One of the most important things to have knowledge of when working in an industrial automation or warehouse environment is maintaining a safe workplace for all levels of employees. Jim Malia, Warehouse Manager, and Gary Wenrich, Logistics Operations Manager, both at Radwell International's headquarters in Lumberton, NJ, offered some basic operating principles that can help anyone in a warehouse environment operate in a safe manner.
PEDESTRIAN TRAFFIC IN THE WAREHOUSE: It's a great idea to set up a requirement in your warehouse that all pedestrian traffic is to use specifically marked aisles. If your warehouse doesn't designate specific aisles for pedestrians with clear markings, it's a good idea to put those markings in place. Having things clearly marked makes it easier for employees to understand the expected behavior when they are moving around in the warehouse. All other aisles should be chained off to prevent people from walking in them while equipment is being used. If a forklift or other large machine is in use in one of the walkways, the aisle should be chained off at both ends and the alternate walkway must be used by all pedestrians. When an aisle is chained off, it let's pedestrians know that this is not a walking aisle.
MOVING LARGE EQUIPMENT WHEN NOT BEING USED: Any employee utilizing a ladder, forklift, or other warehouse vehicle in a walkway aisle should be sure that the equipment they are using is removed and the aisle is clear immediately after they have completed their work in the aisle. Whenever an employee is utilizing forklifts or warehouse vehicles he or she should be tethered to the vehicle.
PROPER PLACEMENT OF EQUIPMENT ON SHELVES: All items placed on shelves, both high and low, should be pushed back on shelves. This effort helps minimize risk of injury. Items improperly placed could accidentally fall from shelves which would be extremely dangerous to pedestrians and equipment operators alike.
APPROACHING EQUIPMENT/VEHICLE IN USE: When approaching an area in which a forklift or other large machine is in use, all pedestrians should ensure that they make eye contact with the driver of the vehicle. The driver can then signal that they are giving way prior to proceeding in front of the vehicle. It is never a good idea to walk in front of a moving warehouse vehicle. Because of the potential for visual impairment and the noise level within the environment, it is never worth the risk of moving in front of a warehouse vehicle before making sure the driver is aware of your presence as a pedestrian.
USING PROPER LIFTING TECHNIQUES: Proper lifting techniques should be used at all times when lifting or moving totes or inventory items. Lifting techniques apply not only to a person individually lifting a box, tote or item, but to forklift drivers as well. If someone does not know proper lifting techniques, they should ask management to provide additional training in order to learn proper techniques. It is also important to use the buddy system and ask for help.
EVERYONE HAS A ROLE IN MAINTAINING SAFE CONDITIONS: Any employee witnessing a potentially unsafe condition or practice in the warehouse is expected to report the observed condition or practice to a warehouse manager. This gives the management team an opportunity to provide additional training where needed to continue to help maintain a safe working environment. It truly is everyone's job to maintain a safe workplace.
ALWAYS BE CAUTIOUS IN THE WAREHOUSE: A warehouse is a busy, often noisy and crowded environment with many different roles, job functions and people involved in the process. It is always important to exercise caution whenever traversing the warehouse. Failure to exercise caution can have serious consequences.
It is important that everyone works together and helps insure that safety procedures are in place and being practiced throughout a warehouse environment. Although no environment is ever perfect, by making every effort to follow basic safety tips, everyone can benefit from a positive and productive working environment.
Contributors: Jim Malia, Gary Wenrich
Compiled by Julie Basello for Radwell International