systems, Inc., has the expert knowledge you need to get your systems installed safely, whether you decide on an automated system or a basic used pallet rack. We supply top-of-the-line automated picking machines, used equipment, shelving, and just about anything else you need to keep your warehouse running safely and efficiently. Check out our website or contact us at (800) 589-7225 for more information.