Many manufacturers are focused on ramping up production. This is designed to help them bounce back from losses during 2020 and 2021, to compete with other companies as eCommerce continues to boom and prepare for the upcoming holiday season.
Unfortunately, this has led to an increase in workplace injuries as employee safety begins to be overlooked.
While slips, trips and falls still lead the way in potential accidents, there are other major disasters waiting to happen that could be even more deadly. This includes items falling off shelves, pallet injuries or even worse, storage units falling on employees.
Don’t put your employees or your bottom line at risk. Here’s how manufacturers can plan ahead to avoid storage and shelving accidents.
Prioritize Popular Items
In the past, we’ve how manufacturers should discuss with their facility leaders which picking method that works best for your company. For example:
- Wave Picking, which is designed so an employee can pick items to fill one order through one trip through the warehouse. Wave pickers also have certain scheduled hours where they can complete these picks, so as to not interrupt other warehouse processes like receiving or shipping.
- Batch Picking, which is designed so an employee can pick items to fill multiple orders (in batches) through one trip around the warehouse.
- Zone Picking, which is designed to assign employees to certain zones, where they are only responsible for picking order items in their zone.
- Discrete Order Picking, which is designed like wave picking, but without any scheduled windows for completion.
These methods see success when popular items are placed close to packing and shipping areas for easy access. But this method also applies to storage.
It’s ineffective for your facilities to store items that are always selling out in hard-to-reach places. Keeping them too high or too far back increases the likelihood of employees getting hurt.
Best practices for manufacturers include consistently reviewing your facilities’ inventory levels and their storage. Not only will this ensure you’re keeping your fast-selling items close to packing and shipping areas, but you can check that all of your products are being stored safely.
Stay Aware of Weight Restrictions
Manufacturers want to make the most of their warehouse floor space, as it helps their bottom line. But your storage strategy should bear in mind potential weight limits for both storage shelves and pallets.
It’s most likely a no-brainer for your employees to not put heavy items on the top shelf. The problem is, though, the definition of heavy items changes with each person. Some employees may be easily able to handle heavier items from higher shelves without issue. Others may struggle and end up being injured by a falling item.
This doesn’t just apply to items. Not every storage system can support the same number of products.
As a manufacturer, it’s important to check in with your warehouse leadership about their productivity and organizational status. If a facility becomes unorganized, this could lead to items being put wherever they fit, despite their size or weight. This can be avoided if it’s clear to facility employees how much weight your storage systems can handle.
Don’t overlook storage system and pallet weight limits, and consistently check how well your shelving is secured.
Above, we mentioned the importance of your facility leaders keeping tracking of pallet weight limits. If products are overweight, they could be too heavy for pallets and fall apart when being transported by forklifts. That’s a nightmare for manufacturers who could lose money on damaged products or get embroiled in workers’ compensation claims.
But even if pallets are stationary, it’s crucial to have enough space between them for employees to safely move and weave through them.
If there isn’t enough space, your employees won’t be able to easily reach the products they need to pick. They may also get caught in these too small spaces, leading to trips, scrapes, sprained ankles or other injuries.
Now, adequate lighting is crucial for the entirety of your warehouse. That’s a must for manufacturers to employ in their facilities. But pallets may be stored in back areas of the warehouse, in spaces with less traffic. Don’t overlook lighting in these spaces. In areas that could have less breathing room, your team members will need ample light to safely move between pallets and pick the items that t need.
Even if your shelves are sufficiently secured, it’s a good idea to implement other safety features to avoid potential injuries, like guard rails and racking protection posts.
Racking protection posts help larger machines avoid potential crashes, which could quickly make storage systems unstable and present a fall risk. They can protect both larger shelving systems and pallet areas, as either one of them could be dangerous for employees in the event of a collision.
Wire cages are made of mesh that can protect free-standing storage shelves or other important products and equipment. Not only are they highly secure (giving you a safe place to keep valuable items or important technology), but they can reduce the likelihood of items falling on employees, or larger machines running into shelves or pallets of products.
Don’t forget about proper signage for your shelves and pallets. Signage can be multi-purpose. Not only does it allow your employees to quickly find and pick the products they need, but they can also be used to identify potentially dangerous areas where extra caution is required. Again, precautions like this can keep your manufacturing company out of devastating workers’ compensation cases.
Training and Safety Items
Shelving safety doesn’t stop at prioritizing products, checking weight requirements and making sure shelves are safely secured. As manufacturing leaders, you can implement training protocols to be followed throughout your facilities, along with mandating/providing ample safety gear and training.
It’s essential that your facility leaders consistently review the following with their employees:
- What types of hazards your warehouse has (ex. large machinery, harmful chemicals, conveyor belts, metal splashes, etc.)
- An introduction or review of your warehouse’s main technologies or machines.
- How to identify and handle warehouse hazards (ex. fires, chemical spills, ill-stored products, etc.
And your facility’s training should include either a review of your facility’s storage practices and how to safely interact with storage systems, both shelving and pallet areas.
You can also help your employees stay safe in the case of an unavoidable emergency with safety gear. This includes high-quality helmets, protective goggles and even straps for those who wear glasses, brightly colored vests, gloves and even kneepads.
These methods can certainly help with keeping your facility employees safe from potentially falling shelves or injuries from storage systems. But remember, there are also pieces of technology that can reduce the likelihood of injury even more.
Material handlers like industrial manipulators can reduce the likelihood of injury by letting the handlers move and transport products. This keeps employees away from heavy items and allows them to quickly store items at any height. That’s why they’ve become a natural choice for manufacturers when looking for tools to boost productivity while maintaining a safe environment.
Our material handlers have a rigid steel arm that can complete complex pneumatic tilts and rotations, allowing them to:
If you have any questions about how industrial manipulators can improve your warehouse’s overall safety, contact Dalmec today. Our team will be happy to discuss your options.