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Worker safety is a top concern for any warehouse or distribution center, no matter what products you deal in or what industries you serve.

And with good reason – OSHA reports that over 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuries were reported in 2016, and the onus is on employers to provide the safest possible workplace for their staff.

This goes double for any warehouse that requires heavy machinery to get their work done. From gravity flow racks to fully automated conveyors, from forklifts to automated picking solutions, the march of technology has made warehouse work more productive than ever – and requires more safeguards than ever before.

Here’s a few things to look out for if you use any kind of heavy machinery in your warehouse:

Provide the proper safety equipment:

The first step to keeping your workers safe is to provide them the sort of equipment they need to get work done safely and efficiently. Sometimes this can be as simple as gloves, goggles, and safety vests, and for more complex machinery or unpleasant environments (cold storage, humid/greenhouse storage) you may need to provide outerwear, facemasks, or even earplugs to cut down on the effects of noise. Take a look at the sort of equipment your workers use, and the settings they do their work in, and find out what you can provide to make their work safer and easier than before.

Enforce all machine safeguards:

A lot of the machinery used in warehouses is advanced to the point where it has built-in safeguards to help lessen the risk of worker injury: automatic stops if it detects a hand where it shouldn’t be, guard rails to prevent items from falling off or being stored improperly, and so on. The temptation may exist among your workers to try and get around these safeguards to get more done (or get it done faster by circumventing the usual process), but this can lead to much bigger problems including injury and equipment damage that just aren’t worth it. Make sure your workers are all aware of the installed safety features on your equipment and how it can affect their work before training a worker on its usage.

Redesign your layout to safely accommodate all equipment:

If your warehouse is installing conveyor belts or bringing in more forklifts, you might need to take some time and review your current warehouse layout and make adjustments as needed. Make sure your pallet racks and wire shelving are spread out far enough to let forklifts get through safely, keep all your motorized equipment together and away from anything that could impede product movement or safe usage, and be prepared to make further movements or adjustments as needed.

Put proper guarding in place:

Most equipment in warehouses come with their own safeguards, as mentioned above, but your warehouse may need additional installations above and beyond what’s there already in order to better protect your workers and inventory. Where needed, install light curtains to detect employee movement, place sensitive or dangerous equipment in wire safety partitions to keep them away from any worker that doesn’t need to be using them, put up warehouse guard rails around the more delicate parts (or use them to wall off an area that has a lot of machinery in it), and make sure everything is safely removed from any materials or products that could be damaged through normal use.

Follow up on all training:

Finally, make sure all your workers are properly and thoroughly trained on every machine you have. Even if they’re not directly involved with the usage of the machine itself, knowing how it works and how to stay safe around it will go a long way towards preventing injury and damage to the equipment or the inventory on-hand. Schedule regular training meetings to go over all new equipment and/or review previous safety tips and make sure everyone is on the same page – it’ll pay off a lot in the long run.

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