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Have a booming warehouse? Ramp up safety efforts

Ontario's warehouse industry is booming as COVID-19 restrictions alter our purchasing behaviour. "People are ordering everything online now to keep themselves safe from the pandemic," says Norm Kramer, WSPS Warehousing Specialist. "Food, clothing, gifts, specialty items, household building products…this is prompting many businesses to quickly build new facilities, expand existing facilities, or move to an established facility with existing racking."

It's good news for the industry, but in the process "don't forget about keeping your people safe from workplace hazards, including COVID-19," says Norm.

Read on to find out how to keep new and current staff safe as you grow your business.

  1. Ensure your new workspace is thoroughly assessed to support current COVID-19 best practices. See link below for guidance on developing a COVID-19 safety plan. These measures would be required:
    • actively screening everyone who enters the workplace; consider devices such as temperature scanners
    • self-isolating workers with symptoms and workers who are close contacts of COVID-19 cases; ensure space is designated for this purpose
    • ensuring people maintain a physical distance of two metres or more; establish floor markings and signage
    • having workers, clients and visitors wear masks; keep extra on hand
    • disinfecting surfaces and objects
    • supporting hand hygiene, particularly handwashing; install more hand hygiene stations
    • promoting good cough and sneeze etiquette and reminding workers to avoid touching their faces
    • notifying your local public health unit if any workers have COVID-19 or are exposed to it
  2. Provide clear information and instruction to existing and new workers. Review health and safety risks, including possible transmission points for COVID-19, what steps are being taken to protect them, and how they can protect themselves.
  3. Design the workspace to keep people away from danger zones. Prevent third party drivers from walking through the facility by installing a waiting area with barriers and washrooms close by. Ensure predictable people traffic through facility by painting a walkway with bright yellow lines and enforce its use. Keep pedestrians clear of loading dock area. Establish smoking area away from high traffic areas.
  4. Design the outside yard to keep people away from high hazard areas. Paint pedestrian paths in the yard to ensure people traffic is predictable and away from truck drivers' blind spots.
  5. Avoid clutter by ensuring all floor space is clearly marked. Paint lines on the floor to indicate where pallets can be placed to keep aisle ways clear and provide adequate space for staging.
  6. Ensure good air quality at the loading dock. Good ventilation (air exchange) is essential when trucks are driving into the warehouse loading dock. Establish a no-idling policy.
  7. Ensure mobile equipment is suitable. Consider narrow aisle mobile equipment for order pickers so they can manoeuvre more easily with a shorter turning radius. Sit-down counterbalance lift trucks are not ideal in rack aisles due to their wider turning radius.
  8. Prevent mobile equipment collisions. Paint line markings at intersections where mobile equipment travels, including stop signs to establish right of way.
  9. Keep the workplace clean and neat. Establish lots of housekeeping stations (e.g. end of aisles) with equipment to ensure housekeeping is everyone's job and is built into the daily work routine.
  10. Prevent material from falling. Consider installing vertical netting or similar barriers on the sides of the racking near pedestrian traffic and/or work areas. Prior to making modifications to an existing racking system, confirm whether any proposed changes would trigger a pre-start health and safety review. A pre-start review is required when installing new racking, modifying existing racking or in cases where specifications, like loading capacity, are unknown.
  11. Purchase safe equipment. Manufacturers and end users have shared responsibilities when it comes to equipment safety. When contemplating purchases, consider safety features that have been integrated by the manufacturer or supplier. For example, guarding or light curtains around pallet wrappers; guarding and emergency stops at conveyors.
  12. Design workstations to be adjustable. Consider ergonomics at workstations to prevent repetitious, awkward postures.

Find more resources on WSPSCOVID-19 Hub