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Sign of the times

12 October 2020

Lost time injuries are the principal benchmark of a company’s safety performance. Here Danny Adamson looks at the signage recommended for warehouse sites, and how this can be used to both safeguard and promote health and safety awareness amongst workers.

DESPITE ROBUST health and safety legislation and growing public concern, workplace accidents remain too common an occurrence in Britain. Between 2018 to 2019, the nation lost an estimated 4.7 million working days as a result of non-fatal workplace accidents. Within the warehousing and storage sector, this concern is even greater, especially in the current climate, with companies stretched thin trying to respond to shifting patterns of customer demand. In this article, we will discuss how the sector is evolving, and why through this change, the industry must continue to prioritise effective health and safety measures. Additionally, the article will go on to detail how high-quality health and safety signage can help companies to ensure that they keep their staff safe. 

Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a significant shift in retail demand, both in Britain and further afield, with nearly all high-street stores required to shut, and shoppers forced to go online to source essential goods. As a result, many of us have now moved more of our spending habits online. In fact, according to data from Bazaarvoice Network, there has been a 21% increase in online orders between March 2019 and March 2020. Even as stores begin to reopen, there still remains a lingering concern about the safety of confined indoor spaces, leading to prolonged levels of reduced activity for many high-street retailers and consumers continuing to turn to online spending. 

In fact, a recent report by RetailX has revealed that more than a quarter of Britons have now stopped shopping in high-street stores all together. Whilst this dramatic uptick in demand will undoubtedly have been welcomed by online sellers, this change will have caught many companies off-guard and deprived them of an opportunity to upscale their own internal procedures accordingly. As a result, certain operational areas, such as warehouses, may now be required to function at unsustainable levels of activity, which could put workers at greater risk. 

In the current climate, it is therefore crucial that the health and safety of staff is not overlooked, especially when COVID-19 precautions may be overshadowing normal every day health and safety procedures. Warehouse managers must now look to strike the right balance between keeping operations ongoing, whilst ensuring that employees remain safe; as should an injury occur, this could lead to lost working days, legal issues and even fatalities. 

The warehousing and storage sector comprises a range of different activities, which result in multiple hazards and risks. Despite the varied nature of the work, there are many common workplace injuries sustained in the warehousing sector. For one, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), around a quarter of major injuries within the warehousing industry - which are defined as injuries requiring hospitalisation for more than a day - are caused by workers who slip or trip. Similarly, activities such as manual handling and working from height also rank amongst the main causes of accidents within the sector, as well as more random incidents, such as being hit by moving or falling objects. 

Risk assessment

Particularly in the current climate, the industry can ill-afford to suffer a wave of debilitating, lost-time injuries to staff. Instead, companies should look to prioritise efforts to bolster on-site health and safety performance. As always, an important first step in this process is to conduct a thorough risk assessment which is a legal requirement under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations. As per the HSE’s guidelines, a risk assessment should be carried out “every time there are new machines, substances and procedures, which could lead to new hazards. To this end, it is important to conduct an assessment whenever new working practices are implemented, or if new staff members are brought on-board. Undertaking a risk assessment can help facility managers to better understand whether their current health and safety protocols comply with legal requirements and are keeping staff safe. 

When conducting a risk assessment, it is important to identify anything that could cause harm, such as moving vehicles, ladders, or falling objects. Next, facility managers should look to categorise each of these risks by their probability of occurring, deciding whether there is a high, medium or low chance of them happening. Once the risks have been recorded and evaluated, they must then be noted, particularly in larger organisations. By law, companies with more than five members of staff must put together a record of any significant findings uncovered during the risk assessment. Following the assessment, it is essential that companies then take an additional step and start to devise new solutions and protocols, which can help to mitigate the risk of accidents occurring and ensure greater on-site safety for workers. 

At Stocksigns, we believe one of the most effective measures that companies have at their disposal in this pursuit is clear and engaging health and safety signage. In general, health and safety signage is not designed to replace safe working practices or physical controls. However, selectively placed displays can be helpful in raising the general safety consciousness of employees and visitors, serving as a reminder to wear the correct PPE, for example, or simply reminding those on-site to take care when moving around. As well as being impactful, health and safety signage represents a cost-effective solution, helping companies to meet existing legislative requirements and reducing the potential for future liabilities. 

Sign boards

In warehouse environments, sign boards can be used to draw immediate attention to prohibitions in restricted areas, as well as providing the perfect focal point for safety briefings and emergency resources. From large-scale site hazard boards, which elaborate on real-time hazards and controls, to customised oversized boards, which can be used to highlight the importance of health and safety in the workplace, Stocksigns is able to provide companies with effective tools, which can be used in instances where electronic methods may not be appropriate. With a rich history spanning over 60 years, Stocksigns is committed to helping companies meet their safety signage needs by offering the most comprehensive collection of signage solutions on the market. Additionally, all of the company’s boards can be customised with corporate branding to suit the client’s specific needs. 

However, much like the industries that they help to safeguard, health and safety signage has evolved over the years. As a result, companies like Stocksigns’ sister company, Messagemaker Displays Ltd, are now able to take advantage of increasingly eye-catching and visible display solutions. In particular, industrial LED safety displays, also known as Lost Time Injury boards, offer a permanent, high visibility reminder for staff, which can help to increase levels of safety consciousness on-site, thus reducing the likelihood of avoidable workplace accidents. Through Messagemaker Displays Ltd, we supply a number of dynamic Lost Time Injury boards, which can be easily programmed to display variable LED messaging with text and numbers. Designed with usability in mind, the systems can be easily updated wirelessly using an infra-red remote, or an Ethernet connection. Additionally, the solutions are available in custom sizes and layouts and are provided with an intuitive PC software system included. 

Across Britain, employers are required to do all they can to ensure the personal safety of staff and temporary visitors on their sites, as well as to minimise the risk at facilities accessed by the general public. A key provision in this effort is the adoption of effective health and safety signage. These solutions can be used to deliver important and impactful messages to workers, providing them with information that keeps them safe. Whilst traditional signage is legally sufficient, some companies may now be better off investing in innovative digital display solutions, which offer a level of functionality more suited to the modern world of business. With digital display signage, companies have access to a solution, which can be reprogrammed instantly to display relevant information when staff need it most. As such, the solutions offer a dramatic upgrade on the static, unchangeable displays that have come before. 

Danny Adamson is managing director at Stocksigns. For more information, please visit: www.stocksigns.co.uk