How to Improve Material Handling Equipment Safety
How to Improve Material Handling Equipment Safety
Most warehouses and workplaces throughout the UK and world will use some form of material handling equipment to move heavy items from one place to another. With this in mind, it is highly important for workplaces to ensure that they are doing everything they can when it comes to material handling equipment safety. Whilst the majority of workers that use warehouse equipment behave safely and cautiously to ensure no one gets hurt, accidents do happen, which is why risk assessments are so important. As a part of your risk assessment, you should have a section dedicated to warehouse equipment safety measures.
This blog article looks at a number of measures that you should take to ensure your employees use material handling equipment as safely as possible. Throughout this blog, material handling equipment will be used to describe any piece of equipment that is used for moving heavy items. This can include forklifts, pallet trucks and cylinder handling equipment.
Only Allow Trained Operators to Use Material Handling Equipment
There are many types of material handling equipment, ranging from pallet trucks to cylinder handling equipment. Whilst some material handling equipment will require more training than others, it is highly important that any new operators go through some form of training to ensure they are safe whilst operating. Training for some warehouse equipment can be carried out in house, i.e pallet trucks, but if you want an employee to operate larger machinery such as a counterbalance forklift, then formal material handling equipment training will be required. The reality is that training will improve safety whilst the machinery is being operated. It will also prevent damage to areas within the workplace which will save money in the long term.
Carry Out Pre-Shift Inspections
It is always worth completing pre-shift inspections/checks on any piece of equipment that could potentially lead to a hazard. You would most likely check a ladder before climbing it so the same precautions should be taken when it comes to operating heavy lifting equipment. Before operating material handling equipment, check that the wheels are fully secured. These are the part of the machinery that makes contact with the floor, so if these are unbalanced or damaged it is highly likely that the handling equipment and items it is hauling will collapse. This could lead to damaged items or worse an injured employee. Overall, it is best to stay organised with your pre-shift checks and put a procedure in place where it can be recorded that the unit was checked on a certain date.
Ensure Items Loaded are Secure & Stable
Before moving the material handling equipment, be sure to check that the items on the unit are secure. If any items are unbalanced, it is likely they will fall when you start to move. Remember, it is likely that you will need to turn the material handling equipment that you are using, so be sure to consider the turning radius when inspecting whether the items are secure and stable. If the turning radius is tight, it could result in the items leaning towards one side more than the other which could end in items falling from the machinery.
Use Equipment in Clear Areas Where Operator Can See You Whilst MovingIt is best to use material handling equipment in environments where you can be seen and heard. This will prevent accidents. Of course, it is likely that you will need to turn corners at some points, so be sure to alert people before going around the corners. It is recommended that someone spots whilst the other person operates the material handling equipment. This is especially important in areas where it is difficult to see what might be coming in the other direction.Choose to Pull or Push Based on the Equipment You Are Using
Depending on the equipment you are using it is important to use the right movement and motion. If you are using a forklift, it is recommended that you drive forwards, even up hills with an elevation of 10%. However, if you are using pallet trucks it is recommended that you pull when fully loaded as this allows the operator to check for hazards whilst they are moving. Pulling a pallet truck also requires less effort which is better for muscle health in the long run.
Know the Weight of the Load and Ensure Equipment Can Handle the Weight
Before you set off it is best to know the weight of the full load. This is not to say you need to put the load on scales and write down the weight. It is just a note to ensure you have a rough idea of the weight to ensure you can manoeuvre it without any hazards occurring. It is likely that as you get used to the stock you are moving around the workplace you will start to know the weight by sight. But be sure to fully inspect new load types to guarantee no issues will arise during movement.
Travel at Safe Speeds
It goes without saying that when you travel with heavy handling equipment you should do so at a safe speed. Going too fast with a fully loaded material handling equipment unit could result in the load falling from the unit and becoming damaged or worse, someone getting injured. To ensure operators travel with material handling equipment at a safe speed, they should go through on-site training so that they are fully aware of the speed expectations when operating the machinery.
Safely Park Material Handling Equipment When Not in Use
It goes without saying that when you’re not using a material handling equipment unit you should park it in a safe place where passersby will not accidentally trip over it. To maximise material handling equipment safely, it is recommended that you park the unit in a well-lit environment where there is signage to notify passers-by that there are parked vehicles nearby. Safe parking will prevent any harm coming to passersby. It will also ensure that the vehicle is safe from accidents that could potentially damage the equipment.
Wear Appropriate PPE (Personal Protection Equipment
The PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) you wear whilst operating material handling equipment depends on the type of industry you are working in. For example, if you are working with aggregate you will most likely require eye protection. This is not necessarily the case in standard warehouse work, however, all material handling equipment operators will need certain clothing/equipment to ensure they remain safe whilst operating. This includes non-baggy trousers, steel toe cap boots, hardwearing gloves, and a hard helmet. It is also advised that you wear high visibility jackets so that other material handling equipment operators in the vicinity can easily see you.
Install Safty Barriers to Provide Clear Operational Boundaries
Whilst it is important that the operator is cautious when it comes to material handling equipment safety, it is equally important for the people around the equipment to behave safely by not walking in the path of the unit. To ensure pedestrians are safe when they are around material handling equipment, it is advised that you install safety barriers so that there is a clear barrier between the area pedestrians should be. We have a range of safety barriers that are designed to improve workplace safety. This includes protective posts, low level barriers, lift out rail barriers and more.
Always Consult with Experts When it Comes to Material Handling Equipment Safety
This guide for material handling equipment safety is a good starting point and provides you with breadcrumbs to ensure your workplace is using material handling equipment safely. However, we highly advise that if you are new to material handling equipment and want to guarantee safety in your workplace that you consult with experts. Experts will be able to ensure that you are using material handling equipment safely and will guarantee that your practises and procedures are within health and safety regulations and legal requirements.
Taking each of these points into account, are you 100% sure your warehouse/workplace is safe whilst employees operate material handling equipment? No matter how big or small the material handling equipment is, it is highly important that safety procedures are followed. Without clear safety procedures, there is a real risk of an incident happening. Whilst some incidents are impossible to prevent, it is always best to do everything in your power to avoid any risks that are possible to prevent.