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The key to improving safety

29 April 2013

John Kent explains how access management systems are helping to reduce accidents in the warehouse by enabling close control of key and equipment usage

John Kent explains how access management systems are helping to reduce accidents in the warehouse by enabling close control of key and equipment usage

Today's warehouse environment is a busy place - with staff often required to do a variety of different jobs and operate many types of dangerous machinery such as forklifts, cranes, delivery vehicles and compactors. Each member of staff is vital in ensuring the warehouse itself functions effectively.

It is required that staff receive thorough training and qualification wherever necessary and that all records of maintenance checks and repairs are kept up to date, as this type of equipment can be very dangerous if staff are not sufficiently qualified to operate it. Yet with the large number of staff employed at a warehouse, using different machines daily, it is very difficult to ensure that only the right staff have access to the right equipment - and accidents can arise from staff handling kit they are not officially trained to use.

Out with the old With the proliferation of machines that require special training and qualifications within a single working environment, health and safety becomes a major concern in the manufacturing, retail and distribution industry. This compromise to health and safety occurs when assessing authorisation and permission levels because a manual process is not suitable to track this information accurately.

Many warehouses store keys for vehicles and tool storage units in a basic key box, with keys audited using a paper log book. In most cases, this relies too heavily on the diligence of the employees or management staff. With the onus on the staff, keys are taken without being documented and often are not returned on time. If equipment or a vehicle is needed by another member of staff, time is wasted searching for keys and it compromises the regular maintenance checks done on the vehicles. And if an accident does occur, it is extremely difficult to trace why and how the user gained access to the keys needed to start that piece of equipment.

Modernising a manual process In order to address this issue, warehouses need to improve access control. There is an increasing need for warehouses to adopt access management systems that automate the process of dispensing and managing keys based on employee access rights. A system like this can improve security and safety significantly from day one, as well as boosting efficiency in the warehouse by enabling close control of key and equipment usage.

Fundamentally, access management systems enable self-vending of keys in a safe, authorised and audited manner without constant management involvement - resulting in short ROI timescales. Staff can identify themselves at an automated key cabinet, rather than asking managers for permission, and can only access keys for vehicles and equipment they are authorised to use. The information is stored on a central database and uses staff profiles containing personal certification information to track individual training levels and ensure only authorised employees can physically remove keys from the cabinet.

Managing access to keys also enables detailed auditing to occur. All information is available via the cabinet's data display or on an administrator's PC which means the operator can produce a report for each key showing when it has been used, by whom, and when it was returned. A further benefit is that user profiles can be automatically updated to the system containing training details for all staff.

This will alert managers when machine licences need to be renewed and staffretrained.

This will avoid all timeconsuming manual tracking of staff qualifications, as well as ensuring the safety of all staff using the equipment and those around them.

It is this kind of auditing and controlled management that will alleviate some of the pressure put on staff to keep vehicles and devices secure and used efficiently. Detailed auditing makes each member of staff accountable for the vehicles or equipment they have taken as any damage caused can easily be traced.

This level of responsibility encourages employees to take greater care of machinery, saving warehouses money in the long run.

Ultimately, key and access management should be a simple process and should not add to the stress of warehouse management. However many organisations still adopt a manual and time consuming method of managing keys with paper-based processes which themselves are easily mislaid. In order to be as efficient, cost effective and of course secure as possible, this needs to change.

An automated approach takes the pressure off managers because they can be confident that keys, and the equipment those keys activate, are managed automatically.

John Kent is president of Traka