Warehouse Risk Assessment Guide
The Health and Safety Executive’s estimates[i] show that in the transport and logistics sector, each year around 3% of workers suffer from an illness they believe to be work-related, with another 3% of workers sustaining a work-related injury.
In terms of ill-health, musculoskeletal problems account for 54% of reported cases, with stress/anxiety/depression accounting for a further 30%. For accidents both slips, trips and falls and lifting and handling count for 28% each, with 11% struck by objects and 10% falling from height.
These statistics show us which areas might be considered significant risks and should be targeted first when completing risk assessments for a warehouse environment. In addition because of the serious and sometimes fatal nature of accidents involving delivery vehicles and fork lift trucks, vehicle movement should also be considered a significant risk.
This guide is intended to identify some of the hazards, controls and processes that need to be considered in a risk assessment.
Bad backs are the most common form of musculoskeletal disorder in the industry. Because everyone’s lifting capabilities are different risk assessments must be carried out on individuals. The assessment should take account of the task, individual’s capabilities, the load and the work environment (TILE). Key points to examine are:
- Does it require holding loads away from the trunk, twisting, stooping, reaching upwards, large vertical movements, carrying long distances, strenuous pushing and pulling or repetitive handling?
- Is there insufficient time for rest or recovery?
- Is a work rate imposed by the process and does it allow for adequate recovery?
- Individual – does the work require unusual capability, present a hazard to those with a health problem or who are pregnant, or require special information and training?
- Loads – are they heavy, bulky/unwieldy, difficult to grip or unstable/unpredictable?
- Work environment – does it have constraints on posture, poorly maintained floors, variations in levels, hot/cold humid conditions, strong air movements or poor lighting?
Stress can be caused by many factors including:
- Demands – workload and working environment. This is especially relevant for order picking and similar time-bound tasks
- Control – the level of control the individual has over their work
- Support – encouragement from management and colleagues
- Relationships – positive working to avoid conflict and resolve unacceptable behaviour
- Role – the individual understanding the part they play within the business
- Change – how it is managed and communicated to workers
A suitable and sufficient stress risk assessment will cover all of these key issues.
Vehicle movement is one of the more hazardous activities carried out in the warehouse environment, especially because vehicle drivers may not be familiar with the site and the rules in place. Here are some of the key controls:
- Roadways are of sufficient width to accommodate the largest vehicle.
- Traffic signing is adequate.
- Parking facilities are adequate.
- Speed limits are in place and obeyed.
- Road surfaces are maintained.
- Drivers of collection/delivery vehicles are instructed to report to the office before attempting to manoeuvre vehicles into unloading areas.
- Visiting drivers are issued with site rules.
- The movement of vehicles with high loads and/or restricted rear vision is supervised.
- A speed limit of 5 mph is enforced throughout the site and suitable signs are erected at appropriate positions.
- A one-way system has been established with suitable signage displayed.
- Adequate lighting is provided to all outside areas.
- Road surfaces are maintained in a good condition and repairs are carried out as necessary.
- Fixed metal barriers are placed alongside vulnerable areas of the building.
- All signs used in connection with traffic comply with the current road traffic legislation. Traffic systems reduce the need for reversing vehicles.
- Safe systems of work are employed for reversing vehicles.
- The reversing of ‘high risk’ vehicles i.e. those with high loads and/or restricted rear vision is supervised.
- Vehicle and pedestrian routes are segregated. Crossing points are marked and protected.
- Only specified and authorised persons are permitted to work in the yard area.
- Employees are instructed to use the single personnel doors provided and not to gain access through roller shutter doors.
- Warning signs are displayed advising visitors to report to reception, away from the ‘goods-in’ area.
Slips and Trips
Slips and trips can be easy to prevent but complacency, poorly maintained premises and inclement weather can lead to accidents. The following controls should be considered to help reduce slip and trip risks:
- Work at Height Risk Assessments cover loading/unloading operations.
- Edge protection is provided on docks etc. where appropriate to prevent falls.
- Employees have been trained in safe loading/unloading procedures.
- Suitable access equipment is available for loading/unloading.
- Floors are in a good state of repair.
- Spills are cleaned up quickly – encourage a “see it, sort it” culture.
- Gangways are kept clear.
- Appropriate footwear is worn.
- Ice, snow and excess rainwater are cleared effectively.
- Ensure fuel oil tanks are bunded and are not leaking.
Racking and Falling Objects
Racking can be subject to collapse and employees may fall if they climb on it to retrieve items, even briefly. High-level storage increases the risk of falling objects. The following should be checked during risk assessment:
- The bottom of all uprights are finished with base plates suitably fixed to the floor.
- All packing skins are steel or similar strength material and firmly fixed.
- All components are provided and erected according to the manufacturer’s rack configuration diagram.
- All nuts and bolts are tightened and fitted with spring washers.
- The system is regularly inspected for corrosion.
- Back to back systems are joined by fixed links.
- Beam defection under load does not exceed 1/200 of the span.
- All required notices (e.g. maximum safe load/do not climb on racking) are provided and displayed.
- Records of inspections, faults and remedial action are retained.
- Each component of the racking system is assigned a reference number/letter.
- An inventory of racking components is maintained.
- The system is regularly inspected for damage.
- Employees are encouraged to report damaged racking, whether caused by themselves or by others.
Work at Height
Specific assessments should be carried out for all activities involving work at height. The preference is always to eliminate work at height e.g. by using automated means but when it is not reasonable to eliminate, then collective measures such as suitable platforms should be favoured. The risk assessment should consider the following controls:
- Limit the use of ladders or stepladders to when it is not reasonably practicable to use safer equipment e.g. when the work is low risk and short duration.
- Prohibit the use of pallets on fork lift trucks for work at height access.
- Prohibit employees from climbing on racking unless it is specifically designed for that use.
- Provide suitable and sufficient training for work at height activities. If access equipment is used then workers should be trained in that specific equipment.