Welcome to our latest feature on The Warehouse. As the stories here show, there is no shortage of equipment and solutions available to help you get the best possible performance in this crucial part of your operation.

Managers of delivered wholesale operations and cash & carries are busy people, under pressure to generate the maximum returns. Sadly one chore 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, with a look at the fork lifts and pallet trucks along the way.

There’s no excuse for neglecting Health & Safety: every second spent addressing it is time well spent. The costs of failing to do so are massive. The courts can impose seven-figure fines on companies who have accidents on their premises, which result in injury. Then there are the legal costs, plus the cost of business interruption. And the damage to your business’s reputation 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 forklifts. With all due respect to their suppliers they are 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. Do you have signs inside and out to make people aware that fork lifts are operating nearby? When trucks are busy in the racking, lifting their loads, goods can fall off and land on the operator or pedestrians nearby. Fork lift trucks can also fall off loading bays and docks, injuring or even killing the operators.

You should 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, your fork lift supplier should oblige.

Not just your fork lift operators, 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. It’s the law, it’s good business practice – and it makes your staff happier.

Paying attention to this won’t mean you sell any more cases of product, of course, but it will mean your warehouse gives you its best performance this year and beyond.

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