Common Hazards the Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) Should Look for During Inspections: Warehouse Sector
Every workplace has hazards. However, there are hazards that are more common depending on which sector your workplace falls under. This month, we are featuring the Warehouse Sector. We will discuss common hazards to look for to give JHSCs an edge when it comes to spotting and controlling hazards during their monthly workplace inspections and making recommendations to the employer.
Within the warehouse sector, there are many hazards that put both workers and others such as suppliers, maintenance workers, or visitors, at risk. For JHSC members, these are the hazards that require the most attention in a warehouse setting:
Slip, Trip, and Fall Hazards
Practicing proper housekeeping at the warehouse is essential to controlling slip, trip, and fall hazards. The JHSC should pay special attention to areas where work commences, especially where elemental debris such as ice or snow may accumulate, where there are changes in level on the walking surface, and where there may be unsecured mats or other implements on the ground. Slip, trip, and fall injuries can be anywhere from minor to catastrophic. If a worker is seriously injured, it may even result in litigation, fines, or convictions from the Ministry of Labour if the employer is found to have been negligent in controlling the hazard and/or following the JHSC’s recommendations.
Pedestrians and Machinery
Many warehouses use equipment and technology that aims to make operations more efficient and decrease the ergonomic strain of workers. However, in busy warehouses with lots of lift trucks, conveyor belts, and other machinery, hazards tend to increase. Pedestrians must be mindful of lift truck traffic and vice-versa. As well, any machinery or belt that can pull a worker’s clothing or hair is hazardous. JHSC members inspecting warehouses should be mindful of these hazards, and inspections should include confirmation that all machine guards are in place and functioning and that there is a policy and procedure in place that protects pedestrians from lift truck traffic. JHSC members may recommend implementing pedestrian and machinery lanes, or other controls to ensure that pedestrians and lift truck operators may all work safely and efficiently in the warehouse.
Workstations need to be ergonomically correct so that workers are not suffering due to poor design. Workers in warehouses who use dollies to move items, who lift and carry heavy items, or who engage in repetitive movements all day are at risk for ergonomic injury if they do not follow proper manual materials handling techniques. Proper lifting techniques and correct tools for the job (for example push carts, dollies, platform ladders, etc.) mitigate the risk of suffering an injury due to strain caused by improper lifting techniques.
Workplace Violence and Harassment Hazards
It is important for the JHSC to consider the risk of harassment and violence from all sources, and not just from within the workplace. Sources include the public, suppliers, co-workers, supervisors/management, and even family members on the work premises. When evaluating the risk of harassment or violence, JHSCs should take time to evaluate the potential risk to workers from all of the sources listed.
Racking and Loading/Unloading Areas
Unstable racking, racking that has been damaged, or improper racking presents huge hazards to the workers in the area. As well, deficient racking could result in the loss or damage of very valuable inventory – an avoidable loss that no company wants to take. Loading and unloading areas may also be hazardous, especially loading docks and platforms, where hazards range from the potential to fall from an unguarded edge to being crushed by a truck cab, loaded pallet, or lifting device. JHSC members ought to use caution while inspecting racking and loading and unloading areas, and they need to make a point of inspecting all racking for damage or deficiencies, and loading areas for any potential hazards with the potential to injure workers, drivers, and machinery operators.
Lack of Training
Perhaps the most common hazard found in the warehouse industry is lack of training. JHSC members can work with their employer to implement a training program that meets industry requirements and legislative standards. JHSC members may ask random workers on the warehouse floor if they’ve received training. If a JHSC member isn’t satisfied with the response, a recommendation for training or re-training can be made to the employer.
Slips, trips, and falls, pedestrians and machinery, manual handling, workplace violence and harassment, racking and loading/unloading areas, and lack of training hazards are not the only hazards present in a warehouse workspace. There are many other hazards that the JHSC needs to be mindful of. From knives/box cutters to dangerous WHMIS-controlled chemicals, JHSC members in every sector need to remain cognizant of hazards in their work environment and feel confident in identifying and controlling them.
If you have questions about the JHSC’s role during or after workplace inspections, or how to identify common hazards in your workplace, OSG can help. We have been successfully training JHSC members for over 20 years, and we are the largest private provider of JHSC committee certification training in Ontario. When it comes to JHSC – we know our stuff! Call 1.800.815.9980 to speak to one of our health and safety experts today or view our JHSC Part 1 or Part 2 training online now.