Material Handling: There Is No Substitute for Safety

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Updated on May 13, 2019

Material Handling: There Is No Substitute for Safety

It’s getting late and you still have that last shipment to get out of your loading dock. By ignoring “minor” safety practices, the truck will be loaded and ready to go faster (and so will you). You spin your forklift around and floor it to pick up the next pallet . . . and then, it happens. Instead of checking the mirrors for obstructions, you hit the accelerator only to hear a loud crash. Instead of throwing back a brew with the boys, you are filling out reports and hoping you still have a job tomorrow.

According to the Material Handling Institute and OSHA, warehouses are magnets for accidents. Between moving vehicles and machinery, combined with repetitive lifting, material handling workers rank among the highest in workman’s comp claims. This is why practicing good safety habits is critical for maintaining an efficient warehouse operation. Here are some valuable tips on keeping your workplace safe.

Maintain a clean and even floor space. Warehouses are frequently susceptible to dampness from spills or temperature changes making floors slippery. Foreign materials on the floor or uneven surfaces add to the dangers of slipping and tripping. Sweeping up materials, repairing potential tripping points and the addition of anti-slip products go a long way towards keeping employees safe.

Train your forklift operators. The forklift is a modern material handling wonder when used properly. It’s an accident waiting to happen in the hands of an inexperienced operator. Following simple safety procedures such as not driving faster than 5 mph when carrying a load; watching for other vehicles or foot traffic; and awareness of and adjusting to the condition of the surface, all lead to increased safety. However, the most important aspect of forklift use is proper maintenance of the vehicle. This eliminates preventable issues resulting from maintaining the forklift and allows your operator to focus on other potential hazards in the warehouse.

Be aware of your surroundings. The loading and unloading of product, makes for a constant stream of traffic in most warehouses. A momentary distraction cannot only disrupt traffic flow, but cause serious injury. Always be aware of your surroundings. Warehouse injuries are preventable when you pay attention and anticipate potentially hazardous situations.

Incorporate ergonomic equipment use with proper lifting technique. Back injuries account for the largest portion of material handling claims due to repetitive lifting or lifting objects improperly. Helping employees understand the physics of lifting is important, but providing ergonomic resources including lift tables, hand trucks and support belts not only reduces injury but improves efficiency.

Properly install and maintain pallet racks. The safe and efficient use of pallet racking begins prior to installation. Select racking that meets the requirements for the products stored in the racks as it relates to product size and weight. Close enough may not be safe enough.

Pallet racks are extremely durable. However even durable products require ongoing care. Racks need regular inspection to ensure the structure remains sound. Simple things such as tightening bolts and inspecting for damage can make the difference between years of trouble-free material handling and a potential disaster. Adding protective measures including bollards and guardrails prevent damage from wayward forklifts and keep employees safe too.

Unfortunately, pallet racks do incur damage and when that happens, you need to do something quick. Here at East Coast Storage Equipment, we specialize in maintaining and repairing pallet racking. To learn more about this service, please contact one of our knowledgeable representatives.


Paul SchroederPaul Schroeder has served the material handling industry for 25 years — starting out as a marketing communications manager for a major plastics company. You can learn more about Paul on his LinkedIn page (www.linkedin.com/in/pauljschroeder), website (http://pschroedcom.com), or on Twitter (@schroedcom)


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