In the May edition of Inbound Logistics, there’s a good article on Warehouse Safety, written by Stanley Stone, Vice President of Safety at Penske Logistics1. Here is his article, with my occasional input inserted.
- START AT THE TOP: While everyone is responsible for their individual safe behavior, the company’s leadership team must own, lead, and participate in safety management. It’s not enough for leadership to merely support safety; they must exhibit behavior that clearly demonstrates to all associates that safety is critical to the success of the organization.
- TRAINING IS PARAMOUNT: From the first day of an employee’s tenure with a company, training is key to safer warehouse operations. Educate all associates on safety-related practices, requirements, and responsibilities. Once the organization’s vision and safety requirements are explained, the groundwork has been laid for continuous training.
- OBSERVE ASSOCIATES IN ACTION: After associates receive basic safety training, reinforcing workplace safety behavior is ongoing. Managers should observe, for example, how an employee drives a forklift during the first few days following forklift training, and be prepared to offer immediate and meaningful feedback. Good managers point out the positives of safe behavior, and coach areas that need improvement, often on an ongoing basis.
- GET EMPLOYEES INVOLVED: Create cross-functional, in-house safety teams that meet at least monthly to focus on preventing accidents and injuries by identifying hazards and unsafe conditions in the warehouse, and ensuring proper controls are in place to bring all hazards within acceptable levels of risk. Teams should include warehouse workers, forklift drivers, supervisors, vendors, and customer liaisons.
- WORK SCHEDULES TO MATCH DUTIES: It is important for employees to be safe, and for employers to create a reasonable workday and safe workplace to facilitate their duties. To avoid unsafe behaviors caused by fatigue, consider implementing ergonomic improvements; rotating job assignments; supplementing shifts with temporary or part-time employees; adding a shift; and providing adequate rest and beverage breaks, especially in hot and humid conditions.
- ASSESS RISK: Identify individual job activities, the potential hazards associated with each activity, and their existing controls. Then assign a risk rating to each activity by using a numeric formula that considers the probability of loss, the severity of loss, and the frequency of each activity. The risk rating will determine if additional controls are needed
- PERFORM SITE ASSESSMENTS: A group of health and safety professionals should work hand-in-hand with site management to seek out unsafe conditions and hazards, and create action plans to bring risk within acceptable levels before employees are injured or property is damaged.
- INVESTIGATE ACCIDENTS: After an incident, identify immediate and upstream root causes, and implement better controls to prevent a repeat occurrence.
- COMMUNICATE: Frequent and consistent communication between all levels of management and associates regarding safety processes, performance, and expectations is critical to building an effective safety culture and successful safety performance.
- GATHER MEANINGFUL AND TIMELY METRICS: Create metrics that reflect the presence of safety (leading indicators), not just the absence of safety (trailing indicators). Metrics must also be designed based on their intended audience. For example, metrics for safety managers will need to be very detailed and facilitate analysis of correlations and trends. Metrics for operating managers need to be at a higher level and help identify deficiencies the team can address.
Having spent a better part of my career in Supply Chain and Distribution, I can say that adherence and focus on safety is a good indication of the overall health and quality of the entire supply chain and operation of the fulfillment center. If there is sloppy and unsafe behavior, there is usually very sloppy processes and poor quality products.
Unsafe behavior is a good indication of poor quality and sloppy processes in your operation – ANY operation – healthcare, supply chain, warehouse, information technology – ANY operation
It’s Your Turn
How might 5S be helpful in getting an organization to transform their thinking and behavior to a much safer one?
- inboundlogistics.com/articles/features/0510_feature01.shtml ↩