By Jonathan Stolk
December 9, 2021
Every year, many injuries and fatalities occur in packaging warehouses across the world. In the US, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that the fatality rate for warehousing is above the national average for all industries. In the UK, the Health and Safety Executive reports that around 2,920 warehouse employees per 100,000 suffer non-fatal injuries at work every year.
However, we can all play our part in bringing down these rates, and implementing a warehouse safety checklist is an important place to start.
According to OSHA, the number one hazard across 7,000 warehouses in America is the forklift. There are 95,000 injuries and around 100 deaths every year in warehouses relating to the use of these vehicles. The majority of these fatalities relate to forklifts turning over on the warehouse floor while in use. Other issues include worn or faulty brakes.
In the UK, the situation is very similar. The Health and Safety Executive reports that around 1,300 employees every year suffer serious injuries following a forklift accident.
Other common hazards in the packaging industry include:
In the USA, if OSHA decides to inspect your warehouse, it will usually do so without any notice. The reason for this is to let the inspector see your workplace as it runs on a regular workday, rather than when you have had time to rectify any issues. There are a number of reasons for an OSHA inspection. It could be that an employee has made a complaint. It could also be that there has been a spike in your TRIR, or if an official organization refers your warehouse to the administration.
The inspector arrives and conducts an opening conference where they explain the reason for the inspection and how it will work. They will then walk around the site and you can join them to discuss what they find. They may also ask to see your safety records. Following the inspection, they conduct a closing conference to recap the findings of the day.
At this conference, they may discuss how to rectify hazards. You will hear within six months if OSHA chooses to issue a citation and financial penalty. If you get a citation, you can challenge this with the OSHA area director.
When HSE inspects a workplace in the UK, they speak to management about their safety history and experience. They also talk to the staff. If they spot something dangerous or illegal, they can bring that to your attention straight away.
Following the inspection, they can:
For your own warehouse inspections, maybe as part of a safety audit, you should follow these steps:
Much like government officials, walk around and take note of anything that seems like it goes against the regulations. If your checklist is fully comprehensive, it helps you make sure you don’t miss a crucial area when checking on the safe operation of tasks.
A packaging warehouse inspection isn’t just about how people carry out their jobs or the quality of work. It is also about the protocols and proper work practices you have in place for safety. If you’re in the USA, compare your safety program with OSHA’s recommendations and see that they are in line. If you are missing anything, add it in. You should conduct this comparison on a regular basis to ensure you stay up to date with the latest regulations.
Whether you spot an issue in your paperwork or a hazard on-site, you should put a plan into place for how to remedy this in good time. This means that it will be sorted before your next warehouse audit and you will be ready for a surprise visit from the authorities.
A good warehouse safety checklist should be thorough, clear, and easy to complete. It needs to be something you can run through every month to ensure that your systems and protocols are working correctly.
You need to split it into different sections that deal with the various types of risk. This includes general safety checks of the building and location before looking at the individual pieces of equipment in depth.
The checklist should not only take in faults and damages but also obstructions, cleanliness, lighting, and any other aspect of your packaging warehouse that could cause injury, illness, or fatality.
Make sure the safety checklist has space to give a final verdict and grade, as well as action points that you require carrying out as soon as possible to ensure the safety of your employees. It could even include photographs to better illustrate the outstanding issues.
During a warehouse inspection, you should add the following to your checklist:
Check for damage in the building and location
This includes windows, floors, doors, ceilings, and walls. Check to see if they are free from damage and note down any issues if you find them.
Look for obstructions
Obstructions could mean packaging in front of fire exits or in the middle of aisles, for example. You should ensure there is no clutter in workstations and that the vehicles are in their correct designated position. Trailing electrical cords can also cause a hazard.
Check lighting in the warehouse
Warehouse lighting is very important for safety. Work stations, corridors, fire exits, offices, loading docks, lunchrooms, and even bathrooms should be well lit. If not, workers can injure themselves as the gloom makes it difficult to navigate safely.
Inspect the hygiene and cleanliness
Although it is difficult for a workplace to remain pristine where there is a lot of moving around and vehicle use, you can still get rid of unnecessary trash and other waste that could cause a fire or trip hazard. In addition, make sure work stations are clean and hygienic, as are break rooms and bathrooms.
Look into fire safety
Are there enough fire extinguishers in the correct positions? Are they, the sprinkler systems, the hoses and the fire alarms, in working condition? Is there a risk of explosions if a fire gets out of hand and reaches any chemicals you store?
Check the ventilation
Because of the dust that comes with working in a packaging warehouse, you need adequate ventilation to keep your workers safe.
Are fire exits signed and lit?
You should have correct clear markings on your fire exits. This helps workers locate them in an emergency. You also need direction markers spread through the site to guide them.
Check emergency signage
Are your other emergency signs in the correct place? Are they clear and large enough to be easily readable?
Inspect the drainage
Your warehouse should have adequate drainage to prevent slips and to keep the paper materials dry. Make sure there are no blockages in drain pipes and that ditches are clear. If your facility is open to the elements, make sure there is a sloping floor to help the rain runoff.
Check the labeling on hazardous materials
If you undertake any hazardous materials handling in your warehouse, check that the labeling is correct. Hazard communication is the second most cited infringement of OSHA’s standards.
Aisles in a warehouse must feature identification so that workers know where to store certain materials. You should also check if they are wide enough for forklift operators to safely travel through and complete the required tasks with the required safe clearances.
Check storage racks
Your storage racks should be clean and free from damage. You should also check that they are stacked in the correct, safe manner in the storage areas. The height of the pile should not be so great that bundles of goods can topple.
Take a look at the loading bay
In the loading bay, there should be ongoing checks of forklifts and other vehicles too. You could add these tasks into your general warehouse inspection or delegate them and include an inspection of the paperwork in your checklist. You should also ensure the loading bay is free from obstructions and that you can open open loading dock doors without issue.
Inspect the stairs
Do you have railings in places where you should? If not, this is a fall hazard. You should also take time to compare all staircases to see that they are of a similar design and height. This helps prevent trips from workers who are expecting one staircase to be like the others as they climb to platforms and walkways. Are there guardrails installed to prevent falls?
Are workers using the correct PPE?
Each task requires its own specialist PPE and you should make sure that all workers are wearing the items they should.
Is there a record of tool and equipment inspections?
There should be regular inspections of tools and equipment to make sure they are safe and effective. As part of your checklist, you should ask to see the documentation of these inspections.
You can find interactive checklist templates in the Capptions Direct Marketplace here. You can find printable checklist templates here:
Here are some best practices and tips for maintaining warehouse safety:
As packaging warehouses tend to feature a lot of items stacked up high with people working below, workers definitely need to wear a hard hat in a warehouse.
These are the main types of Personal Protective Equipment used in warehouses:
|How it Helps
|Protect the worker from falling objects.
|Prevent heavy packages from crushing the worker’s toes.
|Makes the worker more visible to co-workers, including those moving around in vehicles.
|Special gripping gloves help workers keep hold of items when moving and lifting.
|Protect the worker from mechanical and electrical hazards.
A warehouse safety checklist is important for making sure you cover all bases in your inspection. You don’t want to miss a vital area out, only for a safety failure to occur that could have been prevented. Make certain that your checklist is comprehensive and detailed and that you use the data to improve and finesse your safety program.
If you are using EHS software like Capptions, you can create detailed reports on your safety efforts and help to avoid future accidents and incidents, all while saving the time consumed with manual data entry. Speaking of this, check out how Ardagh Group cut their audit time by four with the help of Capptions.