Distribution center safety is essential as the explosion of fulfillment operations continues its upward projection. The current warehouse space real estate boasts just a 4.7% vacancy. In fact, James Breeze, senior director, global head of Industrial & Logistics Research for CBRE, said “At the end of the third quarter of 2020, more than 312 million square feet was under construction [nationwide] and 37% of this was already preleased—the highest rate of pre-leasing in over a year.” (Logistics Management)
With e-commerce fulfillment pushing the warehouse and distribution centers to their peak capacity, facility managers and safety officers strive to keep their operations moving efficiently and keeping their employees safe. Here are five distribution center safety tips to keep your DC safely operating.
Tip 1: Individualized Employee Training
Hiring the right person for the right job plays an important role in your overall retention efforts. Once you have the right job candidate, then hiring and onboarding can dictate their initial success. When you offer individualized employee training, research shows employees will be more engaged, more effective in their duties, limit their risk injury, and improve their retention.
In fact, the training process with new hires can increase their likelihood of staying with your company by 69%. Trained and engaged employees are safer for your overall operation. Maintaining the productivity and safety of your staff is crucial to a professional, safe DC environment.
Tip 2: Automate When and Where Possible
Adding automation to your warehouse or DC facility can improve efficiency, accuracy, and create reliability in your operation. Automation includes processes like pick-to-voice (PTV), stacker cranes, AGV systems, and sortation systems. These types of processes can eliminate human error, decrease needed maintenance, save on labor costs, and increase the level of safety overall with the use of robots or AI.
Humans are much more professional and trained than robots in many ways, even as the warehousing industry looks to automate more and more. However, though robots almost always do what they are programmed to do, they still break down and need more maintenance than humans. Furthermore, humans are normally more dexterous and have superior visual systems than machines.
Robots aside, large warehouses are automating their operations with specialized technology and applications in order to become more profitable. One of the main objectives of automating a warehouse is to speed up the receipt, sorting, storage, and shipping of products, resulting in a more productive delivery and a lower rate of goods returns.
Tip 3: Installing Appropriate Safety Equipment
Yes, your inventory is valuable and reducing the chance it is damaged is important, but your staff’s health and safety is paramount above that. These days offering PPE, especially face coverings, has become the norm. But as an employer you may also provide hard hats, high-vis clothing, gloves, and any other protection accessories necessary for your employees to safely perform their duties.
In addition to PPE, guarding the stock in your storage bays is just as important. Preventing items from falling out of your pallet racking storage prevents injuries to your employees as well as preventing product loss. Affordable safety solutions that work for your facility are a perfect way to protect all of your most valuable assets. For example, consider the Sliding Rack Safety Net for distribution center picking operations. It installs without tools and quickly slides out of the way for safer picking.
Tip 4: Updating Order Fulfillment Procedures
As you research warehouse picking best practices, you likely have been updating your order fulfillment procedures to match the ever-changing environment of your facility. Whether it’s due to a near miss, adapting to changing technology, or simply finding an easier way to do things, you want your order fulfillment procedures to be streamlined and simple.
Some procedure areas to examine to see if they need updating are:
- Picking methods – cluster picking, zone picking, or batch picking (read more on this from 6 River Systems)
- Smarter labor management – Consider installing labor management software to determine how much work needs to be done and when, to save on labor costs.
- Putaway – Putaway so that your fastest-moving inventory is “close to the door and the floor” for streamlined picking.
All of your updated fulfillment procedures should be made with safety in mind, and typically more efficient means safer.
Tip 5: Encourage Proper Lifting Techniques
Overexertion is the leading cause of disabling injuries in warehouses and order fulfillment centers, accounting for 23.4% of injuries and costing businesses $13.67 billion. These are injuries due to the way objects are lifted, pulled, pushed, carried or otherwise handled.
Employees should receive proper safety training to help prevent accidents caused by overexertion. Warehouse worker training, in particular, includes learning how to lift and carry objects safely. To encourage safe moving and lifting, make sure your employees have access to safety equipment like lifting straps. Or, if they are manually lifting, make sure they always lift with their legs rather than their back.
Now that you’ve got the top five distribution center safety tips, go the next step by downloading our warehouse safety checklist!