E-commerce has been booming for years now, and the pandemic has only served to accelerate that growth. Additionally, retailers are stocking up on popular holiday gifts and inventory to get ahead of expected supply chain issues and backlogs. All of this is cumulative and presents warehouse managers with additional warehouse safety risks and challenges. It’s essential to understand how to optimize your warehouse management strategy to keep employees safe and costs under control.
When it comes to the non-traditional shift work that happens in warehouses and especially during the holiday shopping season, OSHA states that “non-traditional shifts and extended work hours may disrupt the body’s regular schedule, leading to increased fatigue, stress, and lack of concentration.” This can increase the possibility of having accidents on and around equipment that workers are typically familiar with. Signs like weariness, irritability, and reduced alertness can all indicate excessive fatigue.
Warehouse employees suffering from fatigue could be tired enough to make mistakes that can potentially lead to one of the more than 60,000 forklift accidents reported every year by OSHA. It may be easy to make fun of workers that doze off in the break room or sneak to a dark corner of the warehouse for a rest, but this is a red flag that they could be suffering from fatigue.
Upgrade Your WMS
Advanced technology designed specifically for warehouse management optimization can offer huge benefits across the board and help combat fatigue. A warehouse management system (WMS) can be designed to track employee breaks and overtime and show ways to optimize inventory layout. Using data provided by the system, you can easily see which products you pick most frequently and place them in convenient warehouse areas, shortening the fulfillment process and reducing physical wear and tear on workers. Organizing inventory is also a way to reduce physical exertion; pay close attention to how long it takes and how taxing it can be for employees to sort through the inventory to find what they need.
Take a Strategic Approach to Recruiting
Overworking your employees can quickly lead to burnout. Turnover rates are high enough, labor gaps are growing, and seasonal hiring is more challenging in 2021 than ever before. Start recruiting early, and diversify your efforts to build a roster that will allow all of your workers to take sick or mental health days if they feel like they need some time to rest.
To reduce turnover once you have employees in place, make sure you’re compensating them fairly, maintaining a culture that supports well-being, offering scheduling flexibility, thinking about bonuses, and letting employees know that there’s room to move up. Make sure you have a solid COVID illness leave policy and testing supplies if required by your organization. These efforts will reduce costs and help mitigate the demands of long hours and non-traditional shifts.
Revisit Warehouse Safety Protocols
Although warehouse safety protocols and best practices may not directly reduce fatigue for employees, they can reinforce the basic understanding that can easily be recalled, even during the hardest, longest shifts. Make all of this information accessible 24/7 through digital channels like employee portals or even social media content. If employees are tired or stressed out, they may be less likely to take a safety shortcut if they know their questions about equipment use or loading dock procedures can be answered instantly.
Additionally, ensure that every employee from the top down can support the culture of warehouse safety — even team members that don’t regularly work with equipment or on the warehouse floor. For non-native English speakers, provide plenty of materials they can understand. Don’t overlook the importance of a contingency plan. Although nobody wants accidents to happen, a strategic, proactive approach to handling incidents can give everyone in the organization peace of mind.
Replace and Improve Equipment
Even when employees aren’t facing fatigue, outdated warehouses and equipment can increase the risk of accidents. Whether you’re looking for equipment for your newly purchased warehouse or you’re looking to replace aging warehouse supplies, Benco Industrial Equipment can help.
We respond in minutes, not days, to ensure our customers always have the material handling equipment they need to keep their warehouses running smoothly. Our staff is experienced in handling all sorts of industrial equipment issues, from forklift repair to installing new warehouse doors, so our team of industrial equipment experts can help no matter your need.
Get in touch now to prepare your warehouse for the holiday shopping and shipping season and stay ahead of the challenges you face during this unprecedented year.