THE WAREHOUSE – Get your warehouse fit for 2010

chazWelcome to our feature on The Warehouse. As the new year gets under way, now’s the time when managers of delivered wholesale businesses and cash & carries across the UK look at all the tasks put to one side during the Christmas rush. One job all too often pushed to the bottom of the list is to check out the state of the warehouse – starting with the floor and working up to the racking and shelving, and not forgetting the fork lifts and pallet trucks.

There’s never any excuse for neglecting Health & Safety: every second spent addressing it is a good investment. The costs of not doing so are massive. The courts can impose seven-figure fines on companies that have accidents on their premises resulting in injury. Then there are the legal costs, plus the cost of business interruption. On top of that is the damage to your reputation, which is beyond price.

You need to ask yourself some fairly direct questions. What state is the warehouse floor in? Is it kept clean? Is it regularly maintained, with no cracks and bumps? Are there clear floor markings to show the areas of the floor where forklifts move? What is the lighting like? As people’s eyesight deteriorates with age, older workers need more light to see. What state is the racking and shelving in? Are there sections that are loaded to capacity or beyond? How often is the racking and shelving inspected?

Then there are your fork lifts, without doubt the most dangerous items in your business. They move at high speed from goods-in to the racking, carrying loaded or part-loaded pallets, and can hit and injure pedestrians. Are there signs inside and out, to alert people that fork lifts are operating? When fork lifts are busy in the racking, lifting their loads, goods can fall either on the operator or pedestrians nearby. Fork lift trucks can also fall off loading bays and docks, injuring the operators.

Ensure all your trucks receive pre-shift inspections, and build an inspection history. Keep a permanent record of all inspections, and ensure you comply with HSE best practice guidelines. If you need help, ask your fork lift supplier.

Not just your fork lift operators, but everyone involved in manual handling needs to be properly trained by recognised trainers. You need to keep proper records of the training you carry out, including refresher courses.  Not only is it the law, it’s good business practice – and it makes your staff feel happier.

This is just part of what wholesale managers and their warehouse teams should do regularly. Paying attention to this won’t mean you sell any more cases of product, but will mean your warehouse is healthy and ready to perform to the max this year and beyond.