16 Expert Tips on Safety in the Workplace
What do industry experts across manufacturing & distribution have to say about safety best practices?
Industrial workplace safety bears repetition and consistent reinforcement
For manufacturing and distribution operations, workplace safety doesn’t just protect workers—it optimizes productivity and helps drive revenue growth. It also helps protect company assets, reduces downtime, and increases morale. What can you do to protect your employees in picking, packing, material handling, assembly, maintenance and similar work? To answer this question, we spoke with leading manufacturers and distributors. Here’s what they had to say:
1) Mobile Technology
“Wearable tech trends are a part of the mobility in manufacturing movement and continue to provide better safety options for operators and for those working a line, picking orders, or managing inventory.
Inroads into fitness and health monitoring allow for mobile alerts when an employee is overheated – or too cold – and can trigger an immediate change in environment. For those in cold climates, wearables can help prevent frostbite or stress injuries; workers in hotter climates can benefit from modulation in temperature and humidity as well.”
Adam Robinson, Marketing Manager, Cerasis
2) Safety Alarms
“Safety is a hot button issue. It always has been, due to strict OSHA regulations. The things that govern our workplace safety have to be met. That’s the minimum requirement.
We believe in going above and beyond that. For example, the new Edge Alert product is our open-gate safety alarm. So, when workers are actively engaged in an elevated platform and the gate is open, an alarm goes off to indicate there’s an open gate. That’s a big deal because it notifies the workers to then close the gate when they’re finished. It also alerts other employees that there is an open area.”
Kelly Kamlager, Senior Marketing Specialist, Ladder Industries
“The conversation of safety and worker injury can be glossed over – until something happens. So you’ve got a lot of companies that can be very reactionary instead of proactive.
We always recommend that workers save their back for their grandkids! It all comes down to simple ergonomics and mindfulness. It doesn’t have to be heavy to hurt or cause injury.”
Aaron Lamb, General Manager, Lift’n Buddy
4) Backup Systems
“Safety is of critical importance to us. What we see, however, is if the safety is too intrusive, if it keeps the users from being able to operate the machines quickly and efficiently, then they’ll find ways to bypass it.
In order to make safety a top priority, all of the safety systems in our automated machines have a secondary backup. So if a safety system is compromised in some way, there’s a secondary safety system that kicks in. That allows the operator to continue to use the machine, in full safety mode until a service technician can come and repair the machine.”
Dave Schneider, Marketing Manager, Hanel Storage Systems
5) Warehouse Noise Considerations
“From a worker safety standpoint, customers are looking at making sure pinch points are minimized or eliminated, and they’re looking at overall noise in the environment as hearing loss becomes a more prevalent issue. You’ll find that in a lot of parcel/postal distribution centers, there’s a desire to reduce noise levels. So making the equipment quieter and run on demand can be a benefit.”
Steve Hankey, Regional Sales Manager, Interroll
6) Safety Recommendations
“Because we want to be as ergonomic as possible, we have a chart where we show how high a person can and should pick from. This prevents workers from overreaching or otherwise getting themselves in a situation where they become hurt.
We recommend certain heights (when using our products) so that people can still stand up and reach. In this world, there’s a lot of tall people and there’s a lot of short people out there. There’s going to be variations. We’re not going to be able to cover everybody. What we’re trying to do is find the mean in between that and say okay, this is the recommended height.”
Brian Chan, Integrated Fabric Resource, SpeedCell
7) Forklift Alternatives
“We’re finding that a lot of our customers do not want a forklift in a restricted area of the warehouse, which is where our ergonomic material handling solutions come into play. The potential for serious injuries is just too high.
We’re really trying to address the issue of handling pallets without any forklifts for the safety of workers.”
Bob Clark, Vice President of Sales, Bishamon
8) Security Partitions & Cages
“Safety and security have never been as important as they are today. WireCrafters has positioned its offering of security partitions to meet the needs of both the manufacturing facilities and the warehouse and distribution centers.”
Milt Tandy, Director of Sales and Marketing, WireCrafters
9) Safety into Product Design
“For our company, safety is oftentimes demand-driven. We have to educate ourselves about safety and incorporate the appropriate policies and protocols into the design process. In that way, we’re almost anticipating customer needs.
Our customers come to us and say, ‘We require this,’ or, ‘We require that,” as far as safety and certain standards like conveyor safety standards. So we pay attention to that whenever we design something new.”
Steve Dillamon, Vice President of Sales, Ryson
10) Spring-Loaded Safety Gates
“We’ve been manufacturing our Steel Guard and our Armor Guard safety guard railing for many, many years, but now we’ve come in with the gates, which help when you’re getting into walkways, with people coming and going.
It is a spring-loaded gate so it automatically closes – you don’t have to worry about latches or closing it. And it’s versatile so that it can go either way. So you don’t have to pre-plan which way you want the gate to open. Depending on how high you mount it will determine if it goes in or out or which direction.”
Kelly Kubisiak, Marketing Manager, Steel King
11) Product Flow
“The big thing about our organization is our products tend to eliminate reaching, so we’re trying to flow all the products at the front so that are solutions are ergonomic. In that sense, we’re eliminating a lot of bending and reaching and that sort of thing.
In our factory, the ergonomic issue we contend with is back injuries. They say it costs a company between $60,000 and $100,000 a year per one injury. So if we can eliminate even one injury, we’re in good shape.”
Dave Scelfo, Marketing Manager, UNEX
12) Safety Measures Across Facilities of All Sizes
“We’ve all seen how an unsafe working environment can be very costly for a company. I think, for that reason, safety measures have more of a voice now – not just a little corner office of the warehouse but operationally speaking. We’re also starting to see safety increasingly become a priority for organizations of all sizes. It’s not just the larger corporations and warehouses anymore. At the mom and pop level, they’re starting to say to themselves, ‘All right, since we’ve done it this way for 40 years, it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the way we need to be doing things going forward.’”
Sean Mulikin, Regional Account Manager, Aleco
13) Fall Protection
“Falls are one of the biggest things OSHA is starting to enforce and they’re one of the biggest causes of accidents and death in the workplace. So you got a lot of energy around protecting workers from falls.
With our crane products, there’s a productivity benefit, but there’s also a safety benefit. Our G-Force controlled lifting device, for example, decreases the risk of operator injury by creating a safer work environment.”
Jeff McNeil, Marketing Manager, Gorbel
14) Automated Solutions & Intelligent Software
“Safety’s always been a priority for us. We’re always looking to make sure that it takes the least amount of effort to do the most amount of work; we want to present things in an ergonomic fashion by reducing twisting, bending, stretching, and all the different stressors that the human body truly wasn’t meant to do.
By using automated systems and intelligent software, we’re now reducing walking, searching, and time spent delivering things. These are all different means of reducing the ergonomic strain on an individual, which helps enhance a company’s return on investment on their employees. It’s a win-win for everybody involved.”
Ed Romaine, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, SI Systems
15) Technology Integration
“Safety is number one for us – it always has been.
But we’re starting to think about safety a little differently in this day and age. We have robots making casters. We have plasma-cutting tables. It’s been massive in how we’ve reshaped our company for the new generation to meet those demands.”
Mike Twitty, Western Territory Manager, RWM Casters
16) Safety Adjustments to Equipment
“We see in the industry that safety’s becoming more of a priority. People are making a lot more decisions based on safety, not just functionality. They’re also getting more focused on the type of equipment that’s going into a facility, including the safety of it.
We’ve seen a lot of companies going back to their equipment and making safety adjustments to the belt or putting covers over pulleys to avoid getting hair or body parts caught.”
Boyce Bonham, Director of Integrated Systems, Hytrol
As evidenced by our discussions with key industry partners and thought leaders, manufacturers and distributors are increasingly prioritizing safety. With the sheer volume of employee injuries, illnesses, and fatalities that occur annually in warehouses, organizations simply cannot afford to overlook proper safety requirements, policies, and protocols.
How does your company stay on top of safety issues? Do you agree with the tips above? let us know in the comments.
Scott Stone is Cisco-Eagle's Vice President of Marketing with more than thirty years of experience in material handling, warehousing and industrial operations. His work is published in multiple industry journals an websites on a variety of warehousing topics. He writes about automation, warehousing, safety, manufacturing and other areas of concern for industrial operations and those who operate them.