Businesses operating across the UK will operate warehouses in which their staff are expected to be kept safe and free from harm, but there are a number of common hazards all companies and individuals need to be aware when working in this type of environment.
The major risks to be aware of
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) deals with multiple cases each year of individuals seriously injured in warehouses across the UK and therefore all staff need to have their wits about them at all times.
One of the most common issues individuals need to be aware of is the potential slip or trip hazards in the area they are working. This can be as a result of loose material such as sawdust, spilled liquids, unnecessary steps or ridges in the floor, boxes and a lack of visibility in darkened areas.
In order to combat these risks, it is important for all warehouses to be kept as clean and tidy as possible, with any potential slip or trip hazards quickly highlighted and cleaned up in order to make the environment as safe as possible for everyone.
Meanwhile, many warehouses will also utilise forklifts or other pallet-moving vehicles and these items can present a serious danger to staff if not used properly.
In areas where vehicles are likely to be in motion, all staff should be made aware of this fact, while the drivers themselves must take considerable responsibility for ensuring that whenever they are moving there are no obstacles or individuals in the way that could be damaged or hurt.
Fires also have a potential for proving not only extremely damaging to merchandise, but also of being fatal, especially when they take place in an enclosed environment such as a warehouse.
In order to combat this risk, all fire exits should be well marked and kept free from obstruction, while staff should be advised on exit strategies in the event of a blaze.
Finally, a lack of proper safety education remains one of the biggest issues surrounding warehouse injuries every year, meaning companies must take the provision of training seriously and ensure their staff have all the knowledge needed to keep them safe from harm.
Don’t be blase about risk
The HSE has prosecuted myriad businesses in recent years regarding inadequate safety provision in warehouses up and down the country, but one case in particular highlights the considerable dangers workers face when companies do not take their responsibilities seriously.
Grimsby Crown Court heard in May 2012 how a warehouseman and forklift truck driver was fatally crushed following the collapse of a row of steel coils, with a combined weight of more than five tonnes.
The incident took place at the premises of haulage provider ABC (Grimsby) and saw veteran worker Alan Burr killed when a row of coils he had been stacking fell on top of him. As the first fell it created a domino effect bringing down others with it.
A later investigation revealed the manner in which the coils were stacked was not conducive to their stability, but staff had never been advised on a safe manner for doing so.
Following the hearing, HSE inspector Denise Fotheringham commented: “Narrow banded coils can be unstable when stored on roll end as they can collapse in a domino effect and that, very sadly, is exactly what happened. ABC had been storing this type of steel coil since April 2009 but had given no training to employees about how to handle and store them safely.
“This loss of life could have been avoided if sufficient instruction, training and the provision of inexpensive coil racks – which work on the same simple principle as a toast rack – had been provided by the company.”
ABC (Grimsby) was fined a total of GBP 25,000 following Mr Burr’s tragic death. It highlights the considerable risks all workers face when entering the warehouse, as well as the considerable consequences both for businesses and individuals when proper health and safety protocol is not adhered to.