The importance of maintaining Health and Safety protocol in a warehouse or distribution centre cannot be underestimated. The kinds of activities that take place in these environments can create various types of hazards and risks to employees; however, possessing a well-rounded understanding of preventative measures and practices can certainly help in minimizing the risk.
What are the most common causes of injuries?
In warehouses and storage environments the most common injuries to workers are caused by slipping or tripping, closely followed by being injured by falls, falling objects and by manual handling.
Preventing slips and trips
The Health and Safety Executive estimates that slips and trips cost businesses around £500 million each year and advise that workers and employers follow a “Don’t just see it, sort it” motto. This means that they should endeavour to report any potential hazards and employers must arrange for them to be dealt with.
There are, however, some practical ways that you can avoid slips and trips in the work place from happening in the first place, for example by ensuring that your employees wear appropriate footwear that is well-fitted, suitable for the environment and slip-resistant.
Working environments should be kept clean and clear of obstructions and all spillages should be reported promptly. It is also important that the types of flooring, lighting and materials used in your workspace are fit for their purpose. You should consult with an expert as to the best materials to use.
Lastly, you should remember to include trips and slips in your risk assessment so that you can put effective measures in place.
Preventing injuries caused by manual handling
Every year, over 3,000 cases of handling injuries are reported – many of which could be avoided through better planning.
The Manual Handling Operations Regulations (1992) require all employers to reduce the need for harmful manual handling tasks and make adjustments to reduce the risk of injury if the task cannot be avoided.
For example it might be necessary to palletise items for storage so that they can be moved with a fork-lift truck rather than manually handled, or a portable conveyor might be installed to transport materials across a building rather than having to manually move them.
Preventing injuries caused by falls from a height
Another key cause of injuries at work is brought about by employees working at a height. As with manual handling, where possible this kind of work should be avoided but if it cannot then it must be well planned, supervised and carried out sensibly.
Mezzanine floors, for example, can be installed with handrails and edge protection to protect employees from falls and also from any falling objects.
What is the Health & Safety at Work Act?
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is an important piece of legislation that aims to secure the health and safety of employees and the public from risks in the workplace by ensuring that employers adhere to certain health and safety guidelines.
Under the law, employers are responsible for the health and safety of their workers. If employees are going to conduct their day to day duties on mezzanine flooring, for example, then it is important that an employer considers any potential risks or possible threats to their welfare and then takes steps to prevent them from happening.
The act also instructs that employers must adhere to the following:
• Adequate welfare provisions for staff at work
• Adequate training of staff to ensure health and safety
• Safe use, handling and storage of dangerous chemicals or substances
• Ensure safe entry and exit of the workplace
• Safe operation and maintenance of the working environment, plant and systems
In short, employers are given a duty “to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work” of all of its employees. However, this duty extends to employees too who also have a responsibility for keeping themselves and their colleagues safe by following health and safety guidelines provided to them during training.
How to manage Health and Safety
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations require that employers review and manage potential risks to their employees and anyone else at work. This means conducting risk assessments, planning for emergencies, training employees and sometimes health surveillance.
Employees also have a responsibility to adhere to the training and instructions given and should notify their employer if they feel there is any danger that is not being addressed.
When a business has a visit from a Health and Safety inspector, they will want to know what procedures are in place to prevent accidents, how well trained your employees are and what procedures you have in place in the event of an incident.
The Health and Safety Act requires employers to manage potential risks in the workplace. This means understanding any potential threats to their employees or the general public and finding ways to put measures in place that will stop them from happening. This usually comes in the form of a risk assessment.
Risk assessments should take place regularly, as the way that businesses operate, the tools that they use and other changing factors could mean that an old risk assessment can quickly become outdated.
The first part of performing a risk assessment is identifying any potential hazards, for example a sharp tool that could pierce the skin or a chemical that could be harmful if it is breathed in.
Next the people who might be harmed by the tools must be identified, for example a particular group of staff.
Then you must decide upon how likely the risk is and what precautions (if any) you can put in place. In this case it could be by wearing protective gloves to keep staff member’s hands safe or protective masks to avoid inhaling chemicals.
Finally, this should all be recorded and then put into action, with regular reviews to make any necessary changes.
Health and Safety policy in the workplace
It is important that an employer has a clear Health and Safety policy for both themselves and their employees to refer to. A good Health and Safety policy will begin with a clear statement of intent, which sums up the organisation’s commitment to providing safe working conditions and meeting their obligations such as training. Next it should detail who is responsible for the different aspects of Health and Safety throughout the organisation. It should include information about how risks will be assessed, precautions that need to be taken around the workplace and how accidents will be reported. It should also detail fire safety and first aid arrangements, such as fire drill procedures and who is responsible for them. An employer should endeavour to make sure that all workers are aware of the policy and understand it fully.
Putting a plan into action
Creating a Health and Safety policy is only one step toward managing Health and Safety, and the plan is no use if it is not put into action. One good way to promote Health and Safety standards is to allocate specific responsibilities to members of staff, so that they have a role to play. For example, allowing a junior member of staff to be responsible for making sure aisles are clear and nothing is left blocking them throughout the day. Standards can play a big role in helping to keep the workplace safe, so you should identify what safety standards you deem to be realistic.
Employers must make sure that staff members with responsibilities are aware of what they might encounter, how to deal with any incidents, how to record them and most importantly, how to prevent them from happening at all – if possible.
How does Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) affect me?
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1999 or PUWER for short, refers to the regulation of equipment and machinery that is used in the workplace. It is a piece of legislation which aims to make sure that equipment and machinery is safe to use and that its use does not result in the harm of their operator.
It applies to anyone who uses or controls equipment, even if they are self-employed or a non-profit business.
PUWER ensures that machinery that is used is:
• Suitable for its intended job or purpose
• Receives regular maintenance
• Inspected by a trained member of staff
• Only operated by trained individuals
The regulations require that equipment is tested every 6-12 months by a competent individual and if necessary that it is adapted in some way to make it safer to use.
Once again, it is important that a risk assessment is carried out detailing risks and ways in which they can be reduced or eliminated.
Securing a Mezzanine floor
When it comes to mezzanine flooring, it’s important that business owners look at ways that they can keep things safe for their workers. Mezzanine floors are a fantastic way to maximise the space in a warehouse, retail or other kind of unit but without the proper planning and advice it can be easy for businesses to fall short of their obligations.
As a minimum, mezzanine flooring should be fitted with handrails and edge protection
Hi-Level’s unique edge-protection system provides a functional and neat solution that integrates both a handrail and toe-plate together in one and is powder coated to give a durable finish with excellent gloss retention.
This kind of preventative measure can stop staff from injuring themselves while working at a height and prevent any important products or machinery from being damaged by a fall. Mesh panels could also be used to stop smaller objects from falling over the sides. Pallet gates are ideal for protecting staff from open areas, for example when loading pallets.
Mezzanine floors offer a perfect opportunity to maximise space for your business without the need for relocation. They can be designed with a number of safety features which make looking after your workers a priority. For more information or to discuss your needs visit our website or call us +44 (0)1730 237 190.