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April 18, 2022 | Insights

Outfitting Warehouse and Yard Teams for Safety & Success

April 18, 2022 | Insights

If COVID-19 has shown us anything, it’s the domino effect that illness (and injury) has on our work and the world around us; how days away from work can translate to major disruptions in our supply chain. And how now, more than ever, safety and efficiency go hand in hand.

The current economic impact of workplace injury and illness is astronomical, and according to CCHOS and OSHA, it places a huge financial burden on businesses of all sizes. OSHA even estimates that US employers spend $1 billion per week on workers’ compensation costs alone. 

Pile on legal fees, time and labor loss, cost to train replacements, all imaginable effects on displaced workers and their families, and the true economic impact of work-related injury and illness would make OSHA’s estimate seem incredibly conservative. 

While that exact number is hard to pin down, here’s what we do know: Most workplace accidents are avoidable. And those $1 billion-plus dollars could be much better spent. 

Putting your resources toward worker safety is a much better investment. Here’s your quick guide to personal safety equipment for the distribution workforce.

#1 Cause of Work-Related Injury in 2020: Environmental Exposure

In 2020, environmental exposures were the leading cause of work-related injuries and illnesses that resulted in days away from work, according to the National Safety Council’s latest report. That includes noise, extreme temperatures, and infectious diseases (such as COVID-19), among others.

It’s safe to say that the pandemic is what took this category to the top, but it’s still worth noting because following the latest COVID guidelines alone won’t keep your team moving. There’s a wide range of ways you can provide personal safety to every employee. 

Making resources like these readily available to your workforce will go a long way in helping everyone stay healthy and productive at work:

  • Heavy-duty work gloves that are cut, chemical, and/or heat resistant
  • Lightweight safety glasses with UV protection
  • Safety earmuffs or other ear protection with noise reduction rating (NRR) of 30 decibels or higher 
  • Sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection (offered year-round to teams working outside)
  • Hydration stations (go beyond just water and offer sports drinks with electrolytes for energy)
  • Disposable hand-warmers for the winter
  • Dust respirators and disposable masks (for dust, chemicals, and the next COVID variant)

Visibility Apparel: An Underestimated Resource for Distribution?

High-visibility apparel is the hallmark for construction and highway teams—why not for distribution workers? Reflective vests, hard hats, and other gear are proven to significantly reduce the risk of getting struck by moving vehicles and equipment. While distribution teams face fewer struck-by hazards on a daily basis than construction crews do, it doesn’t mean their risk level is at zero. Between the stacked pallets, forklifts, containers, and shunt trucks, accidents still happen. 

The fact is, struck-by accidents are 100% avoidable. And when a worker gets struck by moving equipment, it’s most often because the driver was unable to see them in time. Implementing high-visibility equipment is one of the easiest ways to eliminate this blindspot and prevent serious accidents and injury.

Before ordering reflective gear for your team, it’s important to know that not all reflective gear is created equal. Some designs offer different levels of coverage and visibility or can be made with dual-purpose material to better fit your team’s needs.

Things to consider with high-visibility apparel:

  • Material and Design—dual-purpose high visibility apparel can offer even more protection (such as fire resistance, breakaway design, breathable mesh)
  • Weather and Lighting—this apparel comes with a wide range of coverage and with varying amounts of reflective elements for any work environment
  • Traffic volume and speed—higher-grade reflective material will allow your operators to spot workers on the ground from a greater distance, buying them more time to avoid any accidents

Check out the official recommendations from the Canada Center for Occupational Health and Safety

Top Safety Tech for Removing Blindspots

From the endless shunting and flow of freight to pallet stacking and other yard management activity, there’s no shortage of moving parts within distribution centers. And when it comes to safe and efficient operations, visibility is everything. 

Yard management platforms (like Shuntware®) remove all blind spots from your day-to-day operations. With Shuntware®, you can see worksite status and operations from a bird’s-eye view, along with critical container and inventory information needed for effective management. And in real-time, you can seamlessly track and coordinate all yard activity and warehouse operations. Digital tools like this give your team the knowledge of exactly which containers need to go where (and when) in order to move more efficiently, effectively, and safely.