Any seasoned warehouse manager understands the importance of safety in the workplace. However, protecting the building often takes a backseat to other concerns. While ensuring employee safety is vital, logistics businesses must also protect the warehouse itself from damage.
Damage to the building or the equipment within it can cause considerable disruption and carry substantial repair costs. Following these 10 best practices can help warehouses avoid these costly scenarios.
1. Review Relevant Hazards
The first step to improving warehouse safety is understanding the unique hazards the facility may encounter. While some factors like water or electrical risks are universal, others –especially weather-related hazards – will vary across locations. Texas sees more than 150 tornadoes annually, but Alaska sees none, so protections will differ between warehouses in these states.
Warehouse managers should review regional data to see which hazards are most likely and could cause the most damage. This information will help establish relevant budgets and future steps to mitigate location-specific risks.
2. Perform Regular Maintenance
Regardless of what specific risks a facility faces, regular maintenance is critical. Small issues like leaks, exposed wires, or rusting metal supports can worsen to become substantial hazards
over time. If warehouses can find and fix these problems while they’re still small, they’ll save considerable time and money.
Since non-weather water damage is the most common property insurance claim type, plumbing is one of the most critical areas to address. Electrical systems and roofs also deserve regular attention. If companies have the budget, internet of things (IoT) sensors can monitor these systems for damage and streamline maintenance processes.
3. Secure Loading Docks
Loading docks are another common area for hazards to arise in the warehouse. Facilities should install bumpers to stop trucks from backing into the building and check them regularly to ensure they’re in good shape. Loading docks should also use reliable, well-maintained garage door systems. These doors can crush objects beneath them if they fail, so take their condition seriously.
Posting clear signage and keeping loading docks clear to maximize visibility are also important. Truck drivers will have a difficult time backing into the proper area safely if they can’t see what’s around them.
4. Ensure the Facility Is Well-Lit
Lighting is an easily overlooked but critical part of warehouse safety. While poor light itself won’t damage the building, it makes other hazards more likely to endanger the facility. This is especially crucial for areas where forklifts and other vehicles travel through. Better visibility will make it easier to avoid running into structures.
Warehouses must also light their exteriors, including the parking lot and the immediate area around any doors and windows. This will help prevent vehicle-related accidents at night and discourage break-ins or vandalism, as criminals risk exposure in the light.
5. Keep the Aisles Wide
Another easily overlookable safety step is providing plenty of space within the warehouse. This means keeping the aisles wide enough for an easy, efficient flow of traffic. Creating wider aisles will increase visibility and give forklift and pallet jack operators more room to maneuver.
How wide aisles can be depends on a facility’s unique floor space and storage needs, but businesses should aim to keep them as wide as possible. Leaning storage techniques and vertical racking systems can help reduce space needs, helping keep aisles wide.
6. Eliminate Pests
Pests like insects and rodents can also cause significant damage to warehouse facilities. Brown rats alone cost the U.S. $19 billion each year, with much of this damage coming from contamination and property damage. They can gnaw electrical wires, clog pipes, and more, so reliable pest control is crucial.
Businesses shouldn’t wait until they discover an infestation to contact pest control organizations. Warehouse managers should research local pests and install prevention measures proactively.
That could involve placing traps or using technology or engineering controls to keep pests away.
7. Install Gates and Bollards
Vehicles are another common hazard that warehouses must protect against. Roughly 60 vehicles drive into buildings every day, and even experienced drivers can make mistakes and bump into nearby structures. Installing gates and bollards around the perimeter will help prevent this damage.
Gates can ensure only employees and drivers from trusted partners enter, eliminating hazards from road traffic. Bollards close to the loading dock then prevent damage from those that do get in, ensuring any accidents don’t endanger the building itself. Installing bollards in the parking lot is also ideal, as it prevents damage from employees’ vehicles as they enter and exit.
8. Implement a CCTV System
Security cameras are another important part of building safety. Using a continually recording closed-circuit television (CCTV) system will help identify fault if an accident occurs, thereby
streamlining the insurance claims process. These systems will also help prevent damage by discouraging crime and holding workers accountable.
Posting cameras in areas where people can see them can convince would-be vandals and thieves that they’d get caught if they committed a crime. Similarly, cameras within the warehouse let employees know they’ll face consequences for causing damage, encouraging them to be more careful.
9. Get Sufficient Insurance Coverage
Regardless of what other steps a facility takes, insurance is essential. More than three in four small businesses experienced an insurable event in 2020, and the potential costs of uninsured damage are too high to overlook this protection. While, ideally, companies won’t ever need to file a claim, the risks are too severe to assume that will remain the case.
Warehouse managers should review which hazards are most likely and which would incur the highest expenses. Any crossover between these two categories is an area that needs insurance.
10. Inspect Everything Regularly
Similarly, warehouse operators should review their accident data and mitigation steps regularly. If any trends emerge, facilities may need additional protection or a different strategy to reduce
property damage. Conversely, if accidents decrease after a change, similar changes may yield the same results elsewhere.
Businesses should also routinely inspect their property itself. Checking for any damage or potential concerns can inform any additional steps the organization should follow. Hazards can
be dynamic, so mitigation strategies must also adapt over time.
Keep Your Warehouse Safe
Protecting warehouse facilities from damage will keep the workers and assets inside safe and prevent disruption and high repair costs. Considering how crucial warehouses are to supply chain operations, these protections are essential.
While specific hazards will vary between facilities, these 10 best practices can improve safety across any warehouse environment. If logistics businesses follow these steps, they can minimize risks and ensure ongoing efficiency.