Over recent decades, in order to become more efficient, warehouses have generally become larger which has generated the requirement for processes become increasingly automated and mechanised. The results of these changes have resulted in workplaces in which many more vehicles and equipment, than was formerly the case, have to be safely accommodated alongside the employees who themselves often have to manually move roll cages and pallets to tighter timescales than ever before. It can be a stressful environment to work in, often noisy and sometimes, unfortunately, more dangerous than it should be.
By far the most common major accidents in warehouses in the UK since the turn of the century have been slips and trips, accounting for 26% of all injuries. A truly astonishing 45% of all injuries sustained in course of warehouse work that necessitated workers taking three or more days off work were caused by manual handling accidents. Trailing in the statistical wake of those two work accident types are:
• Falls from height.
• Being hit by a moving or falling object.
• Being struck by a vehicle.
• Impact with a stationery or fixed object.
• Other kinds of accident.
The main causes of these accidents fall under two main headings:
2) Work processes
Environmental factors include:
• An insufficiently clean workplace.
• Poorly maintained systems, devices and equipment.
• Inadequate lighting.
• Poor floor surface, due to presence of contaminants or inadequate maintainance, inappropriate covering, slopes, ramps and holes.
• Accumulations of waste.
• Staircases without handrails (one or two).
• Insufficient space for employees to work.
• Temperature too hot or cold.
• Poorly designed warehouse floor plan.
• Vehicles not separated from pedestrians.
• Vehicle movement, not controlled when operating in an environment with pedestrians.
Work processes factors include:
• Inadequate job and health and safety training for employees.
• Managers/supervisors not challenging unsafe behaviour by employees.
• Jobs that require repetitive heavy lifting or the application of excessive physical force.
• Absence of personal protective equipment or a lack of training on how to use it.
• Inadequate communication with non-employees (visiting lorry drivers, members of the public) regarding site health and safety rules.
• Lack of lifting and carrying equipment to enable manual handling to be avoided.
• Overstocking causing packs to fall off shelves.
• Poorly designed shift rotas leading to employee fatigue.
• Insufficient training on the movement and storage of hazardous substances, leading to mishandling that causes hazardous contents to be accidentally released from their packs.
The list is almost endless. The factors are all addressable and indeed, under the current and extensive UK workplace health and safety legislation it is the legal duty of employers to maintain their workplaces in safe and good order and as far as is reasonably practicable ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees at work – or risk the chance of a personal injury compensation claim.
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