SAFETY FIRST: Run a booming warehouse?

by Norm Kramer
Norm Kramer is a Canadian Registered Safety Professional
with over 25 years’ experience. Norm
provides expert,
in-depth health &
safety consulting
services for WSPS as
a Warehouse Specialist
in the GTA region.

The warehouse industry is booming as Covid-19 restrictions continue to alter purchasing behaviour. Customers are increasingly ordering products online to stay safe from the pandemic. As this demand for online purchasing increases, many businesses have had to quickly respond by building new facilities, expanding existing facilities, or moving to an established facility with existing racking.

It’s good news for warehousing industry, but in the process it’s important not to forget about keeping your busy workers safe from workplace hazards, including Covid-19.

12 tips for safety in a growing warehouse

1 Ensure a new workspace is thoroughly assessed to support current Covid-19 best practices and create a Covid-19 safety plan.

It should include these measures:

  • Actively screening everyone who enters the workplace; consider devices such as temperature scanners
  • Self-isolating workers with symptoms and workers who are close contacts of Covid-19 cases; ensure space is designated for this purpose
  • Ensuring people maintain a physical distance of two metres or more; establish floor markings and signage
  • Having workers, clients and visitors wear masks; keep extra on hand
  • Disinfecting surfaces and objects
  • Supporting hand hygiene, particularly handwashing; install more hand hygiene stations
  • Promoting good cough and sneeze etiquette and reminding workers to avoid touching their faces
  • Notifying your local public health unit if any workers have Covid-19 or are exposed to it

Learn more about creating a safety plan and access Covid-19 safety resources at

2 Provide clear information and instruction to existing and new workers. Review health and safety risks, including possible transmission points for Covid-19, what steps are being taken to protect them, and how they can protect themselves.

3 Design the workspace to keep people away from danger zones. Prevent third-party drivers from walking through the facility by installing a waiting area with barriers and washrooms close by. Ensure predictable human traffic through the facility by painting a walkway with bright yellow lines. Enforce its use. Keep pedestrians clear of loading dock area. Establish an outdoor smoking area away from high traffic areas.

Read more from our February 2021 print edition.

4 Design the outdoor yard to keep people away from high hazard areas. Paint pedestrian paths in the yard to ensure foot traffic is predictable and away from truck drivers’ blind spots.

5 Avoid clutter by ensuring all floor space is clearly marked. Paint lines on the floor to indicate where pallets can be placed to keep aisle ways clear. Provide adequate space for staging.

6 Ensure good air quality at the loading dock. Good ventilation (air exchange) is essential when trucks are driving into the warehouse loading dock. Establish a no-idling policy.

7 Ensure mobile equipment is suitable. Consider narrow-aisle mobile equipment for order pickers so they can manoeuvre more easily, with a shorter turning radius. Sit-down counterbalance lift trucks are not ideal in rack aisles due to their wider turning radius, which increases the chance of collisions.

8 Prevent mobile equipment collisions. Paint line markings at intersections where mobile equipment travels. Including stop signs to establish the right of way.

9 Keep the workplace clean and neat. Establish lots of housekeeping stations (e.g. at the ends of aisles) with equipment to ensure housekeeping is everyone’s job and is built into the daily work routine.

10 Prevent material from falling. Consider installing vertical netting or similar barriers on the sides of the racking near pedestrian traffic and/or work areas. Before making modifications to an existing racking system, confirm whether any proposed changes would trigger a pre-start health and safety review. A pre-start review is required when installing new racking, modifying existing racking or in cases where specifications, like loading capacity, are unknown.

11 Purchase safe equipment. Manufacturers and end users have shared responsibilities when it comes to equipment safety. When contemplating purchases, consider safety features that have been integrated by the manufacturer or supplier. For example, these may include (among others) guarding or light curtains around pallet wrappers; guarding and emergency stops at conveyors.

12 Design workstations to be adjustable. Consider ergonomics at workstations to prevent repetitious, awkward postures.