Create A Safe Working Environment

Training is key to preventing accidents.

Putting Safety Guidelines In Place

By Larry Couperthwaite and Elizabeth McClatchy

Employers work hard to avoid the costs, damages and injuries that may occur with warehouse and forklift equipment operations, in addition to meeting standards set by the U.S. Department of Labor and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration).

In spite of this, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) investigates forklift-related injuries and deaths each year, indicating that many workers and employers may still not be aware of some of the risks, or are not following the procedures set forth in OSHA standards, consensus standards, or equipment manufacturer's guidelines:

"Each year, tens of thousands of injuries related to powered industrial trucks (PIT), or forklifts, occur in U.S. workplaces. Many employees are injured when lift trucks are inadvertently driven off loading docks, lifts fall between docks and an unsecured trailer, they are struck by a lift truck, or when they fall while on elevated pallets and tines. Most incidents also involve property damage, including damage to overhead sprinklers, racking, pipes, walls, and machinery. Unfortunately, most employee injuries and property damage can be attributed to lack of safe operating procedures, lack of safety-rule enforcement, and insufficient or inadequate

As a quick safety reminder, we offer the following tips and guidelines to keep your employees safe and your costs down.

Safety Guidelines
1. Make sure all employees have up-to-date, equipment-specific training and warehouse safety training. Lack of training can turn a 10-second job into a $10,000 + nightmare.
2. Take the time to perform pre-shift inspections. This is the time to identify any potential leaks or other hazards. Never cut corners on safety.
3. Always wear the appropriate clothing when at work in a warehouse. In addition to your company's dress code, wear protective footwear, not athletic shoes. Remove rings and jewelry and keep long hair tied back. Jewelry and long hair can become caught in machinery or equipment causing injury.
4. Pedestrians, beware. Watch out for vehicles, especially at doorways and ends of aisles.
5. Equipment operators: watch out for pedestrians and other vehicles, again particularly around aisles. When backing up, watch the direction of travel for potential hazards (people, equipment, etc.), not just the load.
6. Forklift operators: utilize your horn. It is better to make too much noise than not enough. In a busy warehouse, back-up horns can become "normal" background noise, lulling other workers into false comfort zones. Wake them up with that horn!
7. Always use the right equipment for the job, especially when picking up odd-shaped loads.
8. Use equipment for its intended use. Make sure wheels are completely locked on rolling ladders. Maintain your center of gravity when on a ladder; do no lean past your belt buckle. Forklifts, pallet jacks and hand trucks are not designed for passengers. Remember safety is everyone's job.
9. Stack loads properly to prevent them from falling on equipment or pedestrians.
Fire prevention is a daily activity. Do not stack merchandise near sprinkler heads. Get the proper training for handling fire hoses and extinguishers. Memorize the PASS technique for fire extinguishers. Pull the pin. Aim the nozzle. Squeeze the trigger. Sweep from side-to-side. Never take chances with fires. Always call the fire department in case of fire.
10. Selection of the proper lift truck: If high-stacking is required, select a lift truck that can stack high and turn sharply in aisles with no loss of stability.
11. Select lift trucks that can be adapted to the tasks at hand, and to the personal driving style of the operator. Can the lift truck be adjusted for driver skill level? Make sure operators have visibility in both travel directions without extreme contortions.
12. Select lift trucks where all the controls are easily accessible and easy to operate, allowing the average driver to work for eight hours without tiring or being subjected to stresses that may lead to strain injuries.
13. Select lift trucks that provide an integrated safety switch in the floor, flashing warning lights and back-up alarms and beepers.
14. Select lift trucks where platforms cannot be raised and lowered without the driver on board.
15. Select lift trucks with reinforced bumpers to prevent damage.
16. Consider selecting lift trucks that provide the newer PIN code systems, which prevent unauthorized use of the truck. Note that it is a violation of Federal law for anyone under 18 years of age to operate a forklift, or for anyone over 18 years of age who is not properly trained and certified to do so.
17. "Walk-behind" lift trucks with two or more inches of ground clearance help to prevent foot injuries.

Couperthwaite is president, Atlet USA, Anaheim, CA and McClatchy is president, Safety Center Inc., Sacramento, CA.

'Conveying' A Safer Environment

Over 50 workplace fatalities a year occur where conveyors are the primary source of injury, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. Workplace injuries account for nearly 25 percent of all workers' compensation claims and up to 35 percent of all associated costs.

When it comes to efficiency and company productivity, conveyors are key, but when misused both workers and companies suffer.

Ed Stairman, president of A Plus Warehouse, Lynn, MA, offers these conveyor safety tips that can save companies time, money and most importantly, help employers fulfill occupational health and safety obligations.

Inspect your conveyors on a regular basis. Contact the manufacturer or an outside engineering firm who is certified to inspect your conveyors and employs an all-inclusive checklist. In addition, plant managers and operators should conduct regular inspections on a weekly or monthly schedule.

Netting or other protective guarding should be installed to protect against falling products. Protection should also be installed in areas where employees or pedestrians may be walking. Climbing on or over conveyors must be prohibited. If employees must cross over a conveyor, stairs and railing should be constructed or a section of the conveyor must fold up to accommodate safe access.

Install an emergency shutoff device to prevent back-ups, over-stacking and falling product at the ends of conveyors. Over-stacking exposes employees to manual material handling, which can cause stoppage and product damage.

Provide appropriate lighting and flooring surfaces in the area surrounding conveyors. Special floor mats can enhance employee comfort and safety. Confirm that conveyor height is adjustable at both the feeding and removal end to accommodate employee height. Adjustable pallet stackers further reduce the need for bending and lifting.

Post safety signage and install alarms and warning lights to alert employees when the system starts and stops. Confirm that all emergency controls are fully functional.

The Conveyors Equipment Manufacturers Association (CEMA) offers safety signage and other materials for safe conveyor operations. The Naples, FL-based trade association has developed a safety program to address the needs for safe application, use and maintenance of conveyor systems of all types. Products available include:
• Safety labels that graphically alert "caution," "warning" and "danger;"
• Safety label placement guidelines;
• Safety posters;
• Safety training videos for unit handling, screw, drag and bucket elevator conveyors;
• Technical report on noise hazard reduction;
• Design and safe application of conveyor crossovers.

Go to CEMA's website for more information:

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