Over the past year, warehouses have had to ramp up production. With increased demands, quicker turnarounds and staffing decreases, injuries are on the rise.
As of 2020, there were more warehouse and shipping accidents per year than in construction, service and transportation & shipping combined. As the need for more warehouse services continues to increase, it appears that the injury rate will grow as well.
Thankfully, there are many things you can do to help keep these numbers as low as possible. So now, let’s talk about what’s happening with workplace injuries, why it’s occurring and ways for you to prevent your warehouse from becoming a statistic.
The Hard Facts
When it comes to how employees get injured on the warehouse floor, the cause can often be attributed to one of these incidents:
- Malfunctions with heavy machinery
- Falling objects
- Slips and falls
- Pallet rack collapses
- Ergonomic strain caused by overuse
- Heat-related indoor illnesses
We’ve done some research on workplace injuries and we found that they are trending upwards. While these are commonly recognized as dangers, many warehouses still don’t have the right protection or proactive measures to prevent them. The numbers don’t lie:
- Warehouse workplace deaths are the highest they’ve been in 12 years.
- There were a reported 213,100 warehouse-related injuries and 8,300 warehouse related illnesses reported in 2020 alone.
- In general, workplace injuries cost American businesses $170 billion each year.
- In 2019, the warehouse sector saw the second-highest number of fatal work injuries out of any industry.
Workplace injuries are nothing new, but it’s alarming that the number of occurrences is increasing rapidly.
What’s The Cause?
There are several reasons why this trend is increasing, but employee fatigue, a lack of adequate tools and the fallout of COVID-19 are the biggest.
Out of the three, some experts have surmised that the impact of COVID-19 is directly affecting employee health, but not in the way you might think.
As more people were adapting to a stay-at-home lifestyle, online sales increased dramatically. An online sales boom means you need more employees to work in the warehouses to process orders. And thus, having more employees in the warehouse increases the chances of workplace injuries occurring due to workspace congestion and other factors.
Studies also show that one of the biggest causes of workplace injury is fatigue.
For example, let’s say you couldn’t hire more employees to handle your increase in orders. In that case, you might be asking your workers to work longer shifts to compensate. When workers work longer hours to fulfill orders, fatigue will inevitably set in. Tired workers will show a decrease in decision-making ability, productivity, slower reaction times and lowered attention to detail. As a result, they may forget to abide by safety protocols and make errors in judgment.
Inadequate Technology and Training
Without the right tools, your employees simply will not be safe on the floor. If your machines, handlers or transportation tools are outdated or on the fritz, that immediately increases the likelihood of your team getting hurt.
Furthermore, even the right tools aren’t helpful if your employees aren’t sure how to use them. Provide mandatory training sessions to ensure your team knows the ins and outs of the heavy-duty machinery they’re using, keeping themselves and everyone else safe.
If you combine all of these factors, they create dangerous working conditions. Luckily for you, there are steps you can take to lessen the likelihood of injuries.
How to Prevent Warehouse Accidents
There are several things you can do right now to keep your team safe on the floor. We’ve previously rounded up all of our top tips here, but here are a few quick hits.
Based on a 2017 Workplace Safety Index, the most common workplace injuries are slips, trips, falls and overexertion. To avoid those mishaps:
- Clean all work areas throughout the day, reduce clutter, and create enough space for employees to move around.
- Avoid overstocking your warehouse by lowering the amount of excess inventory you carry.
- Have safety gear readily available.
Supply Proper Tools
Even well-organized warehouses aren’t completely safe from accidents. Providing employees with the proper tools for success allows them to complete their jobs safely and efficiently. Industrial manipulators can help employees by reducing fatigue and physical strain from lifting heavy objects.
Provide Employee Training
Providing one round of employee safety training isn’t enough. It’s always a good idea to keep safety top of mind, and you can do that in several ways:
- Host bi-weekly or monthly safety precaution reviews with your employees.
- Make OSHA training mandatory for all employees and staff, even ones who do not work in the warehouses.
- Have a dedicated warehouse safety team whose goal is to create and update protocols.
While spending company time to rehash safety goals may seem like a misuse of time, it’ll go a long way towards reducing workplace injuries.
For more information on how to fortify your warehouses to keep your employees safe, check out our handy 5 Steps to Optimizing Your Warehouse guide today.
Invest in Material Handling Machines
If your employees are working to take on additional responsibilities on top of their normal tasks due to fewer employees, your team members could be at risk.
In these circumstances, it’s time to consider material handling tools that can manage these tasks for them, like industrial manipulators.
An industrial manipulator is a machine with a rigid steel manipulator arm that allows for complex pneumatic tilts and rotations.
For example, Dalmec industrial manipulators are often used when:
- A product is too heavy for a person to move manually.
- A product must be moved to a location that is not easily or quickly accessible for a person to reach (such as a very tall shelf).
- A person will be put at risk for injury if they move a product manually.
- A person will quickly fatigue from moving products manually.
- A high volume of products must be moved in a timely fashion.
An industrial manipulator can help your team work quickly and save you money in the long run by reducing the risk of injury, lowering downtime and potentially avoiding costly court cases.
Protect Your Employees
Let’s make 2021 a safer year than 2020. Staying proactive about By following the steps listed above, you will not only provide better working conditions for all your employees but help increase your warehouse’s productivity and efficiency.
If you think your warehouse would be a safer environment with the help of industrial manipulators, contact us today. We’d be happy to find a unique solution that works for your warehouse.