Prioritizing Safety in the Supply Chain is a Must
Warehouse supply chains are all about speed and efficiency — it’s important to get the products packed up and where they need to go promptly. What is often overlooked in this rush to produce a product? Safety. Why is it so important to prioritize safety in your supply chain and what can you do to create a more safety-centric culture for your business?
Common Safety Hazards
What sort of safety hazards do you need to be aware of when you’re running a warehouse or supply chain? It will vary depending on the specifics of your supply chain, but in general, OSHA has reported that the most common risk areas (where warehouses receive the most safety citations) include:
- Hazard information and communication
- Electrical risks, specifically wiring and system design
- Floor and wall openings, entrances and exits.
- Power transmission and safety
- Lockout/Tagout procedures
- Fire extinguishers
Of all the potential safety hazards, forklifts are among the most dangerous. It’s estimated that of the nearly 860,000 forklifts being operated every day in supply chains around the country; more than 11% of them will be involved in some sort of accident.
What Causes Forklift Accidents?
Forklifts are an essential part of any efficient supply chain, but they can create safety hazards if they’re not used or maintained correctly. What are the most common causes of forklift accidents?
- Improperly maintained or old equipment— Forklifts, like all other equipment, have a shelf-life. A well-maintained forklift can function for upwards of 20,000 work hours before they require any major repairs, as long as they’re being used within their normal parameters.
- Production issues— Deadlines, last-minute shipments, and other issues with production can encourage unsafe forklift use, leading to accidents.
- Improper or incomplete training— Allowing untrained users to drive a forklift can create hazardous working conditions and lead to dangerous accidents.
- Lack of support— A forklift operator is not a one-man team. Floor managers and foremen should offer as much support as possible, and forklift operators should not be discouraged from asking for help.
By ensuring that all of these things are addressed, you can help to reduce workplace accidents and help improve employee safety in your supply chain.
Other Safety Concerns
How can you address the other common safety concerns that you may encounter on your supply chain?
First, take steps to eliminate common safety hazards. This includes wet floors, power cables or other tripping hazards, and even damage to the concrete or floors that could create a hazard. Make this everyone’s responsibility — if they see something, ensure that they’re able to take steps to correct it or have the ability to report it to a higher authority.
Continuing safety education is also essential for all employees. Safety training isn’t something that should stop once a new trainee takes up their position on the factory floor. It is something that should be continued every time a new policy or program is implemented and refreshed as often as needed. Courses on lifting techniques, MSDS and hazardous material use and disposal, and warehouse specific safety techniques help to keep them fresh and in everyone’s mind. It also helps to lower the frequency of corrective action, enabling employees and management to continue working more efficiently and without interruption.
Finally, focus on creating a safety-centric culture. By combining all the things we’ve discussed thus far, you can help to improve your overall safety culture while still creating an efficient and functional work environment. Other things to try might include:
- Incentives or bonuses for going a certain number of days without an accident or safety incident. The incentives can even increase or roll over as a number of accident-free days continue.
- Get your employees involved at every level in decision making. If even the newest employees feel as though they are involved in the decisions concerning their safety, they will always have the safety on their minds while they’re working on the factory floor.
Maintaining a safe working environment and prioritizing safety in your supply chain is as important, if not more important, than meeting deadlines or getting shipments out on time. Injuries and accidents on the floor cause more than just lost work for the injured individual — they can upset the entire supply chain while equipment is repaired and accidents are investigated. Take the time to prioritize safety, and you’ll create a better supply chain with happier and more efficient workers.