OSHA has released the top safety violations for 2011. It’s not a big departure from recent years, but still worth noting for industrial operations. How many of these potential violations are in areas that are present in your operation? OSHA releases this information in part to allow employers to do the kind of self-inspection and auditing that might help avoid issues.
Most of these violations (and the injuries/costs that accompany them) are preventable.
According to OSHA, training is the key to forklift safety, and there is fundamental agreement on that. Training can and does make a serious dent in the high injury rates suffered due to industrial traffic. Training must happen, and it must be repeated. But that begs this question: Why has training failed to move the needle when it comes to serious forklift related injuries? The numbers seem to have stabilized at an average of 100 deaths per year, and have stayed consistently at that level for years.
Sheet metal is one of the most difficult handling challenges out there. It’s simultaneously bulky, heavy, somewhat flexible, and prone to damage if handled incorrectly. It often has sharp edges and corners, making it dangerous to manually move and turn. At higher gauges or in bundles, it requires forklifts, cranes or scissor lifts for safe and effective handling. Even a thin sheet, if it’s 4 x 8, can be too much for a single worker to handle.
Yet, sheet metal is commonly used in manufacturing and fabrication, so finding better sheet metal storage and handling methods is key. What can you do to handle it better?
Pallet racks are frequently subject to abuse, and even the toughest rack will need some cautious handling, processes, guarding equipment, and other help to remain in service. Racks can be overloaded, hit by heavy forklifts, misloaded, and otherwise impacted. These are some tips to help you avoid the frustration, expense, and danger of rack damage.
Take a look at your conveyor – do you think it’s safe? Are there sufficient guardrails? Are operators wearing loose clothing? Are visitors allowed near running lines? Because conveyor seems safe at a glance, it’s an often-overlooked hazard. Used correctly, of course, it is a safe way to increase productivity.
In an industrial environment, intersections can be dangerous. With fast-moving workers who are busy and probably distracted, and fast-moving forklifts that may have loads elevated that can obstruct the driver’s view, corners, ends of rack rows, and intersections can be the cause of many accidents. Whether it’s a worker walking and carrying a load, or a forklift on its way to the next pick, the chances of collisions, injuries, and damages are greater at intersections than most anywhere else. What are your options when it comes to making your intersections safer?
Although this incident took place in a big-box warehouse store, it could have happened in any number of industrial warehouses across the country. The presence of order pickers, shoppers, or others in a rack aisle is a top safety concern, in particular if the aisle on the other side of the rack row is being restocked. Most likely this accident was caused by a push from the opposite side of the racks.
In any case, a tragic accident was narrowly avoided by sheer luck.
If possible, these kinds of accidents should be guarded against with items such as rack safety nets or wire mesh safety panels. This isn’t always possible, since lifts may need access to both sides of a rack aisle.
Another thing you can do is try to remove pickers from aisles where trucks are working the other side. If they are executing each-pick or carton-pick from lower bays, is it possible to move those to their own area of the warehouse, away from lift truck traffic?
In the case of poorly constructed storage, it’s a matter of process. Inspect pallets before they go into the rack. Are they stacked for stability? Shrinkwrap or band them to shore them up. Don’t allow carton picks from those pallets if possible, as that can destabilize the load. If you must pick from them, bring them down, pick, re-balance, and restock them. That’s time consuming compared to a quick carton pick, but given what almost happened here, and what could happen any day in any warehouse, it’s a small price to pay.
You can also clear both sides of a bay when either side is being loaded or unloaded by forklift. This helps you keep people safe even if there is a spill. Of course training lift drivers to avoid these types of “push” accidents is mandatory, but you can’t count on training alone when there is this kind of danger to people in the next aisle.
Since 25% of all warehouse injuries occur at the loading dock, warehousing and manufacturing operations need to pay close attention to this area. Shipping and receiving docks both suffer similar problems in that they are bustling places. At peak times they can get very busy, and when people are pressed for time, they become careless. So, what are the common injury types, and what can you do to avoid them?
Temperature gradients occur when air is not moving sufficiently to keep rising hot air mixed with descending cool air, creating warmer temperatures at the ceiling and cooler temperatures at the floor, with temperature variations equal to about .75 degrees per foot of rise. This means there could be six degrees difference from the floor to an 8′ ceiling. In a 40 ft ceiling room, temperatures can vary 30 degrees or more. At a glance this seems to be a good thing. The floor of your facility, where people have to operate is cooler than the air pressed against the ceiling.
Most distribution and many manufacturing operations must deal with empty pallets – sometimes it’s a lot of pallets. They take space you could use for something else. They clutter your receiving areas. Sometimes they’re splintery, with nails protruding from the sides ready to bite a passerby. People re-use their pallets of course, holding onto them for a period of time until you can ship them back out. But while they’re in your facility, they can at space, potentially injure people, and generally cause trouble.