As stock levels rise and fall, pallets migrate, vehicles move, and workers clock in and out, it can be difficult to identify the areas which pose the most risk to your employees. Spread across a large warehouse or multiple warehouses, proactive safety enhancements can sometimes feel ineffective. Where are the risk areas? What should be your priority? The right monitoring data can help you identify at-risk areas and confirm if existing safety measures are doing their job.
As the latest Health and Safety Executive statistics report records over 61,000 cases of workplace injury due to moving objects, here are three recommendations based on a warehouse with moving vehicles.
Analyse traffic flow
Vehicle monitoring can help pinpoint the location of any vehicle in the warehouse at a given time. As well as providing invaluable information on the productivity and pace of vehicles, monitoring data can help build a bigger picture of vehicle journeys over a period of time. By combining multiple journeys, you can effectively map the flow of traffic from inbound to outbound passage.
Once you have visibility of single vehicle and fleet-wide journey patterns as well as speed, you can analyse the flow to identify where your workers may be at risk. For example, if a pathway narrows and forms a bottleneck, workers may become caught in a tight area with little manoeuvrability in the event of an emergency. Similarly, if a loading bay is overcrowded at certain times of the day, you may find workers are overwhelmed by many vehicles in one place with multiple potential hazards.
Whatever the particular circumstance of a warehouse, there will always be flow improvements to make. Common solutions include:
- widening pathways
- reducing speed limits to restrict the number of vehicles in one area at a time
- moving pedestrian walkways
Keep an eye on capacity
Too much stock can be a headache for many reasons, but too many pallets can also introduce safety issues. Overloaded racks, for example, can become unbalanced and the endless shifting of pallets on and off a rack can weaken its structural integrity over time.
Agree, and make workers aware of, a maximum capacity for each rack by weight and size to ensure workers aren’t at risk from unstable racked pallets. Although many systems focus on monitoring the pallets themselves, consider monitoring the racks too. The right monitoring system should be customisable enough to determine what you want to know, for example, if a rack has too many pallets or the pallets are too close together, as well as if workers are nearby.
Go behind the data
Although quantitative data can provide an overall picture of what is happening on the warehouse floor, the most effective risk analysis is supported by qualitative research. The data provided by monitoring tools can only show you when and where something is happening. For example, when a vehicle is moving and where a worker is unloading a pallet. However, it cannot always tell you why something is happening.
If the data shows a bottleneck, speak to your colleagues, get out of on the warehouse floor, find out why vehicles are having to slow down. By combining different data sources, you can build a more comprehensive picture of safety risks across inbound and outbound journeys. Are vehicles slowing in one corner of the warehouse because discarded packaging and waste isn’t being disposed of properly? Is there a bottleneck as drivers slow to peer round a corner because overgrown plants have created a new blindspot? Are pedestrian walkways in their most effective place? Is vehicle lighting bright enough? Are racks over capacity because their layout makes it difficult for workers to unload pallets evenly?
It’s also useful to keep in mind that the majority of pedestrian and vehicle safety monitoring systems are based on proximity alerts. If a pedestrian wearing a tag is too close to a tagged vehicle, an alert will sound. Although useful, there are limitations with this type of proximity tagging. For example, the system cannot detect if there is a safety barrier between the pedestrian and the vehicle. More advanced monitoring systems, such as the Vero Solutions safety system are designed to know the layout of your warehouse, including the location of safety barriers and guardrails, avoiding unnecessary alerts.
Take time to be proactive
Without monitoring data, knowing the situations behind each instance and how your workers react to them, your safety measures will only be so effective. But by analysing traffic flow, capacity, and human behaviour, you can pinpoint risk areas with much more confidence.