Will the Warehouse Boom Neglect Health and Safety?

Supply chains are under plenty of strain in the current economic climate. Many have responded by optimising processes. But the pressure is still on.

Because of the boom in warehouse demand.

With this boom comes a risk that warehouses will end up neglecting the health and safety fundamentals, as they compete for more business.

The Warehouse Facility Boom

There is a rapidly rising demand for more warehouse space. This trend pre-dates the pandemic and the subsequent explosion in online shopping.

The dominant suppliers are no longer high street retailers but third-party logistics providers, meeting these new online shopping demands.

They have increased their footprint by over 600% in six years.

According to estate agent Savills, the UK needs an additional 775,000 square feet of warehouse space for every additional £1 billion spent online.

Along with this expansion of warehousing capacity, there needs to be the staff to work in these vast new spaces.

This increase in warehouse capacity will only be effective if there are people, procedures and processes to make it safe and efficient.

To give an idea of the intensity of this work, consider that Amazon ships around 1.6 million packages a day, or 66 thousand orders per hour.

But what happens to health and safety in situations where the competition is fierce and the drive to maximise workloads dominates? There’s evidence that compliance gets pushed aside.

Best Practice and Health and Safety

Early in 2020, the GMB trade union raised concerns about safety at Amazon warehouses.

Looking at data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, GMB thought that conditions in Amazon warehouses weren’t getting any better, despite earlier concerns about risks in Amazon’s warehouse operations going public.

The relationship between best practice in warehouses and health and safety is a close one:

  • People working long hours without sufficient breaks can suffer lapses in concentration, leading to injuries
  • Other causes of accidents in warehouses include over-filled sorting baskets and injuries that staff sustain from lifting items

Good staff training in warehouse health and safety regulations is essential, as is having the right systems in place to monitor and maintain safety standards.

The benefits of good health and safety are clear:

  • Reduced costs and risks
  • Lower employee absence
  • Improved staff retention
  • Fewer workplace accidents
  • Reduced risk of litigation
  • Better relationships with employees
  • A good business reputation.
  • Increased productivity.

Putting measures in place isn’t just about compliance. They can actively boost productivity and contribute to competitiveness.

How to Improve Warehouse Health and Safety

Warehousing must embrace modern technology if it is to keep up with the demands of a modern economy. This is especially true in a climate of uncertainty, where some parts of infrastructure are creaking.

The temptation may be to see warehouse health and safety regulations as an impediment to being more competitive and productive.

But by adopting digital solutions, warehouse management systems can incorporate robust health and safety processes into their everyday operations.

Warehouse Auditor app optimises auditing processes such as inspections and reporting and recording actionable measures.

A watertight health and safety regime is central to effective warehouse management and applying checks and measures the right way can help rather than hinder productivity.

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