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The basics of warehouse safety

You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs - as the saying goes. In warehouse logistics, however, it's more accurate to say that where there's storage, there's movement. Storing, managing and picking goods with floor conveyors, conveyor systems and trucks - all this happens quickly and, at best, smoothly. But these processes harbour many dangers in everyday life and can become a safety risk. Jürgen Effner is the managing director of TOPREGAL GmbH, which specializes in optimizing these processes with its product range consisting of racking and operating technology as well as transport and lifting equipment. He gives tips on how work can remain effective and, above all, safe even in large warehouses and with high employee frequency.

Identify hazards, commands and prohibitions

When setting up and expanding a warehouse, clear regulations must be observed. For example, Directive 92/58/EEC, which deals with safety and health signs in the workplace. It stipulates that load signs for racks must be installed and that information on fire protection, escape routes, prohibitions, orders and warnings must be placed in a clearly visible position. These signs must also meet certain requirements, such as being impact and scratch resistant. Hazardous materials must also be designated, and travel routes must be marked on the floor. "Furthermore, it is important to define a set of rules for all processes in the warehouse and to work according to them. In this way, manual operations and processes become comprehensible and predictable for all those involved, and nothing is forgotten. Even routine work increases safety enormously," says Effner.

Keeping shunting areas generous 

Economically thought and theoretically planned, storage areas and warehouses should be utilized as much as possible. "There are, of course, clear specifications for aisle widths and distances as well. But these are sometimes very tightly dimensioned. Especially if there is a lot of manoeuvring or also storage at height," Effner knows and explains, "Apart from that, I always advise maintaining an open area that is available for goods handling, special or temporary storage or similar." What still works in theory with tight planning often poses major safety risks in practical day-to-day operations. Even trained drivers need a certain shunting distance between racks. "Here I advise including an additional buffer, which is between 1.5 and 5 meters, depending on the industrial truck and racking system," says Effner. Also, in hectic everyday life, more space is often needed to transport goods in a time-efficient manner so as not to collide with other vehicles or bump into racks. Angles that are too tight also hinder cranes, lifting arms or forklifts. Effner makes it clear: "More generous planning makes work easier, saves time and significantly reduces hazards and breakage of goods."

Using audiovisual signals 

This doesn't just mean warning lights and signals. "What increases safety in a warehouse just as much is working together in tone and gesture," says Effner. This is where the old hands in particular, including the boss, are called upon to pass on knowledge and experience to employees. "If you don't teach and don't explain, you can't reprimand in the event of an incident," Effner warns. Yet he sees a completely different opportunity in the young professionals: "Our young warehouse employees often have very constructive and supportive ideas in terms of simplifying processes and increasing safety. We listen to every suggestion, because the feedback from our employees enables us to remain future-oriented."