Warehouse safety is very important for employers. Implementing new technologies help improve and create a safer work environment. There are certain concerns that arise when the seasons change. Employers need to know how to keep their employees and operations safe during the freezing winter weather.
You can’t change the weather forecast, but you can make sure that you have taken all of the necessary steps to ensure a safe and happy work environment!
Why Warehouses Are Affected By Winter
Warehouses are designed in a very simple way. They are not made to protect against cold or heat. If you’ve ever worked in a warehouse, you know what we mean.
Although working in extreme heat is very uncomfortable, there is more damage that comes with extreme cold. This is especially true when employees are loading or unloading cargo. Doors are opened and closed countless times every day, letting snow, ice, and cold winds inside. Once snow is inside, it melts and creates a slushy, slippery environment. Furthermore, all of the equipment and trucks need to find their way through the snow. All of these factors slow down productivity.
Risks From The Cold
More than just causing discomfort or delaying work, the cold can actually cause a lot of damage to equipment and injury to employees.
If a machine is exposed to the cold elements, snow and ice can clog it. Once it melts, it causes water damage. With more exposure to the cold weather, your equipment will face increases in damages, which will ultimately result in expensive repair costs.
There is a risk to your workers in the cold conditions. Most don’t dress appropriately and don’t take the necessary precautions. This causes frostbite and joint pain, leading to sick time taken off to recover. Other conditions like migraines, allergies, or asthma also flare up in the cold weather and wind. The risk of slippery conditions has an effect on your employees and if snow gets into the warehouse, melts, and then freezes, it increases the risk for people to fall.
Studies have shown that workers are impacted by uncomfortable temperatures. Obviously workers who are always exposed to the cold winter conditions aren’t as productive or accurate as they would be when they are comfortable. Less gets done and more mistakes happen. When temperatures first begin to drop, the fast-paced nature of the job, offsets the cold because workers are constantly moving and don’t have much time to get cold. However, once temperatures really drop, no amount of moving around helps offset this. This happens especially when loading and unloading cargo by the dock doors that are constantly opened.
How YOU Can Help
It is very costly to heat an entire warehouse, but you can train all of your employees how to deal with the cold. If it is too cold inside, your employees are susceptible to frostbite, trench foot, and hypothermia.They should understand the symptoms of cold stress injuries. You can help by ensuring that all employees are properly dressed for the conditions. They should wear heavy no-slip work gloves, coats, sweatshirts, hats, and proper no-slip footwear, waterproof boots and thick socks. All employees should change out of cold, wet clothing and have an extra change of clothes.
Although you want to make sure that your employees are wearing many layers, it is important that clothes don’t have any loose hanging attachments that could get caught in the different machines.
Awareness should be discussed about the risks of dehydration in the cold weather. Most people don’t realize how little water they have had to drink, even though they have been sweating and losing electrolytes. All employees should be taking frequent water breaks to make sure that they are always hydrated.
Educate employees on the proper lifting and pulling techniques and procedures to avoid muscle pulls and tears. Employees should also stretch before they are moving heavy machinery and cargo.
The slippery conditions are avoidable by ensuring that floors are regularly mopped, wet floor signs are visible, and no-slip mats are placed in doorways. The outside conditions should also be taken care of by ensuring there is regular snow removal and salted to make the walk to and from the building safer for all.
Tips On Physical Changes To Consider
The following are some useful tips for avoiding injury, pain, or equipment damage during the winter months:
- Prepare your equipment to handle the freezing cold
- Cover metal handles and bars
- Install strip doors in areas that are opened frequently to help reduce air flow from outside
- Ensure there are warm areas for your employees to warm up and take a break
- Use insulated/thermal curtain walls
- It segments off entire work areas for better climate control
- Make sure that the high speed doors are only opened when needed
- Install fans that distribute heat
- Equalizes temperatures from floor to ceiling
- Buy forklift cab covers
- Zippered tents that are installed on top of the forklift to protect workers from the environment or possible falling items
- Get extra heaters
- Industrial heaters provide heat in certain areas that need it the most
If you are taking all of the right precautions, warehouses can be safe and comfortable all winter long!
Consider partnering with a 3PL company who can help you leverage technology. Combined with your cloud-based WMS, you will have a fully winterized warehouse in no time!