Safety is too important to rely on ‘off the shelf’ products. When sourcing safety solutions, consultation is key

By David Thomas, General Manager, ZoneSafe - Proximity Warning & Alert Systems.

The boom in online retail in recent years has undoubtedly boosted warehouse and logistics operation in the UK while the circumstances of 2020 continue to fuel further growth within the industry as consumers steer clear of the high street; opting instead for online shopping and delivery.

The nature of warehouse and logistics operations mean workplace accidents are common. With increased demand, comes increased responsibility as warehouses and storage facilities come under immense pressure to meet consumer needs whilst ensuring a safe working environment for staff.

Workplace injuries

Employers in all sectors have both a legal and moral duty to ensure the health and safety of their employees and visitors. Serious injuries including fractures, dislocations and amputations are reported every day in the UK so it is imperative employers take sufficient measures to mitigate risks to employees particularly in high risk industries. A warehouse is a notoriously dangerous working environment with falls from height, vehicle collisions, crushing incidents and fatal injuries all too common. Earlier this year, even the world’s largest online retailer Amazon found itself accused of “failing to provide a safe working environment” after a string of serious incidents  were reported to have taken place at its UK storage facilities over the last three years. 

Transport in the workplace 

One of the greatest risks to workers in the warehouse environment remains that of collision between pedestrians and vehicles.  Every year, there are over 5000 reported accidents across various sectors involving transport in the workplace with around 50 of these resulting in death². Pedestrian/vehicle collisions provide one of the greatest threats to worker safety with forklift trucks being involved in a disproportionate number of incidents. 

Forklifts are crucial to logistics operation but pose a significant threat to workplace safety with Britsafe reporting forklifts as the most dangerous form of workplace transport accounting for 25% of workplace transport injuries in the UK. In a busy work environment where staff and machinery operate in close proximity, maintaining situational awareness is crucial. Innovative technologies that minimise the risk of collision including proximity warning and alert systems, 360° cameras, active RFID tags, and other interactive equipment is now available and provides an enhanced level of awareness to those working in close proximity to vehicles and plant machinery.

One size doesn’t fit all

The approach to any investment in safety solution should be consultative with equipment designed and adapted where necessary to fully align with the needs of a business and its workforce.  Rather than simply accepting a one size fits all approach, employers should engage with manufacturers and work collaboratively to find the most effective and safe solution for their business.  Manufacturers of safety equipment should treat each company as individual, tailoring products where necessary to deliver optimum safety standards that can be maintained to provide long term protection for the business and its people. 

Employers are obligated to meet general safety standards but how these are achieved is open to interpretation. The wide range of products and services available from suppliers to help deliver safe working practice can be overwhelming so it is important businesses identify what is best for their operation and specific circumstances. When it comes to safety, businesses shouldn’t be afraid to challenge manufacturers to adapt or develop safety solutions that fully meet the exacting requirements of the organisation and its staff. By working with suppliers collaboratively, the highest standard of safety can be achieve

2. https://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/

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