Occupational health and safety: Warehouse safety in a modern era

Occupational health and safety (OHS) is a world-wide challenge covering warehouse safety, risk mitigation, and occupational health and wellness charters. OHS is more than ensuring that employees use proper lifting techniques. It’s more than providing personal protective equipment. International standards are now in place to protect workers and workplace visitors from injury (and yes, from disease). Learn more about how adopting and implementing OHS guidelines can be mutually beneficial to you and your employees. And how digital solutions can even aid in ISO 45001 implementation and warehouse safety trainings.

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ISO 45001: The Global Standard 

Much to the dismay of labor activists and warehouse workers, there is no international law to ensure workplace safety. And despite numerous calls to action from non-profits and non-governmental organizations, tragedies continue to headline print and online news.

Over 70 countries got together to fight for better safety standards and end the cycle of accidents happening every day in warehouses all over the world. Their efforts resulted in the introduction of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 45001 in 2018.

ISO 45001 documents industry standards that, though not laws, can be legally binding in contracts and, in so doing create change across sectors through a sort of self-policing. This international standard specifies requirements for an OHS management system, which intends to improve the safety and health of employees, temp-workers, and site visitors.

Most major exporting nations have embraced the broad adoption of ISO 45001. However, most notably missing are China, Bangladesh, South Korea, and Russia, to name but a few.

ISO 45001 Certification

ISO 45001 is the international standard for occupational health and safety. Organizations must be proactive in managing all forms of risk, especially occupational health and safety. ISO 45001 provides safe practice guidelines for workers, contractors, and site visitors.

 

The certification allows your warehouse or logistics firms to compete at the highest international level. The new guidelines under ISO 45001 override previous certifications of Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series (officially BS OHSAS 18001). OHSAS certifications expire March 2021.

The first step in getting ISO 45001 certified is to perform a gap analysis by inviting inspectors into your warehouse, distribution center, or dock and requesting a courtesy assessment. From there, and based on the findings, create an in-house certification preparedness team and begin to make changes based on mandatory requirements. Build and implement the safety management system and make adjustments accordingly.

 

Once the system is reliable, request a Stage-2 assessment from the ISO team to confirm that the processes are operational and sustainable. Subsequently, correct any findings and wait for certification recommendations. Immediately provide any files requested by the independent and impartial panel for certification.

 

The International Accreditation Forum details requirements for migration from OHSAS 18001 to ISO 45001.

Benefits of Occupational Health and Safety Guidelines

Even though workers’ health and safety are at the forefront of health & safety guidelines, it offers additional benefits to both employers and their employees.

What’s in it for me – employer side

By establishing warehouse OHS policies and objectives, organizations can expect to reduce hazards, minimize legal risk, and improve employee satisfaction.

Employer Benefits

  • Increased Productivity: while more immediate warehouse throughput may suffer during the initial implementation and adoption phases, the long-term velocity gains achieved from safe, well-lit, and worker-friendly space means more reliable revenue
  • More Market Opportunities: by first weighing all context-based, or in-house risks, for workers, warehouses and logistics companies will simultaneously develop products that are also only seen as safe by consumers and, in so doing, create new market opportunities for growth
  • Human Capital: it is crucial to not only care about a firms’ rate of truancy, turnover, and churn, but that of upstream and downstream partners since costs for retraining and restaffing run the entire value chain
  • Lower Insurance Premiums: fewer accidents not only mean less downtime, but a reduction in insurance expenses and medical costs
  • Reputation: in returning to the start, a firm’s standing in both its more immediate community, and that of society, is likely to benefit from taking seriously the health, safety, and well-being of its frontline workers and keep it out of those headlines that damage even the most upstanding firms 
  • Other Benefits: reduced absenteeism, increased employee motivation, less organizational risk, and enhanced competitiveness 

Focus on health and safety saves lives

Nearly 150 years ago, initial OHS guidelines were established to protect workers. Employees demanded, rightly so, to work in safe conditions with proper safety protocols in place. As a result of OHS guidelines, work-related deaths in the United States are down to 14 a day (in 2017, compared to 38 a day in 1970). In the same time frame, workplace injuries and illnesses are down to 2.8% from 10.9%. According to global studies, employee engagement and satisfaction are tied hand-in-hand with safety. Organizations with top-ranked engagement results experience 70% fewer safety incidents. Your employees expect their workplace to be safe.

How to create a successful training for warehouse safety

Safety in warehouses and logistics firms is direly essential due to the use of heavy machinery, possibly hazardous materials, and the sheer size of the facility. But – real life proves – most accidents happen in rather non-dangerous situations, such as lifting a package and suddenly you have a strong back pain.

Step 1: Introduce safety training on day 1

With a ISO 45001 certificate you establish guidelines, but the key lies in actually implementing safety training in your warehouse. And safety training begins on day one. New employees should receive safety training as part of the onboarding experience. Organizations should include OHS training as part of annual and ongoing development.

Step 2: Pay attention to the training material

The words used in safety training are just as important as the training itself. Write all warehouse training materials should be written in Simplified Technical English. This clear and concise style can easily be translated into the native language of your workers or warehouse visitors.  

Step 3: Use multiple training methods

OHS training, as well as other trainings, should utilize a variety of training methods. Your workforce is comprised of visual, kinesthetic, and auditory learners. As such, training should include a combination of text, graphics, videos, and online learning.  

Step 4: Create SOPs

Utilize standard operating procedures (SOP) to document procedures for handling high-risk materials and equipment. For example, OSHA reports that the top warehouse citations in the United States involve forklifts. SOPs can detail proper seatbelt usage, operator training, and safe procedures for picking up, putting down, and stacking loads. Furthermore, SOPs can easily be updated for legal compliance. 

Step 5: Involve the trainer

The role of the trainer in OHS training should not be overlooked. A highly skilled, passionate trainer can convey the importance of safety training while ensuring that all employees complement said training. This person should also be available to answer questions regarding all training sessions.

Non-compliance of OHS

The cost of not complaining of OHS recommendations is far greater than the cost of seeking ISO 45001 certification and implementing training.

The highest cost of non-compliance is the health and safety of your employees. OSHA reports that the rate of fatal injuries is higher in warehouses than in other industries. Annually, an average of 95,000 workers in the U.S. sustain injury while operating forklifts. A “simple” slip and fail results in 95 million lost workdays each year. Over 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses occur each year in the U.S. alone. 

Worker injuries can often result in legal ramifications. Workers compensation cases not only hurt a firm’s bottom line but can negatively impact long-term earnings if the employee requires short or long-term medical care. Consequently, your organization may receive hefty fines, especially in the case of critical accidents. 

Your corporate brand and reputation is on the line by avoiding OHS guidelines. By simply not looking after workers and their rights, warehouses and logistical firms jeopardize their market value. Parties on both ends of the supply chain may only contract out work, or partner with, companies that hold worker well-being in high esteem. 

Adding COVID-19 to health and safety guidelines

A year ago, personal protective equipment (PPE) was reserved for workers handling hazardous materials. No one ever imagined that all employees would need to wear a face mask and social distance. But this is the reality now. The health of your warehouse workers matters a lot. Especially in logistics where the people are the asset of the company.

If you want to learn more about how to have a save onboarding during the pandemic, read more here or simply get your onboarding checklist.

Warehouse safety: Today and tomorrow

Worker safety and occupational health have never been as vital as they are now with a global call to action to protect those employed in essential fulfillment and distribution centers. Even after the pandemic becomes a distant memory, there will still be a need to protect those workers trying to earn a living for their family in an increasingly globalized world.

Executing occupational health and safety guidelines, along with ISO 45001, advertises not only to partners in the logistics pipeline but also to your employees that you take safety and wellness seriously.

Take the first steps today towards a new tomorrow. Perform an internal warehouse health and safety audit. Launch new safety trainings using digital solutions from how.fm. Place the health and safety of your workers at the top of your priority list. 

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