Do you spend time in a warehouse as part of your job? If so then there’s a chance you could be putting yourself or your colleagues at risk.
Around the UK there are millions of employees working in unsafe conditions, with many having minimal knowledge around best practice and how to stay safe in a warehouse environment. However, with the trend in those interested in warehousing roles increasing steadily alongside the rise in ecommerce, it’s more important than ever to get up to speed with relevant health and safety regulations.
In 2011 The Health and Safety at Work act came into place, defining the fundamentals of safety and welfare in the workplace – and today we are going to be covering some of the key aspects of this act in accordance with warehouse work.
If you’re unsure about the best way to move heavy goods, the legal training requirements you’re entitled to or what safety procedures to follow in the case of a fire – then we’re here to help! Our in-depth guide is here to provide you with all you need to know to stay safe in your warehousing role, and get your job done with confidence.
Why health and safety in a warehouse environment is so important
Health and safety procedures are paramount in any workplace, but warehousing roles present specific risks that all workers should be aware of. First, it’s important to note that we understand how easy it can be to to let initial training fall to the wayside as you grow in confidence and find yourself in an everyday routine – this is normal in many jobs.
However, letting your guard down in a high-risk environment can not only put you in danger, but it can also expose your colleagues to the risks of the work place too. So, it certainly pays to be educated when it comes to warehouse health and safety.
What are the warehouse requirements in the UK?
Whether you are an employer or an employee, there are certain requirements that must be met within the warehousing industry. Below are some of the main legal requirements for employers in the UK warehousing industry:
- Employers, supervisors and managers must provide employees with adequate and appropriate welfare facilities. These include appropriate toilet facilities, adequate rest breaks and somewhere safe to eat and drink.
- Environmental requirements such as lighting, temperature, cleanliness, floor conditions, falls or falling objects, ventilation and transparent doors must all be addressed by an employer by law.
- Best practice must be maintained by management to ensure employees feel listened to, valued and considered in work place decisions.
It is imperative that all aspects of health and safety training are covered by management. These include training in:
- Fire safety
- Vehicles safety
- Slips and falls
- Personal protective equipment
- Manual handling
To give you a clear idea on everything you need to know, we will be covering each of these aspects in greater detail throughout this guide. But first, let’s take a quick look at the importance of regular and up to date training for staff in the warehousing industry.
Why is training so important for warehousing staff?
Warehousing logistics are complex, and typically this type of work environment never sleeps. For this reason alone, it can be a manic environment to be in, especially if you’re not up to date with recent training strategies.
There are a huge range of benefits to training warehousing staff, not least to improve efficiency, increase staff morale and offer job fulfilment, but also to equip staff with everything they need to stay safe at work.
As we have stated, warehouses pose a plethora of risks, from moving vehicles to high objects, there is the potential for all kinds of incidents to occur, and so it is vital that every person on the premises is equipped with the skills and knowledge to safely handle any workplace eventuality.
Due to the size and layout of most warehouses, the need for up to date and accurate fire safety training is absolutely paramount. Regular fire safety assessments and subsequent training is actually a workplace requirement regardless of the industry you’re in, but in the case of warehouses which have a number of hazards, it’s even more important that this is kept on top of.
Things that must be carried out by employers, supervisors or management include:
- Appointing a person or persons to carry out any preventative or protective measures required by the Fire Safety Order.
- Make all employees aware of the risks of fire in your particular premises.
- Allocate appropriate people to carry out certain fire safety related roles.
- Inform any visitors (non-employees) of the risks of fire in your particular premises.
- Must consider the presence of any dangerous substances and the risk this presents to relevant persons from fire.
- Provide appropriate information and training to employees during normal working hours, about fire precautions in the workplace. This must first be done as soon as employment commences, and be updated regularly.
Some important fire safety measures which should be carried out in the workplace include:
- Regular fire drills– offering regular (weekly) fire drills will help to enforce the fire safety procedure for all employees and will help to prepare the team in the case of a real-life fire.
- Weekly fire alarm testing– testing your fire alarms once a week in accordance with fire alarm regulations ensures your fire alarms are fully operational at all times.
- Emergency lighting – Emergency lighting and exit signs are vital parts of a thorough fire safety procedure, and in the case of warehousing where there can be many hazards and obstacles this is a crucial aspect of the overall health and safety of employees.
- Fire evacuation plans and wardens – it is important to ensure a plan has been put in place by management and has been effectively communicated to all relevant employees as to what to do in the case of a fire, and which individuals will be on hand to act as fire wardens in these scenarios.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Effective and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) is often required as part of a larger health and safety strategy within a warehouse environment. It is important to ensure that you are wearing the appropriate attire to carry out your role, however this must be in conjunction with other measures in the case of your PPE failing.
It is a legal requirement here in the UK to supply all workers with appropriate PPE, and in a warehouse environment these can include:
- Hard hats
- High visibility jackets
- Safety shoes
- Eye protection
- Hearing protection
- Respiratory masks
Along with appropriate training in the appropriate PPE, regular risk assessments must also be carried out in the warehouse to ensure the right PPE is in place. Where new risks occur, old measures may need to be removes, and different PPE may need to be put into place.
In most warehouses in-house vehicles are an essential aspect of every day. Used typically for the safe moving and handling of goods, workers operating such vehicles are required to hold specific licenses.
Training is essential not just for those handling warehouse vehicles, but also for others who may come into contact with vehicles during their working day. Thorough training on how to use vehicles, and knowledge of best practice can help to maintain a safe environment. Here are some things to consider:
- Regular vehicle maintenance to ensure things are running as they should be
- Enforce a strict speed limit for warehouse vehicles. This may differ depending on whether pedestrians are active in the area, but typically you must never exceed 5mph
- Any employees being trained up to use vehicles such as forklifts must be of the correct legal age, which is 18 years of over
Slips and Trips
In any work environment there’s likely to be a risk of slips and trips, whether that’s in the kitchen or out on the shop floor. In a warehouse it can occur more easily due to things such as the surface of the floor, cables from vehicles or spills.
Here are some things you can do to avoid accidents from happening:
- Make sure that things are neatly put away, so that they don’t cause falls or are in people’s path
- Cord covers need to be placed across cords, if they are on the footpath or in an open area, this helps to prevent them as a trip hazard.
A huge part of your work in a warehouse will likely involve moving and handling large, often heavy goods. Doing so without the proper training however can lead to severe injuries, some of which can even put you out of work.
Luckily, there are simple things you can do to prevent injury from moving and handling goods, these include:
- Ensuring control measures are in place. If you are unaware of any, speak to your supervisor or manager about this. Control measures are there so that people don’t end up hurting themselves or getting an injury from lifting something too heavy
- Use appropriate machinery as and when necessary such as lift trucks, pallet trucks and trollies to avoid accidental injury – these should be used wherever possible
- Ensure your manual handling training is up to date – do you know the manual handling weight limits? It’s 20-25kg – if you don’t know this, or the proper ways to handle heavy goods then ask for more training first
Incorrect handling can lead to a wealth of physical conditions, including the following:
- Musculoskeletal disorders
- Repetitive strain injury
- Work related upper limb disorder
As well as the way you hold yourself and handle goods in transit, the way you pack them can also make a huge difference to your physical wellbeing. Below are some of our tips for the safe packing of goods:
- Make sure that pallets are packed correctly, this can ensure the stability of the load
- Securing your packed loads is important. Use shrink or stretch wrapping to offer additional support to pallets
- Are your pallets safe before loading? If you can spot any splinters, breaks, holes or other obvious damage – then don’t load goods onto it
- Don’t apply unnecessary weight by climbing or leaning on the pallets either before or during use. Standing on pallets before they are used can cause significant damage and can compromise the safety of the load
Are you up to date with healthy and safety procedures in the workplace?
Health and safety aren’t as straightforward as we might like, especially in high-risk environments such as warehouses. But it’s crucial that we stay educated and up to date with both theoretical and practical training in order to stay safe at work.
If you are unsure about any aspects of today’s guide, it may be worthwhile to have a conversation with your manager about training opportunities. After all, it pays to be prepared.