There are many potential hazards involved in the storage and warehousing industry and you need to think about how and where the work is done and by whom when looking for things that could go wrong.
Manual handling injuries are the most common injuries in this labour-intensive industry. The most common causes of these injuries are:
- packing and unpacking shipping containers or trucks by hand
- manual order picking
- loading and unloading pallets
- handling empty pallets.
The risk increases when workers lift items above shoulder height or below knee height, move heavy items, carry or move items over long distances, or work at a fast pace.
The best approach is to review your work practices and substitute manual handling with mechanical loading and unloading systems wherever possible.
Manufacturers, suppliers, importers and customers can also provide you with information on the safest methods to receive, store and despatch their goods to minimise risk for all parties.
Forklifts and trucks
Whenever vehicles are being used in the workplace, there are risks for pedestrians. Procedures must be developed for loading and unloading, and traffic routes must separate forklifts and trucks from people. Particular consideration needs to be given to reversing vehicles, which are a common cause of injury.
If trucks drive away while products are being loaded or unloaded, forklift operators often receive serious injuries.
Packing, unpacking and storing goods can involve significant risks if the working environment is unsafe. For example, shipping containers may contain dangerous fumes if packaged chemicals have leaked or fumigants have not been cleared. Similarly, petrol, diesel and LP gas powered forklifts and trucks give out hazardous exhaust emissions, which can build up during packing or unpacking and making oxygen levels unsafe.
Unsecured goods may move during transport, and so there is a risk of goods falling while unpacking items from shipping containers or trucks or following placement in racking.
Picking or refilling goods at height can mean that workers are at risk of falling if appropriate safety measures are not used. Pallet racking also needs to be inspected and maintained to ensure that it cannot collapse.
Fatigue is a significant health and safety risk for drivers of line haul trucks and operators or mobile plant such as forklifts. Workers who work at night or on long shifts are susceptible to fatigue. Lack of sleep and changes to a person's 'body clock' (or natural rhythms) can contribute to fatigue which increases the risk of workplace injury.
Prolonged sitting and operating equipment can lead to injuries, especially when the equipment is not adjusted to support the worker's posture, or when the worker is exposed to cold or vibration. Repetitive awkward postures such as looking behind or looking up when driving a forklift can also lead to injury.