Warehouse Ergonomics and Safety Standards

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Warehouses play an essential role in the supply business. This is why it’s crucial to tailor your warehouse fitouts to meet the needs of your business. 

You see, efficient warehouse operations rely on effective design. Changing the layout of your warehouse space requires careful considerations about how work is done, paying close attention to the small things and making a detailed plan.

But like most workplaces, warehouse facilities can be dangerous places to work in. Thus, you should consider warehouse ergonomics as it is vital for reducing safety hazards, improving efficiency and lowering costs.

What Is Warehouse Ergonomics And Why Is It Important?

Ergonomics in warehouses and storage facilities enables operators to perform efficiently and establish a safe working environment. Also, it ensures the interiors of warehousing establishments are functional and streamlined.

Warehouse ergonomics involves designing machines, equipment, tools and workstations to make them more comfortable and efficient for warehousing workers to perform their tasks.

There are many issues to consider in warehouse ergonomics and the most critical issue is the safety of warehouse workers. For this reason, let’s discuss some common warehouse hazards.

What Are Ergonomic Hazards In A Warehouse?

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Warehousing employees face ergonomic risk factors like heavy lifting, bending, reaching and repetitive tasks. These factors increase the risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Stress and fatigue from a fast work pace or performance monitoring can worsen MSDs. 

MSDs are chronic injuries that affect soft tissues like muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, joints and blood vessels. These injuries occur when our actions or work environment do not follow safe practices and put excessive strain on these body parts, causing damage over time.

Ergonomic risk factors are workplace conditions that can lead to bodily strain and potential injuries. Such factors include:

  • Stationary position
  • Awkward postures
  • Repetitive motions
  • Extreme temperature
  • Direct pressure
  • Forceful motion
  • Vibration
  • Noise and 
  • Work-related stress

Warehouse ergonomics, the science of fitting jobs to people, helps reduce fatigue, improve productivity and prevent work-related MSDs. 

How To Improve Warehouse Ergonomics

Here are safety tips to improve warehouse ergonomics in both automated and manually operated facilities:

1. Redesign The Building’s Layout

The warehouse layout design should match the storage and order-picking strategy used. A well-planned facility minimises the need for operators to move around, decreases the internal transport of goods, and makes it easier to access the necessary materials and tools.

When redesigning a layout for a warehouse, think about business flow, attention to details, and plan thoroughly. Tailoring your warehouse fitouts to your business needs is the initial and most crucial step. Properly visualising your ideas can save your company time and money.

2. Choose The Most Suitable Picking Method

In warehouse order picking, ergonomics is vital to prevent risks and ensure operators’ well-being. The choice of the most suitable picking method, such as wave picking, batch picking or zone picking, depends on each warehouse’s needs. 

3. Use Goods-To-Person Approach

The goods-to-person approach involves automatic equipment delivering products to operators, so they stay at their workstations without travelling or carrying items. This greatly improves warehouse ergonomics, reduces order preparation time, and enhances efficiency while minimising errors.

4. Train Operators

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Ensure that operators receive appropriate training before using equipment, machines and support systems. The machines designed to protect your employees can sometimes introduce new safety concerns and risks.

5. Use Picking Assistance Devices

Picking assistance technologies, such as pick-to-light, voice picking and RF scanners work well because they’re connected to a warehouse management system (WMS). They can guide operators with clear step-by-step instructions for their tasks.

6. Automate Repetitive Tasks

Using automated systems instead of manual load handling reduces risks to operators and improves efficiency. You can implement conveyors, automatic guided vehicles (AGVs) and autonomous mobile robots to transport goods within the warehouse.

7. Use The Proper Handling Equipment

The choice of handling equipment depends on the storage system, the types of goods stored, and the tasks performed. From an ergonomic perspective, it’s more suitable to use order pickers for small products, as they can be adjusted to the right height, preventing awkward postures.

8. Conduct Routine Technical Inspections Of Storage Systems

Qualified technicians should perform regular technical inspections to assess the condition of all warehouse components. Additionally, it’s crucial to maintain and regularly inspect the warehouse to ensure operator ergonomics. The work area should be well-lit, properly ventilated, and free from unnecessary obstacles that could impede daily operations.

What Is Warehouse Safety?

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Warehouse safety includes rules and best practices to ensure a safe work environment and behaviours. Prioritising health and safety is crucial, especially since there are reports of a higher fatality rate in warehousing compared to the national average for all industries.

Although there are no specific Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations dedicated solely to warehousing, warehouse operations are subject to general industry requirements.

The OSHA standards relevant to warehousing operations include:

1. Hazard Communication: Warehouse operators should establish and implement a written Hazard Communication Program. Warehouse workers exposed to hazardous chemicals must be informed about these hazards and should be trained on how to protect themselves.

2. Emergency Action Plan (EAP): If a warehouse does not have an in-house fire brigade, it should develop a comprehensive EAP detailing the actions employees should take during emergencies, such as fires.

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3. Fire Safety: Make sure to minimise all fire hazards and have the appropriate fire safety measures in place. Warehouses with more than ten employees should maintain a written fire prevention plan, kept on-site and available for review by warehouse personnel. 

4. Exit Routes: Warehouses should have a minimum of two well-designed and well-constructed emergency exit routes, situated a practical distance apart. This minimises the risk of both routes being obstructed by fire or smoke. Regular inspections should ensure that these exit routes are properly maintained and equipped with the necessary safeguards.

5. Walking/Working Surfaces: Warehouse and storage facility workers who perform tasks at elevated heights (or on elevated platforms) should have fall protection systems in place to prevent falling hazards, which are a leading cause of serious workplace injuries and fatalities.

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6. Medical and First Aid: Warehouse operators must provide adequate medical and first-aid personnel and supplies to address warehouse-specific hazards, including issues such as faulty pallet racks and falls resulting from the unsafe use of forklifts, among others.

Common Warehouse Safety Hazards And How To Control Them

1. Forklifts

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Forklifts are crucial pieces of equipment in warehouse facilities, but they can be dangerous if used incorrectly. Make sure all forklift operators are trained and competent. Provide refresher training and evaluation if you see unsafe operation. Conduct daily pre-start equipment inspections for controls and damage.

2. Loading Docks

One of the most severe accidents in a warehouse is when a worker gets caught between a forklift and the loading dock. It’s important to have warning signs and safety mechanisms in place to keep people away from the docks.

3. Conveyors

Conveyors can be hazardous for workers, posing risks like getting caught in the equipment or being struck by falling objects. Use appropriate safeguards between the conveyor and the worker to prevent clothing, body parts and hair from getting entangled. Follow the correct lockout tag-out procedures during conveyor maintenance and repairs.

4. Manual Lifting/Handling

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The most common cause of physical injuries in warehouses and storage facilities is improper manual lifting and handling. Plan and assess if lifting can be minimised through good engineering design techniques. Maintain the correct ergonomic posture when lifting or moving loads.

5. Hazardous Chemicals

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When dealing with hazardous chemicals in your warehouse, have a hazard communication program. Train your workers to recognise chemical hazards, handle chemicals safely, and use proper protective gear. Everyone should know how to conduct safety inspections and handle chemicals safely to keep the warehouse safe.

6. Charging Stations

Charging stations in warehouses are where powered equipment gets refuelled or recharged. If workers don’t follow safety rules, there can be fires and explosions.

To keep charging stations safe:

1. Keep them away from open flames.

2. Have working fire extinguishers nearby.

3. Use a good ventilation system.

7. Energised Equipment 

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Implement a Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) program in all warehouse operations to ensure that all energised equipment is properly shut off and to prevent employees from being caught between mechanical parts or being electrocuted. Ensure that all warehouse workers are trained in LOTO procedures and know how to apply and remove LOTO devices after performing maintenance to ensure warehouse safety.

8. Materials Storage

If loads are stacked or stored improperly, it can create slip and trip hazards for workers. Keep aisles and walkways clear and well-maintained. This helps prevent workers from slipping, tripping or falling. 

Make sure that loads are stacked evenly and placed correctly. Heavier loads should go on lower or middle shelves. When removing items, take them out one at a time for safety.

Customised Warehouse Fitout & Storage Solutions

At Agero, we offer services for warehouse design, optimising storage and conducting audits. We can help your business maximise its available storage space. 

Our experienced and knowledgeable fitout consultants collaborate closely with your business to find the perfect warehouse fitout solution. We create a customised floor plan to enhance space usage and efficiency.

Our expert warehouse design consultant can tailor your warehouse racking to find a perfect solution that meets the needs of your warehousing operations. 

We can assist you if your building’s layout isn’t tailored to your business. We can modify the structure or walls to achieve the desired outcome. 

Our experienced team can also ensure the lighting is appropriate and provide advice on the best fixtures for your space’s layout and size. We handle partitions, ceilings, racking and other construction services. 

What To Consider For Warehouse Fitouts

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The growing number of businesses operating from warehouses has created a high demand for fitting out these workspaces. Changing a warehouse layout needs careful planning, paying attention to detail and considering business flow. 

Here are some important things to consider when planning a warehouse fitout:

1. Create a plan for your warehouse fitout: The process should enhance the business’s flow and dynamics, simplifying things for staff, suppliers and all warehouse users. This planning phase is the initial step before creating your desired warehouse fitout.

2. Go back to the basics: It’s essential to carefully consider your business’s requirements, such as water, electricity, space and productivity. A helpful tip is to maximise the use of natural light. Natural light not only boosts employee satisfaction and performance but also reduces monthly electricity costs.

3. Use ample storage: When deciding on warehouse storage, consider what will work most efficiently for your business. Think about what items you’ll be storing, the duration of storage and the available space. Your storage needs may be primarily space-related, so it’s essential to align your choices with your company’s specific requirements.

4. Health and safety: Ensuring safety and meeting legal requirements is a paramount concern at all stages of the process. Your warehouse facility must adhere to specific regulations and safety standards, and it’s essential to incorporate these considerations into your planning and implementation phases.

Minimise Risks And Boost Productivity With Agero Fitouts

Prioritising employee safety and ensuring warehouse security are top concerns for all warehouse managers. Improving warehouse ergonomics means using storage systems that align with the business’s requirements and the operators’ needs. 

With our extensive experience in delivering warehouse products and fitouts, we’ve created spaces for a wide range of industries. We recognise the diverse requirements of Melbourne’s many industries, so when you get in touch with us, you’ll be speaking with a company that understands the needs of your business.

Make the most of our expertise and experience. We’ve gathered it solely to assist Melbourne businesses in redesigning warehouse spaces that are tailored to their needs. Request a quote today!



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