Steps to better workplace health and safety

Paul Roehricht, UK strategic account manager at impact protection specialist Brandsafe, says warehouse and distribution centre operators must continue to ensure the safety of their workforce as they look to optimise productivity in the current climate.

The HSE reported that more than 28 million working days were lost because of illness or non-fatal workplace accidents in 2018/19. Of these, slips, trips or falls on the same level accounted for 29% of days lost, while almost six million (20%) days were lost as a result of handling, lifting or carrying accidents. It’s expected that the next round of HSE figures will reveal an equally depressing picture of poor workplace safety and countless days lost to accidents, fuelled further by the busier nature of warehouse, logistics and transport hubs during these times.

This fuels the on-going need for employers to improve levels of safety in the workplace and invest appropriately to keep people safe. And this is supported by legislation: The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 sets out the main provisions for securing and improving the safety, health and welfare of people at work, requiring ‘that employers and those who control workplaces to any extent, must identify the hazards in the workplaces under their control and assess the risks to safety and health at work presented by these hazards’.

Holistic approach

Adopting a holistic approach to risk mitigation has to be seen as good practice and a sensible first step. This includes combining practical standards with safe behaviour as a part of an efficient workplace operation. The key part of managing risk starts with an assessment – the effective process of evaluating threats to health and safety from workplace hazards to eliminate or reduce the level of incidents/accidents.

The installation of exterior safety barriers in delivery yards and approach ways can pay dividends, helping to maintain awareness while offering a reassuring presence in an area where it is more than likely a moving vehicle will be present – it should encourage people to habitually check their surroundings. They can also help to reduce the severity of damage and cost to building infrastructures and vehicles in the event of a collision.

A review of exterior systems, markers and guideposts may also be beneficial, ensuring they are in good working order. Check too that your speed reducing ramps are up to scratch or if traffic flow could be better managed by the addition of high-visibility flexible delineator posts with chains, which can be relocated if and when necessary.

Also as the Department for Transport allocates millions of pounds of additional funding in 2021 to local councils to fund the installation of an additional 7,200 commercial charging stations by 2021, improving the protection of electric vehicle (EV) charge points with high impact resistant posts and wheel stops from vehicles is important.

If your industrial workplace is now busier you might need to re-think the segregation of pedestrian and traffic. Additional vehicles and workers can contribute to increased risk in what was once a safe and productive working space. Simple measures like column protectors keep building structures safe, and barrier systems are an effective measure for separating pedestrians from vehicles inside and outside of the workplace. Flexible bollards that are highly visible can help to prevent impacts, as well as serious damage should an impact occur.

Wider considerations

Consider too the value of good signage around your workplace environment. A lack of information, or confusing advice, is not only a nuisance but also dangerous, so take proactive steps towards improvements. Evaluate your existing labels, hanging signs, safety markers, route directions, exit way-markers around the workplace and update or replace if necessary. Using communications boards and shadow boards, for example, is not only good practice but also good for business.

The importance of wearing protective face masks and face shields during these times of pandemic cannot be overstated. They are crucial weapons in the fight to defeat Covid but consider boosting your protective equipment with hard hats fitted with integrated face shields. After all, it’s a cost effective solution to wearing two types of protective equipment simultaneously. Your health and safety obligations also include checking the condition of ladders and steps. To enhance the process, attach asset tag markers to equipment alongside a checklist and a system to record inspection dates.

Tailor your decision-making to meet your specific needs is the key to successful workplace safety. The one-size fits all approach won’t always work in an environment where the balance between achieving optimum productivity and people’s wellbeing is paramount. Consider your requirements in terms of quality, reliability and performance, and look at how your supplier can add value in facilitating your understanding of the role that visual communications solutions plays in securing a safer tomorrow.

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