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How Safe Is Your Warehouse?

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Any business that has a warehouse needs it to be as efficient as possible to ensure mistakes and running costs don’t affect the bottom line, but it is more important to ensure that the warehouse operates safely. Whilst Health & Safety systems are important in all workplace environments, warehouses can present greater risks than many, meaning the obvious cost of an unsafe warehouse isn’t just financial, but the wellbeing of employees.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) aims to prevent work-related death and injury, and according to their 2019/20 statistics there were 2,920 non-fatal warehousing injuries and 11 fatalities across transportation and storage.

There are key areas within a warehouse to maintain to keep everybody safe, and whilst there are a number of factors that can cause injury in a warehouse, such as slips, falls and poor manual handling techniques, we identify the 5 key areas attributed to warehouse storage.

What areas do we need to look out for?

On-site vehicles, such as fork lift trucks, are an important part in any warehouse, but they also present a number of risks. One of the most common reports of damage to racking systems is due to being hit by a fork lift. Colliding with racking systems can destabilise them, causing them to become structurally unsafe with potential to collapse. Fork trucks can also damage beams when lifting pallets onto higher levels for storage, further compromising the safety of the system.

Pallet and Warehouse Racking systems store heavy goods at great height, creating opportunities for accidents to happen. Whilst issues can arise from pallets been stored incorrectly or the weight loads not been adhered to, collisions with fork trucks can cause damage to the structure and older installations can eventually start to buckle thanks to years of supporting extremely heavy loads. There is also a risk of items becoming dislodged and falling from height, potentially causing injury should anyone be struck by the object.

If your mezzanine isn’t built to provide enclosed office space, there is a risk of falling if the edge doesn’t offer sufficient protection. Building Regulations state in Requirement K2 “Protection from Falling” that the edge of any part of a floor should be guarded, where necessary for safety. When used for storage, it is more efficient to lift goods up to the mezzanine, rather than having to carry them up stairs but this presents a fall hazard where the pallets are loaded on to the mezzanine. Stairs can also be a slip risk, so they should always be fitted with nosing to reduce this risk.

In the majority of warehouses, workers and vehicles work within the same space, which can present a major risk to the driver and other operatives at work within the warehouse. According to RIDDOR, between 2015/16 and 2019/20, there was an average of 26 deaths annually caused by being struck by a moving vehicle, across construction and transportation & storage.

The risk involved is sufficiently high enough for laws to be created to protect pedestrians. The HSE outlines ways to protect both driver and operative, stating that:

– By law, pedestrians or vehicles must be able to use a traffic route without causing danger to the health or safety of people working near it.
– Roadways and footpaths should be separate whenever possible.
– You need to consider protection for people who work near vehicle routes.
– By law, traffic routes must also keep vehicles routes far enough away from doors or gates that pedestrians use, or from pedestrian routes that lead on to them, so the safety of pedestrians is not threatened.

Fire pose a big risk in warehouses with the Government’s Fire Safety Risk Assessment document highlighting the risk, stating that “in 2004 fire and rescue services attended over 33,400 fires in non-domestic buildings. These fires killed 38 people and injured over 1,300”. Thanks in part to the construction of storage materials, such as wooden pallets and cardboard boxes, a fire can spread extremely quickly, especially when racking systems are close together such as pallet live and double deep systems. Therefore, it is extremely important to maximise protection where possible.

How do we minimize the risks?

There are a few ways to protect racking from damage, including barriers which prevent the fork truck from driving into the racking and upright protectors to limit the impact of collision damage. Ensuring all operators have a license and attend refresher courses every three years can also help to reduce collisions.

Ensuring racking inspections are carried out annually, with any repairs completed professionally, can help identify any issues and prevent accidents. Where access tunnels are created through runs of racking, it is important that mesh decks are used to prevent falling objects causing issues. Using correct load notices which outline the load bearing capacity for each run and level of racking is also of huge importance to ensure the racking doesn’t buckle or collapse due to overloading.

All mezzanine floor installations must be fitted with sufficient handrails and toe boards to protect workers from falling over the edge, whilst pallet gates help to protect workers at the pallet loading site. Whilst these can be swing or slide gates, the safest option is an up-an-over gate, which ensures there is always an edge barrier in place.

There are a number of ways to protect pedestrians from collisions with on-site vehicles, but the most common ways are by marking out routes and using barriers. Visual route markings create designated walkways to keep pedestrians safe, whilst barriers create a physical separation between workers and vehicles. They can also provide gates at designated points to allow for safe crossing, which can also be marked our with floor markings.

Automated systems can help prevent damage to the racking as a reduction in fork trucks reduces the chance of vehicles colliding with the racking. As automation operates as a “goods to man” system, products are brought to the operative, rather than the operative walking around the warehouse. With less people on the shop floor at any given time, it can reduce the likelihood of collisions between vehicles and personnel. And with the operative being further away from the goods when stored at height, the chances of them being hit by falling goods is also reduced.

It is obviously best to avoid a fire breaking out in the first place through good housekeeping and regular maintenance checks. If you do have a fire however, in order to minimise the risk of fire damage, it is recommended to include a sprinkler system within the installation. This can be attached to the ceiling or to each bay of the racking.

Quickline have experience of delivering warehouse storage solutions to suit your project requirements, which also deliver against the highest health and safety standards.

Contact us to discuss how we can help make your project as safe as possible.

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