Warehouses are a centre of activity, with a flurry of circulating goods and moving vehicles, which means they usually have a higher potential for accidents than areas with more limited functions. Major hazards are usually identifiable – however it’s the lesser known dangers that can be the deadliest.

Although there has been a long-term downward trend in the rate of fatal injuries, in 2015/16 a total of 144 workers were killed as a result of a workplace accident. That’s still 144 too many.

The wide variety of tasks that warehouse workers undertake means that they are also susceptible to a host of non-fatal injuries. In 2015/16, Labour Force Survey found that there was an estimated 621,000 workers who self-reported a non-fatal injury at work. The most common included being injured while handling, lifting or carrying, slipping or tripping, and being hit by a moving object. This led to an estimated 4.5 million working days lost.

As an employer, it’s up to you to take reasonable steps to prevent accidents or harm to your employees. Failure to do so could lead to serious consequences – including fines, disqualification and even imprisonment.

Managing health and safety in the warehouse doesn’t have to be complicated, costly or time-consuming – you just need to identify, assess and control potential risks.

Moving vehicles

One of your biggest risks is unavoidable: vehicles moving in and around the warehouse. The inevitability of vehicle movement requires a safety system to lessen the likelihood of accidents. A system like VeroSafe, for example, uses location aware safety alerts, which take into account the location of other workers and fixed warehouse equipment. As a result, if a driver gets too close to an object or person, an alarm triggers, warning the driver of the collision danger. By recording location data from  real time monitoring, the system can also be used to analyse incidents and near misses to help eliminate black spots and prevent accidents from occurring.

Slip and trips

According to findings from HSE, around a quarter of major injuries in the warehousing industry are caused by workers slipping or tripping. Loose materials, poorly lit areas, liquids on the floor, and steps are all common hazards that lead to slip and fall injuries. Always clearly mark areas that are being cleaned, use anti-slip marking tape wherever possible and keep aisles decluttered. You can also eliminate a significant portion of your warehouse’s slip risks by maintaining your equipment properly, and, if you haven’t already done so, make sure you establish a policy that requires employees to clean spillages or contamination immediately.

Manual handling

Manual handling causes over a third of all workplace injuries. Employees in every industry, but especially the warehousing industry, experience some kind of minor work-related aches and pains. It’s estimated that back and shoulder pain makes up approximately 40 to 50% of all claims filed by warehouse workers. These include work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as pain and injuries to arms, legs and joints, and repetitive strain injuries of various sorts. Good handling techniques for lifting are essential, and that is why it is imperative to train your employees in safe manual handling. Find out more here.

Falling objects

Most warehouses store objects at height. While this is good for maximising space, it also raises the chances of workers being struck by falling objects. Luckily, avoiding this hazard is a simple case of ensuring heavy loads are shrink wrapped / banded and stacked neatly, as well as checking you have strong and sturdy racking that is in good condition. It’s also important to inspect pallets and stillages before each use to make sure they are in good condition. Damaged pallets can lead to shifting loads and falling objects.

Warehousing is a complex industry that can expose workers to a multitude of risks, therefore health and safety should be proactively managed just like any other part of the business.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1991 require employers to put in place appropriate health and safety arrangements. To find out more on how to make sure your business complies with health and safety law, check out this useful guide from HSE.