Reducing damage to warehouse racking systems and protecting key infrastructure is critical for operators looking to optimise productivity and boost profitability, says Paul Roehricht, UK strategic account manager, Brandsafe.
Here at Brandsafe, we have seen major strides in warehouse and distribution centre productivity in recent years as the sector has almost doubled in size with the rise of online shopping fuelling rapid growth, investment and the development of new facilities. However, these gains are constantly threatened by safety failures and oversights that lead not only to personal injury, but also damage to equipment that harms overall output.
Any damage in the warehouse environment, which includes costly vehicle impacts to pallet racking, pedestrian walkways and access points such as doors and loading bays, contributes to lost revenue and undermines storage and product throughput. Indeed, lost productivity costs UK businesses billions of pounds annually while the warehouse and distribution sector specifically, loses thousands of staff hours a year from inefficient, and sometimes potentially unsafe, procedures.
While collisions involving forklifts, wheeled pallet trucks and other commercial vehicles can be serious for employees, potentially leading to injury, loss of life and legal action, vehicle impacts with facility equipment, structures and controls can also have severe consequences on warehouse productivity.
Racking, mezzanines, and interior and exterior pedestrian walkways in key production areas must all be accurately assessed and protected against the risk of impact. For instance, racking loaded with stock that has been damaged following a vehicle collision could potentially collapse without warning if not immediately unloaded, inspected and repaired or replaced. In severe cases, a forklift could also penetrate right through the thin-skinned wall of modular offices located close to shopfloor storage handling or fulfilment operations.
Productivity can also be affected if other vital equipment such as warehouse automation systems, conveyors, electrical boxes and control panels are not properly protected from vehicle traffic by barriers, column protectors and secure cages or enclosures. In most cases, critical components will have to be replaced at a substantial cost while time lost waiting for repairs to be completed or damaged equipment to be replaced will also have a significant knock-on impact on businesses striving to operate at maximum capacity.
The use of bespoke designed and installed impact protection safety products such as barriers, guardrails, gates and accessories, can significantly reduce the occurrence of such incidents and better protect your investments. Guardrails and safety barriers, for example, can be installed to protect rack aisle ends, mezzanines and platforms, conveyor systems, machinery, mechanicals, electrical panels, building features, offices and other important equipment, protecting stored products and safeguarding structural equipment in the process. Floor level pallet racking in heavy traffic zones can also be protected from one of the most likely sources of damage – forklift trucks – with tough and durable low-level racking protection systems anchored securely to the floor.
A viable workplace safety culture will undoubtedly contribute to reducing financial losses and secure optimal productivity – and the application of effective impact protection systems to safeguard racking systems for example, has to be a key part of this focus.
As warehouse and distribution centres continue to develop and physically expand their operations, it remains paramount to protect the safety of your employees and assets with systems such as safety barriers and column protectors to secure efficiencies and productivity. It’s important to also recognise that every warehouse operation is different; it has its own particular set of hazards and risks. This must be reflected in a H&S strategy that is tailored to meet individual needs, as warehouses of all sizes and purposes require a good deal of complex safety planning and product support. You will need to consider your investment in terms of quality, reliability and performance. Also think about how your supplier can add value through their planning and consultancy services – it’s good for business.
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