Warehouse safety: a guide to minimising risks at work

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 18 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Working in a warehouse can have several health and safety risks. Failing to implement the correct procedures can have significant consequences, including injury, illness, legal issues, staff underperformance and high employee turnover. If you work in a warehouse environment, learning more about warehouse safety can help you understand these legal obligations, so you can help implement and maintain safety procedures and perform your tasks without danger. In this article, we provide a list of warehouse safety tips for several situations, which you may consider using in this work environment.

Warehouse safety tips

Warehouse safety procedures are not only important for complying with health and safety regulations, but help demonstrate to employees that you value their well-being. This can increase their trust and levels of motivation at work. The following sections cover safety tips for different warehouse hazards:

Slips, trips and falls

According to statistics from the Health and Safety Executive, slips and trips are one of the most common causes of work-related injuries. Falls from a large height also cause a significant number of fatalities in the workplace. To avoid slips, trips and falls in a warehouse, consider the following tips:

  • Cleaning staff use suitable warning signs: If you can, schedule warehouse cleaning outside of standard working hours, as this can help to reduce the number of people at risk. You can also ensure that cleaning staff use the proper methods and products to clean the specific type of flooring in your warehouse.

  • Housekeeping: Make sure employees clean up after any spills, keep cables out of pathways and clear any obstacles from passages.

  • Anti-slip paint: Using anti-slip paint can help to prevent a build-up of dust, minimise damage from wear and tear and reduce slips on the floor surface.

  • Anti-slip tape and shoes: Using anti-slip tape is helpful for areas where the application of anti-slip paint isn't possible, such as stairways. Shoes with non-slip soles can help staff to stay safe even if they face a potential slip hazard.

  • Heavy-duty cord coverings: If required to run cables across the warehouse floor, heavy-duty cord coverings can help prevent trips and protect the cables from any hazards.

  • Even and level floors: Ensuring the floors are even and level can help prevent dangers, such as falls, particularly if staff are carrying heavy loads.

  • Height safety training: It's especially important to provide ladder safety training for employees, as misuse or use of an unstable ladder can cause serious injuries or even death. Ensure staff use a ladder for no longer than 30 minutes and that they avoid using the top of the ladder.

Related: What do warehouse workers do? (Plus skills and duties)

Vehicles

Vehicle safety is important to help avoid serious injuries, regardless of whether warehouse staff drive forklifts or trucks. To support vehicle safety in a warehouse, consider the following tips:

  • Speed limits: Make sure that staff follow speed limits. You can place signs around the warehouse to remind staff to stay within the desired speed limit.

  • Permits: Allow only suitably trained individuals to operate vehicles, ensuring they're over the age of 18. Check that these staff have adequate training before allowing them to drive.

  • One-way system: Where possible, avoid drivers having to reverse by planning a route in which they can follow a one-way system. If reversing is necessary, ensure the driver has assistance with visibility.

  • Visibility: Maximise the driver's visibility by placing mirrors to assist them with vision, especially for corners and reversing. Instruct other staff to look out for vehicles when crossing an aisle.

  • Obstructions: Ensure that employees follow good housekeeping rules and clear any obstructions that could affect drivers.

  • Daily checklist and signs: You may supply drivers with a daily checklist, reminding them to note any caution lights, deflated tyres, defective seatbelts or abnormal noises. You can also place signs reminding drivers to be mindful of other staff and to wear a seatbelt.

  • Regular inspections and maintenance: Schedule regular vehicle inspections and maintenance. Arrange for a trained expert to assess vehicles and ensure that they're functioning correctly.

  • Warehouse floor: Preserve the warehouse floor to control damage to vehicles. Ensure the warehouse floor is level and isn't too steep or damaged, as this can cause a hazard for drivers.

Related: How to become a warehouse picker: a comprehensive guide

Fires

A fire in a warehouse can spread rapidly and become very dangerous. Fires can cause potential injuries and fatalities and serious damage to the warehouse. It can also cause a business to lose resources and production time. To support fire safety in a warehouse, consider the following tips:

  • Fire and smoke alarms: Conduct weekly checks on fire and smoke alarms. You can also check other fire safety equipment regularly, such as fire extinguishers and sprinklers.

  • Fire drills: Conduct a fire drill at least once per year. A fire drill can help you to make sure that potential exit routes function in practice and show staff how to access them and where they can find the assembly point.

  • Emergency plans: Develop a fire evacuation plan that you can review and update on a regular basis.

  • Fire warden: Appoint a fire warden. This role includes looking for ways to minimise fire hazards, forming an evacuation plan and assuming command during an emergency.

  • Materials handling and disposal: Ensure that staff handle materials safely, so they can dispose of materials such as boxes and packaging and manage hazardous substances.

  • Emergency lighting: Instal emergency lights at fire escape routes, exits and signs so that staff can see these from a distance and find their way to safety.

Lifts

There's a variety of lifting activities that warehouse staff may perform, using manual and machine-assisted lifting methods. These can cause significant risks if not executed properly, and it's necessary to apply appropriate measures to avoid issues such as musculoskeletal disorders and risks from using hazardous equipment. To avoid hazards from lifting, you can consider the following tips:

  • Maximum safe working load (SWL): Make sure those individuals operating lifting equipment are aware of the maximum SWL. You can usually find the SWL listed on the equipment or in the manufacturer's instructions.

  • Lift equipment: Avoid the necessity for lifting manually. Where possible, employees can use equipment, such as lift trucks, pallet trucks and trolleys, to avoid injury.

Related: How to write a labourer CV (with tips and examples)

Pallets and racking

Many warehouse employees load and unload pallets onto and from racking, both by hand and with the assistance of a machine. When safety measures are in place, this can help prevent individuals from dropping pallets on others or causing damage to equipment and instability to the racking. To support pallet and racking safety, you can consider the following tips:

  • Manufacturer's guidelines: Ensure staff abide by the manufacturer's guidelines. This applies to guidelines for safe stacking height and weight capacity, ensuring that they stack items evenly and place heavier items at the bottom.

  • Pallet loads: Train employees to load a pallet securely. You can use shrink wrap to reinforce pallets and observe an appropriate stacking practice.

  • Pallet inspections: Ask staff to inspect pallets before using them. They can look for issues such as loose nails, splinters or cracks.

  • Staff safety: Instruct staff not to climb, lean on or walk over pallets or racking. This can cause damage and injury to staff if they knock something off.

  • Staff education: Teach employees not to operate pallet or forklift trucks to access higher shelves. A ladder is often more appropriate for heights.

Related: How to write a warehouse operative CV

Staff training

Health and safety training for staff is a legal requirement to ensure that employees are aware of how to safely operate machinery and maintain health and safety guidelines. The following are some tips for warehouse health and safety training:

  • Health and safety training: Provide health and safety training to all employees. A supervisor or manager requires more health and safety training, so they can guide general warehouse operatives.

  • Workplace training: Deliver task-based training to staff, including both practical and technical training such as forklift safety. This can teach them about the sorts of hazards in a warehouse and how to prevent them.

  • Hazard reporting: Instruct staff to report hazards when they observe them. Knowing about a hazard can help you to take action to prevent accidents and ensure safety.

Related: 12 essential warehouse operative skills

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

It may also be necessary to provide warehouse staff with PPE. But it's essential that you implement other health and safety measures first, as hazards can still cause a significant risk if the PPE fails to provide enough protection. You can assess the risks in your warehouse to establish the type of PPE you require. The following are examples of PPE you may consider using:

  • high-visibility jackets

  • hard hats

  • eye protection

  • safety shoes

  • hearing protection

Related:

  • How to become a warehouse operative and the skills you need


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