OSHA safety checklist
Over 145,000 people work in warehouses across the United States, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Employee safety is naturally at the center of warehouse operations, or "throughput centers." Distribution centers are especially challenging environments to deal with when it comes to employee safety. One must contend with incredibly complex assets and facility environments, frequent use of specialized equipment and exposure to hazards like spills, and extreme temperatures.
OSHA offers a checklist detailing practices that warehouse leaders can put into place to ensure worker safety. While none of the recommendations are particularly complex, they represent the kinds of tasks that can easily slip to the background as distributors get distracted by more urgent matters. Cloud-based technology, such as Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS), can help prevent these issues from falling to the wayside through safety inspection functionality, automatic preventive maintenance (PM) scheduling, asset condition monitoring and predictive maintenance capabilities, and more.
OSHA’s guidance falls into three general categories and explains how a CMMS can assist in each area.
Category 1 – Keeping your facility safe
OSHA’s checklist reminds distributors that they must keep warehouses properly ventilated, but that is only the beginning of taking care of your buildings. A few maintenance and safety operations issues that come up on the checklist include:
- Having clear lockout/tagout procedures
- Blocking open loading dock doors or other exposed areas where workers could fall four feet or more
- Keeping aisles clear – cables, spills, and other clutter can all present safety hazards
It can be impossible for management to monitor every part of a facility at all times. Instead, they need to depend on their employees to follow best practices to make sure their workers stay protected against potential hazards. Setting up step-by-step instructions on work orders in a CMMS can go a long way toward avoiding problems. For example, a work order can include necessary safety actions in addition to the work performed, like chaining off an exposed door area before leaving for the next project.
Category 2 – Training workers
Warehouse workers can be easily exposed to dangerous conditions, and proper training is a key component of OSHA’s checklist. A few points include:
- Educating new employees in proper lifting techniques and other related ergonomic activities
- Making sure workers understand how to work effectively in extreme temperatures, such as preparing for the cold and knowing how to avoid heat stress
This type of training also can be incorporated into CMMS safety programs. If one has a distribution center that is often extremely hot and humid in July, for example, they can have the system include a seasonal training on heat stroke prevention. A PM calendar item can trigger this reminder for all involved workers; one can even post a message about the upcoming training the dashboard of all required workers or locations.
Category 3 – Taking care of employees
Managers have a duty to be aware of the needs and capabilities of their workers, and adjust accordingly. The OSHA checklist highlights this through two key guidelines:
- Giving employees involved in physical labor adequate rest periods to control fatigue
- Keeping proper work and safety practices in mind when deciding how much time employees should be given to complete tasks
CMMS job planner functionality can help optimize the scheduling of workloads to account for estimated time to completion, shift and employee availability, asset criticality, and other facets of maintenance coordination. If a worker is assigned the task of refrigeration unit repair work in the middle of winter, the work order could include policies regarding hypothermia prevention and indicate the proper attire expected to be worn while work is carried out.
Making sure workers always follow best safety practices isn’t always possible, but a CMMS can give users the tools to reduce or even eliminate poor safety habits. Even if one can’t always supervise employees to maintain safety compliance or devote significant training time, they can ensure that workers are reminded of best practices, given time to comply, and getting the job done in warehouses that are as safe as possible.
Stellar is a CSIA member as of 11/30/2015