Working Safely Around Forklifts

Forklift vehicles are not like automobiles; they’re about twice as heavy, due to the counterbalance weight needed to carry large loads. Because forklifts are so heavy, when a pedestrian worker gets injured by a forklift vehicle, the injury is often very serious and sometimes fatal. To avoid becoming a victim of a forklift accident, be constantly aware of the forklift activities around you both in your immediate work area and in other areas of the workplace you may need to go.

Forklifts don’t maneuver like automobiles. Forklifts can turn in a very small radius. They’re rear-wheel driven, so their rear end swings out wider than an automobile’s pathway. So, always give a forklift PLENTY of room to maneuver. Don’t stand near a forklift when it begins to move. Their extra weight means a forklift can’t stop as fast as an auto. Don’t try to squeeze by an operating forklift; their unexpected movements can crush you between the vehicle and a stationary object.

Forklifts have limited visibility. The forks and lifting mechanism block the line of sight for the driver. If there’s a load on the lift, visibility is even more limited. So, it’s up to YOU, the pedestrian, to watch for and avoid forklifts. Don’t rely on the forklift driver to see you. If you MUST move around near an active forklift, maintain eye contact with the driver at all times. And, always provide enough space for the forklift to move safely out of your way.

Never stand near or under loaded forklift tines/forks. Forklifts can drop their load or knock over a stack of materials, causing a possible caught/crush injury. Always wait until a forklift is idle and the parking brake is ON, before entering an active forklift working zone. Evaluate work areas around you to ensure that forklift activities can’t impact you. For example, a forklift in one aisle can push a product off a shelf from that side of the aisle into the adjacent aisle you may be in and crush you.

Listen carefully and look both ways before you step out from an aisle, around a corner, or across a pathway. Avoid crossing in front of a moving forklift and don’t try to “beat” one to a crossing. Install mirrors in blind entry areas to help pedestrians and forklift drivers keep track of each other. Paint wide, safe pathways on work area floors to separate pedestrians from forklift travels zones. Adequate lighting can also ensure that drivers and pedestrians see each other.

Finally, stay alert and work at a safe pace; distracted or hurrying workers and quick paced forklift driving can lead to an accident or injury. Get periodic training on forklift safety to remember safe work practices and the consequences if you don’t follow them. If there are forklifts present where you work, think about your surroundings and how you can keep yourself safe from a forklift injury.

Is Your Propane Forklift Causing Headaches…or Worse?

Every year, there are hundreds of accidental deaths in the United States from carbon monoxide poisoning. Some of these deaths occur in the workplace. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports every year worker deaths in private industry from carbon monoxide exposure.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-irritating gas, so you don’t know when you are breathing it. Normally, when we breathe, the hemoglobin in our blood combines with oxygen and transports it throughout our body. When CO is present, it combines 200-250 times more readily with hemoglobin, depriving the body of necessary oxygen.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may include headache, fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, loss of consciousness, and coma. Because some of these symptoms are common to other illnesses, CO poisoning is often misdiagnosed. Severe poisonings can result in permanent damage to the brain, nerves, and heart or even death. Even at low levels of exposure, where the worker may not experience any symptoms, CO may contribute to heart disease and have adverse effects on the fetus of a pregnant woman.

How much CO is too much? Cal/OSHA has two exposure limits for CO. The average exposure for an 8-hour day cannot exceed 25 parts per million (ppm) and exposures may never exceed 200 ppm. Worker exposures can be measured easily and inexpensively with color diffusion tubes. More sophisticated equipment is also available.

All propane-powered forklift trucks produce some carbon monoxide because of the incomplete combustion of fuel, but a poorly maintained truck can produce extremely high concentrations of CO. In a poorly ventilated area, dangerous levels of CO can build up even with a well-maintained truck. So what can you do to protect your workers from carbon monoxide poisoning?

To protect workers from CO:

  • Use electric forklifts indoors or in enclosed spaces. This is essential in cold storage rooms or other poorly ventilated areas.
  • Set up a regular maintenance program for your propane forklift. Various maintenance problems can lead to higher CO emissions.
  • Check CO emissions when tuning your engine. Tuning by “sound” and “performance” is likely to result in a rich fuel mixture, which produces higher CO concentrations.
  • Install a three-way catalytic converter in conjunction with an air-to-fuel ratio controller. In addition to removing up to 99% of the CO emissions, toxic NOx and hydrocarbons are also removed.
  • Allow your engine to warm up outside. A cold engine produces more CO.
  • Ensure the work area is adequately ventilated.
  • Train your employees to recognize the signs and symptoms of CO poisoning.
  • If you suspect someone has CO poisoning, remove the person to fresh air and call 911.

If you need assistance identifying or controlling carbon monoxide exposures in the workplace, your loss control representative can put you in touch with a State Fund industrial hygienist.

Avoiding Back Injuries

Advising employees to be careful when lifting makes sense both from a health standpoint and a financial one. The U.S. Department of Labor states that back injuries are the second most common reason for lost work days (behind only the common cold). Back injuries cost businesses up to $100 billion a year. But there are some things you can suggest to employees––and do yourself––to curb such injuries in your small business.

  1. Test and examine heavy objects before lifting or moving. Tip the object to determine its weight. Sometimes lighter but more awkward objects can be just as hard on the back as heavy objects.
  2. When an object is heavy enough to present a problem, look for alternatives before moving. Call for help. Use equipment such as forklifts or dollies. Move a package piece by piece rather than all at once.
  3. Never extend your arms when attempting to lift or lower heavy objects from a height. This puts undue pressure on the back.
  4. Make sure that you’re on solid footing. Slipping or twisting while lifting can cause injury.
  5. Use correct lifting procedure: Keep the back straight, kneel to grasp the object and lift with the legs, not the back.
  6. While carrying a heavy object, take short steps, maintain a firm center of balance, don’t attempt to go up or down stairs and don’t strain by carrying the load too far. Before lifting, plan in advance your route and where you will put the load down–– and know how far you can easily carry the load.
  7. Never reach high for a heavy load. Call for help before attempting.
  8. Don’t count on support belts to prevent back injuries. Using belts has not been found to reduce back injuries (Source: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, December 2000).
  9. Don’t hurry while lifting and don’t let others hurry you. Think about what you’re doing before starting to lift. Saving a minute or two is not worth a permanent, painful injury to the back.

Back and neck injuries are not confined to heavy lifting. Retail sales personnel and others who spend long hours on their feet often run the risk of back strain and injury, even when not involved in heavy lifting. To help out:

  1. Stand straight; don’t slump. Don’t bend over a table or counter while reading or writing. Sit down instead, at least while completing the task.
  2. Avoid putting all or most of your weight on one leg for long periods. This can put a strain on your hips and can cause lower and upper back problems.
  3. Wear proper shoes. If you know you’ll be on your feet for hours, don’t wear high heels unless you absolutely must. Shoes should provide good overall support, proper arch support, protection from the environment and have adequate cushioning to protect the foot against the unrelenting hardness of concrete flooring.
  4. Take frequent breaks and sit down, even for a few minutes at a time. While sitting, put your legs up to relieve pressure and fatigue caused by standing. Some retail stores discourage employees from sitting during work shifts. This practice causes undue mental and physical fatigue and can lead to back strain and injury.

Accidents and injuries are bound to happen, but by following the suggestions above and educating your employees on the best way to prevent back injuries, you’re reducing the likelihood of missed days and productivity due to back pain.

Appropriate Tools to Promote Warehouse Safety

November 19, 2013

No matter what the industry, safety procedures and good housekeeping practices are key to the wellbeing of employees and company profitability.

In fact, the two are intertwined. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was created to assure safety standards and to protect American workers. Many furniture companies work with their warehouses and distribution centers to meet and exceed those standards to ensure their workers’ safety. However, what do companies do to ensure compliance?

Steinhafels_Oval_Logo-13Based in Wisconsin, Steinhafels employs 245 warehouse employees in its Wisconsin and Illinois facilities. To ensure staff safety, human relations specialist Linda Malmberg said their safety committee “makes recommendations to the owners as to things that need to be improved. We also do semi-annual [safety] drills,” as well as provide regularly scheduled safety training.


Steinhafels offers 10 online training courses annually. Reports detail those who have and have not received training. This allows managers to ensure staff can verify their safety knowledge for their areas. Malmberg added, “Safety posters are all over. When an employee gets hurt, we ask him to describe the event and tell how he could have [handled] that situation better to avoid injuries.”

The company shares safety results and their implications with its employees. “We do a lot of education about how results impact insurance premiums,” said Malmberg. “We tell them ‘Here’s how you can keep insurance premiums to a minimum’ and ensure we stay financially viable and they can stay employed. For a lot of people, this was a real eye-opener.”

In addition to workplace postings and weekly safety meetings at Steinhafels, they hold weekly safety drawings after weeks when no injuries occur. “If we have a better workman’s comp claim year than the prior year, each associate gets a gift card,” Malmberg said. “It may not sound like a lot, but [staff] can get quite competitive to do better than last year.”


roomplace-logoWith its 21 stores in Indiana and Illinois, The RoomPlace has a distribution center staff of 125 members, including a full time safety inspector. Safety is stressed from the first day of work.


“At our startup meetings, we have conversations about safety—like trip hazards, especially with things that are seasonal,” said Mike Yanke, RoomPlace distribution center director. “We do audits and spot checks and have zero tolerance. Any infraction, even something as minor as not filling out their inspection sheets on a daily basis, will result in them being taken off equipment and require them to recertify. These are pretty strict rules, but, in my seven years here, our damage on the forklift has gone down drastically. We would rather terminate someone immediately than see them be killed.”

Safety Bingo is one fun way Yanke helps reinforce the safety messages (see the sidebar to learn how to play). Yanke consistently engages his staff in other ways too. With the safety inspector also involved in training and acting as an integral part of the team, Yanke is in the process of reinstating what he calls behavior-based safety. “It is kind of a peer review process where people watch others do their jobs and try to identify the risks we put ourselves at so we can change or fix the process. A lot of companies are reactive after someone gets hurt; we are trying to get ahead of that curve and fix things before someone gets hurt.”

These methods have paid off for The RoomPlace; Yanke’s team just celebrated one year with no loss time and awarded each employee $100 for this safety success. “Safety involves everyone,” said Yanke. “We are very focused on safety, not only for our employees but also for our customers.”


ArtVan_logoAt Art Van Furniture in Michigan, the director of loss prevention, Michael F. Case, CESCO, oversees two facilities and five hub stores with more than 650 employees. Its extensive safety training includes “a number of [customized] training videos and presentations featured on our in-house TV, called AVTV. Any associate in any location,” he said, “can access the training simply by selecting the loss prevention channel and identifying the training they need.” Handouts accompany most training sessions and both the employees and their managers must sign off on any training they receive.


The warehouse director and vice president of operations lead monthly warehouse safety meetings, including representation from all staff areas as well as from property management, loss prevention and workman’s compensation. Case explained, “Each brings their own perspective as it relates to their jobs and provides insights and suggestions on how to make the overall operation a safer one. It is important that our warehouse associates know that safety, as well as their ideas, are important to a safe environment and are supported by leadership at the highest levels.”

In addition to meetings, training and compliance audits, Case said managers are continually on the lookout for safety violations. “Those observed are immediately counseled and, in most cases, [offenders]receive corrective action or discipline,” said Case. “We have a goal for each associate to go home at the end of the day as healthy and safe as when they arrived at work that morning.”

Art Van is “not big into incentive programs but does recognize locations for high scores on their audits,” said Case, “and individual departments are recognized for injury reduction.” The company also sponsors safety poster and banner creation contests, as well as general recognition or pizza parties for departments with low and no injury rates. Case explained they do not want to create an environment that suppresses “injury and near-miss reports to keep a zero injury rate. We would rather recognize good behavior and performance.”

“Quality practices include continuing to integrate safety into your culture and keeping safety awareness top-of-mind,” said Malmberg. “If you do that, you will have a successful safety program.” She added, “If [employees] are happier with us as a company, they feel good about coming to work because they know we care about them and that this is a safe place to work. It is just a better overall employee experience.”

ConversationsNOW: Warehouse Operations

Meet the Experts

Michael J. Grimme is the owner, CEO and founder of AMC Liquidators, also known as AMC Furniture Outlet, based in Tamarac, Florida. AMC Liquidators is a liquidator of fine furnishings and room décor from 4- and 5-star hotels, corporate offices, excess inventories and closeouts from interior decorators and manufacturers. Fifty percent of AMC’s business comes from retail. Jonathan McDonald is the director of wholesale operations at Texas-based Wisteria. Wisteria began in a garage, graduated to a catalog and now includes a robust e-commerce website and retail store. The company sells an eclectic collection of home and garden accessories from around the world. McDonald manages three warehouses including a 100,000-square-foot warehouse that serves as command central.

RetailerNOW: How do you manage your warehouse? How is it organized?

MG: The inventory is managed by bin. It’s not unusual for us to run multiple projects per day so we need to have a process that allows us to track that inventory.

We have been using NetSuite’s cloud-based business management solution for the past 10 years to manage pretty much every aspect of our business. It supplies the backbone for our fast-moving, complex business of buying and liquidating furniture and other goods from hotels and offices for resale to B2B and B2C buyers.

JM: I helped to design the warehouse two years ago, so this has become my seventh child (I have six kids). I’ve watched it grow over the years and as of October 1, 2013, we’ve unloaded more trucks in that one day than all last year. Two weeks ago, we sold $195,000 in inventory. Being organized is a requirement for us to operate successfully.

Inventory is on one side of the warehouse and shipping is on the other side. Best sellers are closest to the packaging area so my warehouse team doesn’t have to walk halfway across the warehouse to pick it. Our rows are numbered and we have letters assigned from north to south so it’s fast and easy to go straight to where the item is stocked.

RetailerNOW: How do you control shrinkage?

JM: I’m old-fashioned so I’m the first to arrive and the last to leave. But I also use modern technology so I can view the warehouse from my laptop at home. I surround myself with honest people and I tell my staff that if you lie to me, I’ll terminate you; if you steal from me, I’ll prosecute you. Having said that, we also employ tactics like keeping the inventory on one side of the warehouse and the shipping on the other side. If someone sees inventory where it shouldn’t be, there’s a red flag. We do inventory twice a year where everything is counted by hand but if a bin doesn’t look right, we’ll do a count on that particular bin.

MG: To monitor the area and control shrinkage, we have multiple cameras located within every section of our warehouse to monitor activity.

RetailerNOW: Are customers allowed in your warehouse?

JM: We don’t allow customers in the warehouse except during our warehouse sale that happens four times a year. During that time we invite customers to walk through the warehouse and shop and they love it. It’s from Thursday through Saturday and our biggest one happens in September because we’re trying to make space for the fourth-quarter shipments. It’s a big deal in our community and people look forward to the sales.

MG: We try to keep the customers out of the back-of-the-house warehouse space at all times as there is always a risk of shrinkage and we also have safety concerns.  We only allow AMC Liquidator employees to enter that space.  If customers do come back, it is only when escorted by a salesperson.

RetailerNOW: What safety mechanisms are in place to keep employees safe?

JM: We start every day with an employee meeting at 7:00 a.m. and after two hours we take a 15-minute break. Two hours later we have lunch and two hours after that we have another 15-minute break. I remind our team members that if they need help, ask for it. Our two biggest safety issues are cuts with box knives and improper lifting. We can’t over-communicate the need to be safe but we can’t always predict an accident.

I do a safety walk every morning to make sure the floors are clean and safe. If it rained the night before, I make sure we don’t have any wet spots on the floor. When the forklift is in the aisle, they know to get out of the way.

Employees must wear proper shoes so that means no open-toe shoes, sandals or moccasins.

MG: All of our employees wear back protection and steel-toed shoes. We also have them all wear the same red shirts so they can be easily recognized and seen.

Because the bulk of our inventory is pre-owned, it is loose and not boxed. We have the inventory placed safely in racks.

RetailerNOW: What is the one thing you’re most proud of in your warehouse and what’s the one thing you wish it had?

JM: My employees are my biggest asset. We couldn’t do this without them. Seventy-five percent of them are cross-trained to do more than one job and that’s important to us. We have 40-50 employees nine months out of the year and we double that figure in the fourth quarter.

In terms of our warehouse operations in general, I’d love to see more automation. The technology is out there to help with productivity and shrinkage. I think our computer system is a bit outdated and improving it will be a benefit for us.

MG: If a reseller or an end-user were to come here and want to buy multiple loads of inventory, we have it for them and they can take it offsite immediately. Only one trip is needed. If we are dealing with global customers, they can have their order in a matter of days since we are so close to several ports.

By taking a more professional approach to the liquidation business, we have grown tremendously. We are proud of the fact that we own our property and equipment—no need to lease or rent.

JM: I convinced the owners to let us buy our own delivery truck for local deliveries to our best customers and we’ve delivered orders to two former presidents as well as some major VIPs. Sometimes some of our customers want the furniture delivered and placed in their homes before their husbands come home so the service is important to them. Having that delivery truck has been a huge advantage for us even though we’re not in the delivery business. It’s about providing an extra level of customer service you wouldn’t expect.

MG: NetSuite has definitely been our backbone. The system enables us to know in real time what our inventory position is within our warehouse and what’s in the sales pipeline. I love that everything is in one location so that anytime we need to pull information it’s right there. And we can be totally mobile, so that when we’re at a hotel site or corporate office, we can do transactions right on the spot.

I also wanted to add that by having our own department for furniture restoration, we can modify inventory to meet large customer needs. And by being in the restoration business, we are constantly in touch with our sources of supply since we are always doing restorations for them—this gives us an advantage in acquiring inventory before anyone else.

Megy Karydes is president of Karydes Consulting, a boutique marketing and communications firm. Her work has appeared in national and local consumer and trade magazines including USA Today, Natural Awakenings and Chicago Health. Find her at and follow her on Twitter @megy

Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders in the Workplace


Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) affect the muscles, nerves and tendons. Work related MSDs (including those of the neck, upper extremities and low back) are one of the leading causes of lost workday injury and illness. Workers in many different industries and occupations can be exposed to risk factors at work, such as lifting heavy items, bending, reaching overhead, pushing and pulling heavy loads, working in awkward body postures and performing the same or similar tasks repetitively. Exposure to these known risk factors for MSDs increases a worker’s risk of injury.

But work-related MSDs can be prevented. Ergonomics— fitting a job to a person — helps lessen muscle fatigue, increases productivity and reduces the number and severity of work-related MSDs.

Impact of MSDs in the Workplace

Work related MSDs are among the most frequently reported causes of lost or restricted work time.

  • In 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that industries with the highest MSD* rates include health care, transportation and warehousing, retail and wholesale trade and construction.
  • According to BLS, the 387,820 MSD cases accounted for 33% of all worker injury and illness cases in 2011.

A Process for Protecting Workers

Employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their workers. In the workplace, the number and severity of MSDs resulting from physical overexertion, as well as their associated costs, can be substantially reduced by applying ergonomic principals.

Implementing an ergonomic process has been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of developing MSDs in industries as diverse as construction, food processing, office jobs, healthcare, beverage delivery and warehousing. The following are important elements of an ergonomic process:

  • Provide Management Support – A strong commitment by management is critical to the overall success of an ergonomic process. Management should define clear goals and objectives for the ergonomic process, discuss them with their workers, assign responsibilities to designated staff members, and communicate clearly with the workforce.
  • Involve Workers – A participatory ergonomic approach, where workers are directly involved in worksite assessments, solution development and implementation is the essence of a successful ergonomic process. Workers can:
    • Identify and provide important information about hazards in their workplaces.
    • Assist in the ergonomic process by voicing their concerns and suggestions for reducing exposure to risk factors and by evaluating the changes made as a result of an ergonomic assessment.
  • Provide Training – Training is an important element in the ergonomic process. It ensures that workers are aware of ergonomics and its benefits, become informed about ergonomics related concerns in the workplace, and understand the importance of reporting early symptoms of MSDs.
  • Identify Problems – An important step in the ergonomic process is to identify and assess ergonomic problems in the workplace before they result in MSDs.
  • Encourage Early Reporting of MSD Symptoms – Early reporting can accelerate the job assessment and improvement process, helping to prevent or reduce the progression of symptoms, the development of serious injuries, and subsequent lost-time claims.
  • Implement Solutions to Control Hazards – There are many possible solutions that can be implemented to reduce, control or eliminate workplace MSDs.
  • Evaluate Progress – Established evaluation and corrective action procedures need to be in place to periodically assess the effectiveness of the ergonomic process and to ensure its continuous improvement and long-term success. As an ergonomic process is first developing, assessments should include determining whether goals set for the ergonomic process have been met and determining the success of the implemented ergonomic solutions.

Examples of Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs)

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Tendinitis
  • Rotator cuff injuries (a shoulder problem)
  • Epicondylitis (an elbow problem)
  • Trigger finger
  • Muscle strains and low back injuries

Existing Guidelines



  • Ergonomic Guidelines for Manual Material Handling. NIOSH. (2007).
  • A Guide to Selecting Non-Powered Hand Tools. NIOSH. (2004).
  • Elements of Ergonomics Programs: A Primer Based on Workplace Evaluations of Musculoskeletal Disorders. NIOSH Publication No. 97-117. (1997, March).

Ergonomic Process

An ergonomic process uses the principles of an Injury and Illness Prevention Program to address MSD hazards. Such a process should be viewed as an ongoing function that is incorporated into the daily operations, rather than as an individual project.

Top 15 Occupations with MSDs

  • Nursing assistants
  • Laborers
  • Janitors and cleaners
  • Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers
  • Registered nurses
  • Stock clerks and order fillers
  • Light truck or delivery services drivers
  • Maintenance and repair workers
  • Production workers
  • Retail salespersons
  • Maids and housekeeping cleaners
  • Police and sheriffs patrol officers
  • Firefighters
  • First-line supervisors of retail sales workers
  • Assemblers and fabricators

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011

How can OSHA help?

Workers have a right to a safe workplace. If you think your job is unsafe or you have questions, contact OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742). It’s confidential. We can help. For other valuable worker protection information, such as Workers’ Rights, Employer Responsibilities and other services OSHA offers, visit OSHA’s Workers’ page.

OSHA also provides help to employers. OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program offers free and confidential advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country, with priority given to high-hazard worksites. For more information or for additional compliance assistance contact OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).

*BLS defines musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) to include cases where the nature of the injury or illness is pinched nerve; herniated disc; meniscus tear; sprains, strains, tears; hernia (traumatic and nontraumatic); pain, swelling, and numbness; carpal or tarsal tunnel syndrome; Raynaud’s syndrome or phenomenon; musculoskeletal system and connective tissue diseases and disorders, when the event or exposure leading to the injury or illness is overexertion and bodily reaction, unspecified; overexertion involving outside sources; repetitive motion involving microtasks; other and multiple exertions or bodily reactions; and rubbed, abraded, or jarred by vibration.

6 guidelines to prevent workplace slips, trips and falls

It’s probably happened to most of us. That momentary lapse of inattention thinking about a personal problem or distracted by an activity that ends in a slip, trip or fall. A stumble down a stairway. A trip over an uneven surface. Slipping on the ice. It can lead to a variety of regrettable events ranging from a simple bruised shin to an extremely serious injury. It’s just one of a variety of conditions and situations that set the stage for slips, trips and falls in the workplace.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, slips, trips and falls make up the majority of general industry accidents, which account for:

  • 15 percent of all accidental deaths per year, the second-leading cause behind motor vehicles
  • About 25 percent of all reported injury claims per fiscal year
  • More than 95 million lost work days per year – about 65 percent of all work days lost

In general, slips and trips occur due to a loss of traction between the shoe and the walking surface or an inadvertent contact with a fixed or moveable object which may lead to a fall. There are a variety of situations that may cause slips, trips and falls.

  • Wet or greasy floors
  • Dry floors with wood dust or powder
  • Uneven walking surfaces
  • Polished or freshly waxed floors
  • Loose flooring, carpeting or mats
  • Transition from one floor type to another
  • Missing or uneven floor tiles and bricks
  • Damaged or irregular steps; no handrails
  • Sloped walking surfaces
  • Shoes with wet, muddy, greasy or oily soles
  • Clutter
  • Electrical cords or cables
  • Open desk or file cabinet drawers
  • Damaged ladder steps
  • Ramps and gang planks without skid-resistant surfaces
  • Metal surfaces – dock plates, construction plates
  • Weather hazards – rain, sleet, ice, snow, hail, frost
  • Wet leaves or pine needles

Here are six guidelines to help you create a safer working environment for you and your employees.

(1) Create Good Housekeeping Practices
Good housekeeping is critical. Safety and housekeeping go hand-in-hand. If your facility’s housekeeping habits are poor, the result may be a higher incidence of employee injuries, ever-increasing insurance costs and regulatory citations. If an organization’s facilities are noticeably clean and well organized, it is a good indication that its overall safety program is effective as well.

Proper housekeeping is a routine. It is an ongoing procedure that is simply done as a part of each worker’s daily performance. To create an effective housekeeping program, there are three simple steps to get you started

  • Plan ahead– Know what needs to be done, who’s going to do it and what the particular work area should look like when you are done.
  • Assign responsibilities– It may be necessary to assign a specific person or group of workers to clean up, although personal responsibility for cleaning up after himself/herself is preferred.
  • Implement a program– Establish housekeeping procedures as a part of the daily routine.

(2) Reduce Wet or Slippery Surfaces
Walking surfaces account for a significant portion of injuries reported by state agencies. The most frequently reported types of surfaces where these injuries occur include

  • Parking lots
  • Sidewalks (or lack of)
  • Food preparation areas
  • Shower stalls in residential dorms
  • Floors in general

Traction on outdoor surfaces can change considerably when weather conditions change. Those conditions can then affect indoor surfaces as moisture is tracked in by pedestrian traffic. Traction control procedures should be constantly monitored for their effectiveness.

  • Keep parking lots and sidewalks clean and in good repair condition.
  • When snow and ice are present, remove or treat these elements. In some extreme cases, it may be necessary to suspend use of the area.
  • Use adhesive striping material or anti-skid paint whenever possible.

Indoor control measures can help reduce the incidence of slips and falls.

  • Use moisture-absorbent mats with beveled edges in entrance areas. Make sure they have backing material that will not slide on the floor.
  • Display “Wet Floor” signs as needed.
  • Use anti-skid adhesive tape in troublesome areas.
  • Clean up spills immediately. Create a procedure for taking the appropriate action when someone causes or comes across a food or drink spill.
  • Use proper area rugs or mats for food preparation areas.

(3) Avoid Creating Obstacles in Aisles and Walkways
Injuries can also result in from trips caused by obstacles, clutter, materials and equipment in aisles, corridors, entranceways and stairwells. Proper housekeeping in work and traffic areas is still the most effective control measure in avoiding the proliferation of these types of hazards. This means having policies or procedures in place and allowing time for cleaning the area, especially where scrap material or waste is a by-product of the work operation.

  • Keep all work areas, passageways, storerooms and service areas clean and orderly.
  • Avoid stringing cords, cables or air hoses across hallways or in any designated aisle.
  • In office areas, avoid leaving boxes, files or briefcases in the aisles.
  • Encourage safe work practices such as closing file cabinet drawers after use and picking up loose items from the floor.
  • Conduct periodic inspections for slip and trip hazards.

(4) Create and Maintain Proper Lighting
Poor lighting in the workplace is associated with an increase in accidents.

  • Use proper illumination in walkways, staircases, ramps, hallways, basements, construction areas and dock areas.
  • Keep work areas well lit and clean.
  • Upon entering a darkened room, always turn on the light first.
  • Keep poorly lit walkways clear of clutter and obstructions.
  • Keep areas around light switches clear and accessible.
  • Repair fixtures, switches and cords immediately if they malfunction.

(5) Wear Proper Shoes
The shoes we wear can play a big part in preventing falls. The slickness of the soles and the type of heels worn need to be evaluated to avoid slips, trips and falls. Shoelaces need to be tied correctly. Whenever a fall-related injury is investigated, the footwear needs to be evaluated to see if it contributed to the incident. Employees are expected to wear footwear appropriate for the duties of their work task.

(6) Control Individual Behavior
This condition is the toughest to control. It is human nature to let our guard down for two seconds and be distracted by random thoughts or doing multiple activities. Being in a hurry will result in walking too fast or running which increases the chances of a slip, trip or fall. Taking shortcuts, not watching where one is going, using a cell phone, carrying materials which obstructs the vision, wearing sunglasses in low-light areas, not using designated walkways and speed are common elements in many on-the-job injuries.

It’s ultimately up to each individual to plan, stay alert and pay attention.