Warehouse safety has been a concern for hundreds of years, but it’s only recently that developments in automation have drastically reduced the amount of unsafe work practices required. That’s where our 4 warehouse safety tips for automation come in handy. The Industrial Revolution helped regulate some of the dangerous conditions that workers had to endure, from long hours with poor ventilation and dangerous equipment to dealing with hazardous chemicals. With the introduction of robotics in manufacturing, workers no longer have to put themselves in harm’s way to do their job.
However, while these technological developments have greatly increased workplace safety, they’ve introduced a few workplace hazards of their own. Working with robots comes with a different set of safety concerns than working with hazardous materials. But, with a little bit of training and some research, you can easily ensure warehouse safety in the age of automation. Here’s a list of warehouse safety tips for warehouse workers working in automation.
1. Training Is Everything
Safety training programs should be mandatory in order for all new employees to be kept up to date with new machinery and processes. And when new technology is introduced to the workplace, all workers need a thorough training on how to safely and effectively use it. Training should never be something that only happens at the beginning of a job. As technology continues to develop, automation workers need to be able to keep up with it and stay safe. Familiarity with a machine or a process can cause workers to become lax in their safety protocols. Consistent training and retraining reminds employees both how and why they need to be safe.
The International Society of Automation (ISA) is a leading developer of standards for the safety of industrial operations. The ISA offers several safety-training courses for workers at every level, from safety managers and company managers through analytical engineers. Their courses are available to be brought to your facility or at various locations across the country. They also provide a list of safety training resources to help automation workers stay up to date in topics ranging from field devices to software.
2. Prepare Your Facility
When new robotics become available, it can be tempting to jump at the excitement of new technology. However, it’s important to assess whether or not your facility is the right place for the warehouse robot. Many robots do not operate universally well in different conditions, and it’s important to see the machine at work before deciding whether or not to bring it to your facility. You’ll want to consider things like cargo and payload to ensure that the robot can handle the tasks you expect of it. It’s also important to determine whether or not your facility is large enough to handle some of the bigger robotics currently on the market.
If and when you do decide to bring on new robotics, you’ll want to prepare your facility accordingly. You may need to use safety paint to demarcate the robot’s path or implement other safety protocols to make room for larger robots. Safety gates and guardrails can help aid existing safety practices and reduce the likelihood of injury.
It’s also important not to scale up too rapidly, as bringing on too many robots too quickly can lead to confusion and improper training. Take your time in introducing each new piece of equipment in order to give everyone a chance to get properly introduced to how it works.
3. Look For Abnormalities
One of the most important parts of training workers on new robotics is to teach them how to look for abnormalities. Inspections should happen each time before the robot is used and at certain intervals during use. It’s handy to have a checklist that employees can use to guide them through the inspection. Unsure how this checklist should look? Click here for an example about pallet rack safety. A checklist standardizes the inspection and adds a level of personal accountability for every employee.
Automation workers need to be able to inspect robotics and know what problems to look for. This allows them to report any unusual behavior by creating an easy channel for workers to raise their concerns. The easier it is to report malfunction, the less likely it will be to go unreported. It’s also important that every concern be taken seriously. You want to err on the side of caution, so it’s important that workers feel like their concerns are being listened to and action is being taken when necessary.
4. Use Safety Automation Technology
The last of our warehouse safety tips! There have been a great many developments in safety automation technology. One of the most effective developments is the use of safety sensors that interact with the robots. Safety sensors will communicate with robots and allow them to “see” where the humans are in the factory so that they don’t run into them. These sensors can be located on both the robots themselves and on the human workers.
These sensors can be worn as either part of a safety vest or on the arm. Workers at Amazon’s warehouses use safety vests with sensors on them, while Georgia Tech researchers developed the arm sensors to help detect the wearer’s muscle movements. While many robots will have integrated sensors that help them avoid humans, combining the sensors worn by both humans and robots will increase workplace safety.
Don’t rely solely on safety automation technology, though. Employees still need to be vigilant for any and all safety concerns when working. While robots have become advanced enough to implement some incredibly safety procedures, there is always the possibility for error. It’s important to use safety automation technology as a tool to aid safety rather than as a replacement for vigilance.
If you follow these warehouse safety tips, you’ll be sure to maintain a safe work environment. Robots are meant to make our lives easier and safer, and with the proper protocol, they absolutely will. Proper training, a thorough inspection for abnormalities, and working in conjunction with safety automation technology will ensure the safety of your warehouse. It’s not difficult to stay safe when working in automation; all it takes is the proper knowledge.
About the Author
Bryan Hellman is a writer with DO Supply, Inc. who enjoys writing about Automation, Workplace Safety, and future applications of AI.