The Vital Role of PPE in Warehousing Operations

As businesses strive to promote the well-being of their workforce and retain scarce labor resources, correctly selecting and effectively utilizing personal protective equipment (PPE) becomes a critical part of a robust health and safety program.

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Warehouses can be hazardous spaces by nature; bustling with activity and heavy machinery, they require added proactive measures to mitigate the risk of injuries. As businesses strive to promote the well-being of their workforce and retain scarce labor resources, correctly selecting and effectively utilizing personal protective equipment (PPE) becomes a critical part of a robust health and safety program.

Why PPE in food logistics is important

The handling and storage of food products within the supply chain presents its own distinct challenges and potential hazards. Recent research conducted by Penn State University highlights the challenges faced by workers in the U.S. food supply chain, including a notable number of hospitalizations due to injury on the job. The study examined OHSA’s severe injury report database from 2015-2020 to understand injuries related to grocery wholesalers, retailers, warehousing, and storage operations. It found that severe injuries increased nearly 66% over the six years. Lower extremity fractures were the most prevalent injury, commonly caused by transportation-related incidents such as pedestrian-vehicle incidents.

The study hypothesized that a reason for the high rates of injury in the food and beverage sector may be a result of the systems being used to load and transport packaged products. The pandemic also put increased pressure on supply chains to deliver quickly, which can be a threat to safety. Findings such as those from the Pennsylvania State University study demonstrate the importance of food and beverage facilities prioritizing safety measures throughout the food supply chain to protect worker well-being and minimize injuries.

Staying up to date on best-in-class PPE offerings

Safety solutions provided to employees must adapt to their changing needs and environments. In warehouses, you may find slippery surfaces, uneven walkways, and cluttered spaces, which increase the likelihood of accidents like slips, trips and falls. However, by utilizing PPE such as slip-resistant footwear, high-visibility vests, and helmets can help businesses proactively lessen the risks associated with these hazards. Additionally, safety harnesses and fall arrest systems help provide essential protection for employees who are working on a forklift, for example, helping to minimize fall-related injuries.

Additionally, industrial environments like meat processing plants involve loud machinery to get the job done. While hazardous noise may not cause adverse effects immediately, exposure to it can add up over time. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 22 million workers are exposed to hazardous noise each year. Industrial hearing protection is essential to long-term employee safety.

Respiratory protection shields can help protect employees from airborne particles and gasses they may encounter at work, while gas and flame protection can help significantly reduce the threat of injuries from explosions and fires. Hand protection, encompassing gloves with cut-resistant materials, helps minimize the likelihood of lacerations and other hand injuries.

PPE is essential to workplace culture

PPE is foundational to developing a workplace culture that encourages workers to make safe decisions and builds an atmosphere of trust. When employees feel that their well-being is a top priority for their employer, they become more motivated and engaged in their work.

In some cases, providing reliable PPE can lower a business's turnover rate. Studies show that the number of individuals citing safety as a reason for leaving their positions was considerably higher in 2021 compared to 2019. By providing a wide array of appropriate PPE and nurturing a culture of safety, businesses can attract and retain skilled workers, ultimately helping them improve productivity and operational efficiency.

Investment outweighs the risk associated with injury

There can be financial benefits to emphasizing worker safety too. By prioritizing the prevention of workplace injuries through proper selection and use of high-performance PPE, businesses can realize substantial long-term cost savings in the form of reduced medical expenses, workers' compensation claims, and potential legal liabilities.

Research from the National Safety Council indicates that the total cost of U.S. work-related injuries in 2021 was $167 billion. By minimizing the occurrence of such incidents through the proper selection and use of reliable PPE, companies can lessen these financial burdens and support uninterrupted operations, optimizing productivity and thus helping to protect the long-term financial health of the business.

As the food supply chain continues to evolve, maintaining the integrity, quality, and efficiency of food logistics operations is critical to supporting the overall health of the global supply chain.