There is a plethora of health and safety legislation accessible in the public domain but finding the legislation that is relevant to your business, then narrowing down the correct section, sub-section and cross referencing to the related guidance, understandably presents business owners with a giant headache!

Southalls health and safety experts have specialist knowledge of the warehousing and distribution sector. Talking to us today, consultants Adam Francis and Rich Denton provide an essential breakdown of 3 key pieces of relevant legislation and simple compliance tips:

The Work at Height Regulations 2005

These Regulations were introduced to try and reduce the number of fatalities caused by falling from height as currently falls from height account for around a third of all workplace deaths. In warehousing, stock falling from racking or racking collapse presents a major safety concern. Furthermore, loading and unloading presents a risk of falling loads or workers falling from trailers or containers.

Racking safety tips:
  • Set up a reporting system so staff can log damage.
  • Ensure racking is anchored securely and spaced to allow easy access.
  • Provide aircraft-style step ladders if necessary for picking and include them, along with other equipment, in your regular inspections.
  • Ensure lighting is adequate and floors are not slippery or uneven.

“It is advisable to check the condition of your racking every month, looking for signs of damage and ensuring that load capacities are being observed. Damage to the racking uprights through careless forklift use is common so particular attention should be given to this area. Warehouse managers also need to consider how pickers and fork lifts can manoeuvre safely, ideally keeping pickers out of aisles in which forklifts are operating,” said Adam Francis, Senior Health and Safety Consultant for Southalls.

Loading and unloading safety tips:

Wherever  possible, use engineered controls to reduce falls from height during unloading or loading such as container / HGV working platforms or a vehicle access platform alongside an HGV trailer. Fall restraint harnesses can also be attached to these platforms. Provide a safe place where drivers can wait and provide instructions in advance if they are required to load or unload goods.

Where engineered controls are not possible and workers need to access the trailer ensure they:
  • Wear a hard hat with restraining device and suitable safety shoes.
  • Never walk backwards and avoid standing on the goods.
  • Use the appropriate ladder or correct footholds for access.

“If you receive deliveries in containers, it is important to consider that goods may have shifted in transit. This then presents a risk of goods falling out of the container onto workers opening the container doors. One effective method to reduce this risk is to use the forks of a forklift truck to park against the container doors whilst the seals on the doors are cracked open. The forklift truck can then slowly reverse away from the container, removing workers from the danger zone.” said Rich Denton, Senior Health and Safety Consultant for Southalls.

The Workplace (Health, safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992

These Regulations cover many areas of the working environment but of particular relevance is their focus on workplace transport arrangements. Forklift trucks are critical to the successful functioning of a warehouse however statistics reveal that around a quarter of workplace transport accidents involve forklift trucks.

Pedestrians and forklifts are an especially dangerous combination and should be given clearly marked, separate routes wherever possible. If necessary, temporary barriers can be used to keep forklifts and people apart, for example in aisles where pickers are at work.

Forklift operators need regular training on the specific type of truck they operate and refresher courses every three to five years – in fact, suitable training is required by law. The training should include safe loading of racking to reduce the danger of goods falling from bays. Forklifts must be well maintained and should be inspected regularly and recorded, including at the start of each shift.

Rich Denton said, “Although still not a strict statutory requirement, there is increasing pressure across the warehousing sector for employers to enforce the use of seatbelts at all times to reduce the risk of drivers being crushed by forklifts in the event of overturn. This means incorporating the requirement in the company health and safety policy, using appropriate signage and providing verbal reminders.”

Forklift safety tips:
  • Keep pedestrians and forklifts apart.
  • Ensure drivers wear a seatbelt and are properly trained.
  • Fit speed limiters and reversing bleepers on forklifts.
  • Display speed limits signage.
  • Conduct pre-use inspections.
  • Make sure routes are well lit and marked, have an even surface, are free from obstructions and have protective barriers around doorways that open directly onto vehicle routes.
  • Ensure forklifts are only driven in designated areas and with forks lowered.
  • Do not use pallets on forklifts as work platforms.

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992

Manual handling is responsible for more than a third of all workplace injuries, according to HSE. These range from back and joint pain and repetitive strain conditions to loss of fingers and limbs – and account for many lost working hours.

Adam Francis says, “Consulting workers about the best ways to handle stock in your warehouse will result in some practical suggestions and help to get staff to take health and safety concerns seriously.”

Manual handling safety tips:
  • Avoid manual handling where possible by use of mechanised lifting equipment or mechanical handling aids.
  • Provide training on manual stock picking and carrying safely
  • Separate manual pickers and vehicles at all times
  • Ensure workers use the mechanical handling aids provided and that they are well maintained
  • Stock the heaviest goods on lower shelves
  • Keep aisles and walkways free of clutter

Where to begin?

The starting point with legal compliance in your warehouse is always risk assessment. Whether you are aiming to comply with the Work at Height Regulations or the Manual Handling Operations Regulations, you need to start with a basic assessment of any hazards that present a risk of injury and determine practical control measures to reduce that risk of injury. Consulting previous accident data, conducting site walks, speaking to the ‘boots on the ground’ and observing tasks will help you to undertake this task. If you do not have sufficient health and safety knowledge in house you may need to look for external health and safety support to get you started…