Your warehouse is a dynamic environment, with stock being refilled, moved, and shipped out all day, every day. However, with such a busy workplace, the risk to your workforce is heightened, making it incredibly important that you practice a high level of warehouse health and safety.
In this guide, we’re going to look at some of the most common hazards in your warehouse, as well as the best solutions to each problem. Before this, we’ll cover the importance of health and safety and what the law says about your responsibilities.
The warehouse health and safety regulations are similar to those in many other industries, but they may differ depending on other factors, such as how your facility operates or the types of goods you store on a regular basis. Let’s take a look at some of the laws you are likely to be subject to.
As an employer, you will be subject to The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which makes it a legal requirement that you look after the health and safety of your employees as far as is reasonably practicable. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 were created to make the responsibilities of employers clearer than they are presented in the Act.
You are required to:
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) places a responsibility on you, as an employer, to make sure that any work equipment used in your warehouse is always safe to use. The Regulations cover any machinery, appliance, tool, or installation that could pose a risk.
PUWER sets out a number of responsibilities that you must follow:
If you need more advice on this item of legislation, be sure to read our guide to PUWER in a nutshell.
The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) is an act that makes sure that lifting equipment, such as cranes, winches, or lifts, are used safely.
In summary, LOLER requires:
If you need more advice on this item of legislation, take a look at our guide: LOLER explained.
The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 ensure that all manual handling activities are approached in the proper manner to avoid injury.
As an employer, the Manual Handling Regulations require you to:
If you need more advice on this item of legislation, be sure to read our guide to manual handling.
The Work at Height Regulations 2005 dictate how work at height needs to be planned and carried out. Your warehouse staff will be working at height at some point, such as when they’re picking stock or undertaking maintenance, so you need to follow these Regulations carefully.
The Regulations set out three main responsibilities for you as an employer:
Need more advice on this legislation? Take a look at our guide to the Work at Height Regulations.
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations — more commonly known as COSHH — is the legislation that sets out how any substances hazardous to health, such as chemicals, fumes, and gases, are handled and stored, which differs from regular waste. If you regularly store any substances covered by the Regulations, you will need to know what your responsibilities are.
These responsibilities include:
If you need more detailed advice on how to approach COSHH in your warehouse, be sure to take a look at the HSE’s guidance.
As an operator of a warehouse, it’s vital that you recognise the importance of upholding a very high standard of health and safety to protect both your employees and your business. Below, we’ve set out some of the key reasons that you should make safety a priority.
First and foremostly, practising a high level of health and safety will help to reduce the level of injuries and work-related illnesses, as well as minimising the chance of any fatalities.
There were 34,000 non-fatal and 15 fatal workplace injuries in the transport and storage sector in 2017/18, while 52,000 workers suffered from work-related ill-health (HSE), so finding ways to avoid contributing to these numbers should be paramount.
With the right warehouse health and safety policies and measures in place, your workforce will be able to go about their job in the safest way possible, which will drastically cut the chances of any incidents on the job. Safeguarding your staff will also help to ensure that any work-related illnesses or injuries that can develop over time are curtailed, reducing the level of long-term absences.
On average, there are approximately 1.7 million working days lost per year due to ill health and non-fatal accidents in the UK’s transport and storage industry (HSE). However, with the right health and safety policy approach, you can reduce injuries and illness, which, in turn, should reduce the number of working days lost for your business.
By keeping employee absences to a minimum, you will be able to lessen the financial impact that missed working days cost your company. This means that not only does better health and safety boost your workforce’s welfare, but it can benefit your bottom line as well.
Ensuring you have a robust health and safety policy can help to lower employee turnover in your business, so you can look forward to retaining your experienced staff members and avoid repeating the often-costly recruitment process.
This works in two ways. By reducing injury and illness with a high standard of health and safety, there’s less chance that your workers will need to leave their jobs as a result. Additionally, when you put putting the effort into creating a thorough policy, your workforce will see that you care for their welfare and feel more valued as employees, hopefully encouraging them to stick with your business.
With your warehouse health and safety policy in place, you may be able to enjoy a productivity boost in your warehouse, meaning that your workforce will be able to accomplish more in the working day. This is because your employees will be healthier, happier, and better motivated to work for an employer that cares for their welfare. Ultimately, this is better for you, your employees, and, consequently, your customers.
By making sure that your warehouse maintains a high standard of health and safety, you can reduce the threat of any legal issues affecting your business. For one, you’ll be making sure you comply with the law, including the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, so you won’t be breaching the regulations should something go wrong. And, by making your warehouse as safe as possible, your employees are much less likely to suffer an accident and pursue legal action against you.
Now that you’re aware of what the law says and why it’s important to practice a high standard of health and safety in your warehouse, we can look at some of the most common warehouse safety hazards, as well as some of the safest solutions.
Slips, trips, and falls (on the same level) are the most common non-fatal workplace accident, making up 31% of all reported incidents in 2017/18 (HSE). And, in a warehouse, where there is potentially a large amount of risk of items being left in walkways or spillages occurring, it becomes very important that you put measures in place to make your workplace as slip- and trip-proof as possible.
Here are some of the ways that you can minimise the risk of slips, trips, and falls:
The hazard: Incorrect manual handling can cause musculoskeletal injury if proper technique or rules are not observed by staff.
The solution: Providing manual handling training for all staff that move stock, as well as reducing the need to move things manually with mechanical handling aids.
Manual handling is another leading cause of injury, with 21% of injuries in 2017/18 occurring as a result of a handling, lifting, or carrying activity (HSE). In an environment where the movement of stock is a daily occurrence, it becomes very important to make it as safe as possible for staff with a warehouse health and safety policy.
Here are some of the ways that you can minimise the risk of manual handling:
The hazard: Mechanical handling equipment being misused or suffering from a fault.
The solution: Fully training staff in the use and maintenance of mechanical handling machinery.
Even though mechanical handling equipment is designed to reduce the need for manual work, it still poses its own risk in your warehouse.
Here are some of the ways that you can minimise the risk of mechanical handling:
The hazard: Warehouse traffic can be very hazardous and potentially deadly.
The solution: A carefully managed warehouse traffic safety system, with qualified responsible drivers and a workforce that’s aware of the risks and how traffic will be moving.
Each year, there are more than 5,000 accidents caused by vehicles in the workplace, with about 50 proving to be fatal (HSE). In your warehouse, it’s likely that you’ve got both delivery lorries coming and going from the site, as well as indoor transport, like forklifts, that pose a risk to safety, so it’s vital that you plan and manage the traffic effectively.
Please note: For full, in-depth advice on how to manage transport in and around your warehouse, please refer to the HSE’s guidance on vehicles in the workplace.
The hazard: Falls from height and dropped objects present a serious risk in a warehouse.
The solution: Developing a carefully managed process for work at height, as well as providing safety measures for any particular hazards.
Falls from a height accounted for 8% of all non-fatal injuries at work in 2017/18 (HSE), making it a pressing concern for those who operate warehouses. There’s also the risk of a bystander being struck with an object, which makes up 10% (though not all incidents are from height).
With high fixtures to scale and occasional awkwardly positioned maintenance to carry out on your premises, it’s an area that should definitely be a focus of your warehouse health and safety policy.
Here are some of the ways that you can minimise the risk of working from height:
For more in-depth advice on how manage working from height in your warehouse, be sure to read our guide to the Work at Height Regulations.
The hazard: Pallets and racking are commonly found in warehouses but can pose a risk if not handled and managed properly.
The solution: Fully training staff for the handling of pallets and racking, as well as ensuring any storage system is fit for purpose.
Your warehouse is likely to be a very busy environment, with most of your storage organised via a system of pallets and racking. There are no exact warehouse stacking regulations to follow, but you can practice a safe and responsible storage strategy.
While the management of this area carries many of the risks that have already been identified in our slips and trips, manual handling, and work at height sections, there are a number of tips that you should follow that are specific to pallets and racking to follow.
Here are some of the ways that you can minimise the risk when working with pallets and racking:
Please note: You can find in-depth advice about this area of storage in HSE’s guide to pallet safety.
The hazard: Fires can spread quickly in a warehouse, especially when it’s full of flammable materials or chemicals, posing a risk to your workers’ health.
The solution: Creating a fire emergency plan and putting the measures in place to be able to practise good fire health and safety.
A fire can pose a serious risk to your warehouse. It’s likely to be quite a large, open space — where fire can spread quickly — filled with flammable materials, like cardboard packaging and wooden pallets. While a fire can threaten your stock, it’s a major health and safety issue for your staff as well, so it’s vital that you have a robust fire policy.
Here are some of the ways that you can minimise the risk of fire in your warehouse:
Please note: This section is only intended as a general guide to fire safety in warehouses, so please check the Government’s fire safety in workplaces advice to ensure you are meeting the demands of the law as an employer.
Warehouses can be working environments full of potential hazards, so it’s important that you take the time to ensure your warehouse health and safety approach is up to scratch. Hopefully, this guide has given you a deeper understanding of the potential hazards and how you can address them, as well as an introduction to the many laws you must abide by.
At Penny Hydraulics, you can find many other useful advice in our collection of help guides, including warehouse management tips for boosting efficiency. If you have any questions about topics covered in this guide or need help choosing the right lifting equipment for your business, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.