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Warehouse Safety: Technology Worth Exploring

Posted by Sean Murphy on Mar 31, 2023

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) warehousing resource provides standards and recommendations relevant to warehousing and storage. Obviously, companies are required to create a safe environment free from hazards that could lead to injury or death. According to Section 5(a)(1) of the OSHA act specifically states every employer must do the following.

  1. “furnish to each of his employees, employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.”
  2. “comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act.”

The good news is that worker deaths in America have fallen from 38 worker deaths per day in 1970 to 13 per day in 2020. Illnesses are also down. Unfortunately, almost 5,000 workers died on the job per OSHA’s statistics. Still, 13 deaths per day are 13 too many.

Most Frequently Cited Violations in Warehousing

The OSHA resource page lists the standards that apply to warehousing from 29 CFR 1910. OSHA has a database where you can search for the most frequently cited violations in the warehousing and storage industry. Here are the top citations over a one-year period.

Powered industrial trucks

The safety requirements outlined in standard 1910.178 are related to “fire protection, design, maintenance, and use of fork trucks, tractors, platform lift trucks, motorized hand trucks, and specialized industrial trucks powered by electric motors or internal combustion engines.”

The standard includes requirements around new powered industrial trucks, labels, modifications and additions, front-end attachments, nameplates and markings, and recognized testing laboratories. At almost $600k for one year, this is one of the most expensive citations.

Handling materials — general

OSHA standard 1910.176 addresses the use of mechanical equipment, secure storage of materials, storage areas are free of hazards, and the use of covers or guardrails to protect staff from hazards. This is one of the few citations that cost six figures at $250k for one year.

Maintenance, safeguards, and operational features for exit routes

Refer to OSHA standard 1910.37, which opens with “the danger to employees must be minimized.” The standard covers exit routes and the need to keep them free of hazards and obstructions. They need to be well-lit with appropriate lighting and markings. Safeguards like sprinkler systems, alarm systems, and fire doors must be in place.

While “duty to have fall protection and falling object protection,” wasn’t as frequently cited, it led to expensive penalties at almost $600k in just 12 months.

What can you do to reduce your risk? Start by reviewing OSHA’s hazards and solutions. Also, review OSHA resources, which include safety and health topics, eTools, and other resources.

Top Technology Innovations for Warehouse Safety

Warehouse technology can do more than increase safety and mitigate risks. It also improves productivity. Now is a great time to invest in warehouse technology as digital-savvy generations enter the workforce. Here are the top technology innovations to enhance warehouse safety and security.

1. Wearables

The wearables industry is exploding. Grand View Research market analysis shows the global wearable market was worth $61 billion in 2022. The industry is expected to grow with a CAGR of 14.6% from 2023 to 2030. This includes headwear and eyewear from implementing virtual reality and augmented reality.

Wearables have advanced enough to integrate sensors and the Internet of Things (IoT) with Wi-Fi- GPS, and radio frequency identification (RFID). This expands the ability to use them to track workers and equipment.

A great example of this is Caterpillar’s Cat MineStar Detect with RFID tags that can be inserted into personal protective equipment (PPE) like vests, pants, safety hats, and boots. The tags would be able to send a proximity warning if they detect equipment and workers getting too close. Someone operating large equipment like a forklift who starts backing up can receive an alert that there’s an object or person behind them.

Fatigue is dangerous in warehousing. There are new technologies like the Cat Smartband that are being worked on to detect potential worker fatigue. It tracks the worker’s sleep and wake periods. This data generates fatigue reports to help leaders understand the effects of alertness on safety.

Virtual reality and augmented reality are being used to improve training. This allows the employees to learn new skills without risk. They also make it possible for a trainer to communicate with the employee without being next to them. This increases safety and automates repetitive tasks as the next one explains.

2. Automation

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics The Economics Daily shows there were 47,280 cases of musculoskeletal disorders in one year. It’s the No. 1 nonfatal workplace injury resulting in days away from work. Musculoskeletal disorders are also known as ergonomic injuries. These often happen because of repetitive tasks.

Therefore, adding technology like voice picking and visual picking can make a huge difference in lowering ergonomic-related injuries. With voice picking, the employee wears a headset and gives voice commands. They’re able to interact with the business systems and pick lists without using their hands. The worker is more efficient, more accurate, and safer. Not only does voice picking reduce injury and increase productivity, it can also lower errors, cut turnover, and reduce training time according to Almasons.

Another option is visual picking, which incorporates augmented reality headsets. Users can see picking instructions, quantities, and where to stack or put picked items in the augmented reality display in the space around the worker. It’s also hands-free and faster.

Another option worth exploring is autonomous mobile robots (AMR). These eliminate nonproductive time in warehouses by letting workers focus on value-added tasks.

3. Video surveillance with human and video analytics

A video surveillance system with cameras just records what appears on camera. When there is no human intelligence or video analytics, these security cameras cannot deter crime and catch potential hazards to prevent injuries. Security cameras are only useful when the manager learns about something that happened after the fact. Then, they search the recordings to figure out what transpired. It can take a long time to find the right recording.

Adding human intelligence and video analytics to security cameras makes the technology proactive and more powerful. Video analytics helps with the monotonous part of watching hours of video. It’s challenging for humans to do that. Video analytics contains many programmed scenarios. As soon as it recognizes a match, it notifies the human operator.

What if you leave human intelligence out of this system? There’s a greater chance of a false alarm. The system should not be calling 911 without human intervention. There may be occasions when video analytics catches unusual behaviors. But it can’t determine whether it’s nothing or if it’s a real problem. That’s where the trained monitoring operator has value. They spend more time on value-added tasks and less on repetitive tasks. Just like with the voice picking and visual picking technologies.

Humans know how to respond to any scenario. Combining video analytics technology with a trained monitoring operator greatly increases the chances of spotting things early before anything happens.

They can help identify safety hazards including the most commonly cited violations. Anytime a potential violation appears on camera, the trained monitoring operator can contact the warehouse manager to report it. This can help prevent expensive fines that come with citations. And more importantly, it could prevent injuries or death.

On top of all this, the monitoring operators do not work in the warehouse. They could be in a different city or even another state or province.

How to Choose the Right Warehouse Safety Technology

The first thing to understand is that you can have the best technology, but it won’t do you any good if you don’t have processes in place. Additionally, people won’t know how to use the technology without training. So, that’s another key factor.

Next, review your injury and safety report. Understand where you stand before you investigate the different options for warehousing safety in wearables and automation. Consider doing a pilot of the technology.

Video surveillance with remote monitoring does much more than enhance warehouse safety. It helps stop crime, reduce liability, and increase warehouse productivity. The key is to partner with the right security vendor. Some companies may add more than you need, or they may not use the right technology.

The ideal security vendor can design and implement an integrated security system that meets your budget and achieves your warehouse safety and security goals. One of the key things to search for is a company with knowledge of your industry. Security vendors like Stealth Monitoring have experience working with warehousing and storage. The industry has requirements that other industries don’t have. Stealth has built customized proactive video surveillance solutions for facilities like yours.

In searching for a security vendor, ask a lot of questions. Ask about video analytics, video recordings, camera resolution, and partnerships with law enforcement. Better yet, here’s a list of questions to ask about video surveillance services. Request video surveillance clips to see the company’s services in action.

As a bonus, you may get a return on your investment within months. Check out this case study of how video surveillance reduces crime and saves money. Here’s how you can calculate your return on security investment. Have questions about security to help ensure warehouse safety? Contact us.

Texas Private Security License Number: B14187