Warehouses are hazardous work environments that require necessary risk management strategies. In warehouses, risk management must be carried out prior to any work commencing and must consider any potential risks in the workplace and how the risk will be controlled or eliminated.
A key requirement to warehouse safety management involves Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that has the potential to help minimise levels of risk and ensure the health and safety of workers on site.
What is Personal Protective Equipment?
PPE, or ‘Personal Protective Equipment’, refers to the essential clothing and equipment that can potentially ensure the safety of workers on site or in a warehouse environment. Some of the common PPE for warehouse workers can include:
- Hard hats
- High visibility clothing
- Safety goggles/glasses
- Safety boots with a steel toe cap
- Safety gloves
- Ear plugs
- Face masks
- Safety harnesses
Whilst some of the PPE is standard and worn at all times, use of other types of PPE can vary depending on the work environment and the task carried out at the time. These must be specified in the warehouse policy and procedure manual, safety procedures, the Material Safety Data Sheets and/or the PPE regulations.
Why is Warehouse PPE so Important?
Warehouses are identified as hazardous work environments where serious accidents occur, that may also result in a fatality. Whilst Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is the least effective method of controlling a safety risk and does not control the hazard at the source, PPE will protect workers against safety risks on the job. The purpose of PPE is to reduce worker exposure to hazards when engineering and administrative controls are not feasible or effective in reducing risks to acceptable levels.
Some common hazardous conditions that exist in warehouse include:
- Moving vehicles
- Falling heavy items
- Hazardous materials
- Electrical equipment
- Long periods of exposure to loud noise
- Dust and other particles
Although safety measures and procedures may be implemented to minimise risks levels, in some instances, these may not be sufficient in protecting workers and the best course of action is to utilise PPE as well. PPE requirements are essential as they are intended to keep workers safe and prevent a near miss from becoming a serious injury.
Other Risk to Consider in Warehouses
Some of the health and safety risks in a warehouse may include protection from:
- Extreme weather conditions
- Falling materials landing on hands or feet
- Flying particles in the eyes
- Splashes of corrosive liquids on skin
- Exposure to consistent high-level noise from plant and machinery
It may not be possible to fully prevent many of these potential hazards in industries or in warehouses, which is why PPE might be necessary to protect workers.
One Other Significant Risk of Warehouses Operations
During this unprecedented time, logistics and warehouses are classified as essential services. Supply chains, retail outlets and frontline services throughout the country require the strictest levels of infection control. It is paramount that essential services are not hampered by the spread of a virus.
To prevent virus transmission in warehouse settings, procedures and control measures such as administrative controls, environmental and engineering controls, must be implemented in conjunction with Personal Protective Equipment. While PPE is the most visible control used to prevent transmission of the virus, physical distancing. general sanitation of equipment, hand hygiene and ventilation are also important examples of infection control.
PPE must be correctly selected and used in a safe manner and rigorous adherence to precautions is crucial for the control of outbreaks.