Beware the Warehouse

September 2017—

Your warehouse employees are only as mindful of safety as you are. Show them you’re serious.

We all know that working in a furniture store’s warehouse can be dangerous. With rising demands from customers to have that sofa yesterday and the introduction of automation to warehousing operations, more pressure is on workers to increase productivity. Now more than ever, warehouse managers must make sure that employee safety remains a priority.

Since the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) was signed into law in 1970, there has been a decrease in the number of reported workplace injuries and deaths. It’s been estimated that the number has dropped more than 60 percent since 1970. Regardless, more than 4.1 million workers still face a high number of serious work-related accidents and deaths each year.

These workplace accidents are a lot more likely to occur when employers don’t make workplace safety a priority. Simply providing one-time safety training for your staff won’t be enough to create a safe warehouse. A lot more must be done to make sure employees continuously police themselves with regard to warehouse safety. Here are three tips to make this happen:

Create a culture of safety
This is by far the most effective and important method to provide a consistently safe warehouse operation. Ensuring warehouse safety takes careful planning and effort to prevent accidents. A culture of safety in the warehouse is a product of individual and group efforts toward changing the attitudes and values of an organization about worker safety.

Every level of the organization needs to be actively involved in this process, from the regular warehouse workers all the way up to management. When establishing a culture of safety in the warehouse, all levels of management need to be consistently conscious of their attitudes toward workers.

One way to promote a safety culture is for management to take the time to monitor workplace conditions and activity and positively reinforce activities and procedures that promote these values. If it’s your store, ask yourself these questions: When was the last time you spoke with your warehouse employees about safe practices? Are your workers encouraged to report unsafe working conditions and procedures without the fear of being reprimanded or fired?

Worker training
Typically, a lot of furniture stores go out of their way to train newly hired employees. However, these same furniture stores are remiss in providing consistent follow-up training. Consistent, regular warehouse safety training is important to ensure that all staff are up to date with the knowledge of safe workplace practices.

Employees who are aware of the safety protocols and employer expectations are much more mindful of the consequences of unsafe workplace procedures and practices. These employees are also much more inclined to correct their colleagues when they observe corners being cut.

All of your workers who are involved in manual labor should also be trained in proper ergonomics, safer lifting techniques, and maintenance of storage systems and components.

Create and enforce rules & policies
Your store’s warehouse safety policies should be put in writing so they are formal and defined. These written protocols should be comprehensive, clear, and detailed, specifying what tools and procedures to follow and the consequences of ignoring these rules. Considerations should also be made to ensure that warehouse equipment is adequately maintained. These formal safety protocols will add to an already established culture of worker safety.

Setting up these workplace safety policies shouldn’t be a one-time event. Your showroom is always changing, why shouldn’t your safety policies? There should be continuous monitoring, feedback, and auditing of safety procedures. These audits should be carried out by safety committees selected from employees at various levels in the organization.

Ultimately, placing emphasis on safety could prevent a company from violating OSHA regulations and save costs associated with workplace accidents. Safety shouldn’t be something separate from a warehouse employee’s job description. It should be a key aspect of their job which is taken into consideration when workplace decisions are being made.

About the Author

David Madden
David Madden is vice president of operations for Sunland Logistics Solutions. He can be reached at david@exchangehub.com.