Supply chain safety is an essential component of supply chain management. Unfortunately, HSE statistics show that many warehouses in the UK can do more to improve the health and safety of employees.
For example, HSE reports that from 2019 to 2020, accidents caused by improperly lifting or carrying items accounted for 19% of non-fatal workplace injuries. This is particularly common in a warehouse setting, where workers often have to carry around heavy items.
Forklift accidents are another warehouse issues that can lead to serious injury. According to the British Safety Council, approximately 1,300 workers in the UK are in hospital each year after sustaining serious injuries from a forklift accident. Injuries can range from fractures to amputations.
4 Ways to Improve Supply Chain and Warehouse Safety
Fortunately, there are many tried and tested ways to improve the safety of your supply chain facilities. We look at four examples of safety measures you can take.
1. Be Mindful of Pallet Safety
Pallets are so ubiquitous in warehouses that they’re often overlooked as a potential safety hazard until it’s too late. In 2016, a Belfast firm was fined £20,000 after a workplace accident involving pallets of the wrong size led to an employee losing his foot.
The accident happened after the employee — one of two operating a pallet truck — attempted to climb a stack of unsteady pallets eight feet high. The two workers tried to stabilise the stack, only for the top four pallets to fall on one of the men.
Apart from the dangerous manoeuvre of stabilising the stack, it turned out the stacked pallets were larger than normal. This meant the pallet truck’s forks could not pass through the entire length of the pallet, making the load less stable.
Scenarios like this are far too common in many warehouses. Some workers even combine pallets with forklifts to reach higher shelves. Bottom line? Invest in the proper training to ensure employees know how to handle, store and rack pallets correctly, and ensure that the correct equipment is used for the correct task.
2. Invest in Innovative Ergonomic Solutions
Between the surge in demand for shipments due to the pandemic and the rising costs of workers’ compensation, ergonomic supply chain solutions are a common-sense way to save money and improve your supply chain safety.
For example, you can optimise the packing processes in your warehouse by creating multiple packing zones or stations to spread out workers, increase productivity and reduce the likelihood of collisions. If you handle fragile, perishable or hazardous goods, these should be packed in a separate zone to minimise contamination.
It’s also a good idea to have a separate warehouse worker or group of workers in charge of cleaning up each zone or station before, during and after each shift to mitigate fatigue and encourage accountability.
3. Protect Workers from Debris, Dust and Mould
One of the benefits of using reusable plastic packaging for material handling is that it’s a relatively inexpensive way to keep your employees from coming into contact with debris, dust and mould. And because it’s reusable, you won’t have to worry about sending your allergen management solution to the landfill.
You can even take things a step further by using hygienic plastic pallets with nonporous surfaces that can’t absorb moisture and odours — preventing mould and mildew growth.
4. Follow HSE Guidelines on Preventing Slips and Trips
Slips and trips continue to be the most common cause of workplace injuries, accounting for 29% of non-fatal work-related injuries from 2019 to 2020. HSE offers measures to reduce the risk of slips and trips in the workplace, such as:
- Installing slip-resistant flooring on trailers and/or tail lifts.
- Experiments with different types of footwear to determine which shoe or boot provides the best traction on your warehouse floors. Bear in mind that “oil-resistant” has nothing to do with slip resistance.
- Nurturing a culture of “see it, clear it” to keep your trucks and supply chain facilities clean at all times.
- Discouraging the practice of carrying large or heavy items over slippery surfaces.
To get full visibility of your supply chain risks, you can seek Common Assessment Standard accreditation, which covers health and safety as well as other issues that affect supply chains, such as modern slavery, working conditions and social responsibility. The assessment scheme will help you uncover all health and safety risks you need to act on, eliminating the need for guesswork.