Four Key Areas for Mitigating Warehouse Risks

Written By David Chew, DLSM

by David Chew, DLSM

The key risks for warehousing are fire hazards, use of material handling equipment (MHE), Dangerous Goods (DG) classes on handling and security. In terms of fire, it is not only the product that’s at risk but also the packaging materials, storage systems and building materials that add to the fire load. Other important risk areas include worker safety, material storage, the use of equipment like MHEs, electrical safety, and the storage of flammable and environmentally hazardous substances.

Warehouses and distribution centers are frequent targets of burglary, theft, and pilferage. These facilities often contain lots of new merchandise in its original packaging – something that is highly desirable to both professional and amateur thieves. It is Important to have good risk management in place for fire hazards, MHEs, DG classes on handling and security in order to manage the risks associated with general housekeeping, waste management, and health and safety.

The picture below shows a cluttered warehouse posing various risks to the warehouse.

risks to the warehouse

Fire Hazard and Risks in Warehouses

According to a study by the German Insurance Association, more than one-third of all industrial and commercial fires occur in warehouses. As such, fire prevention takes on special importance within the storage and logistics sector and needs to play an important role in logistics centres and warehouses right from the planning stages. Most warehouse fires are caused by sparks emitted by overloaded electronic components, such as drive motors or high-back racking units.

Technical defects represent another fire hazard. The conditions in warehouses and logistics centres increase the risk that fires will spread rapidly: narrow alleys, high bay systems, long conveyor belts, a concentrated volume of goods within a tight space, and flammable packaging materials are all conducive to fire development. Fire protection takes on particularly great significance when storing small load carriers (SLC) or hazardous materials.

In SLC storage, the fire behavior of the plastic material used to make the SLCs creates additional risk. In hazardous materials storage, the mildly to highly flammable substances stored here must be specially protected due to the explosion hazards fires would create. The significance of fire protection in storage and logistics Personnel protection, Environmental protection, protecting operating processes and maintaining uninterrupted delivery capability (thus part of securing continued existence) and Protecting investments in goods, technology and buildings.

The need for, and thus the number of, logistics centres and warehouses is steadily increasing. At the same time, the storage and logistics industry is being confronted with a number of new requirements: Developments like online retail and increasingly high customer expectations (same-day delivery, for example) are resulting in new and increasingly complex challenges. Process automation, optimized interfaces, speed, and complete flexibility are all necessary for providers to be able to ensure ever-shorter throughput times from goods receipt to dispatch. And maintaining delivery capability and operational processes at all times is crucial to the company’s success and continued existence.

Material Handling Equipment (MHE)

MHE attachments such as carton clamps, drum clamps, paper-roll clamps, rotators, and push-pull elements can affect the capacity of an MHE in a number of ways, including Attachments can change operating clearances by extending the length and width of the MHE. Attachments can change the capacity of the MHE by adding weight. For example, if the attachment weighs 1,000 pounds, the capacity of the load you can carry is reduced by 1,000 pounds. Attachments usually change the stability and center of gravity of the MHE. For example, if an attachment moves the load away from the vertical face of the forks that will reduce the maximum load the MHE can carry.

Most accidents with MHEs involve pedestrians. The most obvious causes of accidents involving pedestrians include: Having an obstructed view—the operator cannot see the pedestrian because of a load or an obstruction in the path. Turning the MHE toward a pedestrian who is in front of or alongside the MHE. Speeding, so that the MHE can’t stop in time to avoid the pedestrian. Being unaware of pedestrians in the area. Carrying passengers on the MHE

Some MHE hazards are caused by the conditions present in the environment where the MHE is operating. For example: Using a combustible fuel-operated MHE in a poorly ventilated area, which could allow the buildup of carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide from the MHE. Operating in an environment with ramps, which can increase the chance of an MHE accident. Crossing railroad tracks, which can unbalance an MHE, as well as operating and braking on slippery floors, operating on dirt and gravel, and poor lighting. There are other possible hazards of a particular work environment that might cause an MHE accident. These include pits or openings in the floor, congested or narrow workspaces, and the presence of flammable and combustible material.

Hazard Prevention and Control

Effective controls protect workers from workplace hazards; help avoid injuries, illnesses, and incidents; minimize or eliminate safety and health risks, and help employers provide workers with safe and healthful working conditions.

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A hazard control plan describes how the selected controls will be implemented. An effective plan will address serious hazards first. Interim controls may be necessary, but the overall goal is to ensure effective long-term control of hazards. It is important to track progress toward completing the control plan and periodically (at least annually and when conditions, processes or equipment change) verify that controls remain effective. The hazard control plan should include provisions to protect workers during non-routine operations and foreseeable emergencies.

Depending on the workplace, these could include fires and explosions; chemical releases; hazardous material spills; unplanned equipment shutdowns; infrequent maintenance activities; natural and weather disasters; workplace violence; terrorist or criminal attacks; disease outbreaks (e.g., pandemic influenza); or medical emergencies. Non-routine tasks, or tasks workers don’t normally do, should be approached with particular caution. Prior to initiating such work, review job hazard analyses and job safety analyses with any workers involved and notify others about the nature of the work, work schedule, and any necessary precautions.

Once hazard prevention and control measures have been identified, they should be implemented according to the hazard control plan. To ensure that control measures are and remain effective, employers should track progress in implementing controls, inspect and evaluate controls once they are installed, and follow routine preventive maintenance practices. The picture below shows the outcome of effectiveness.

outcome of effectiveness

Security Risks

Due to high volume of inventory, warehouses and distribution centres are often at high risk for burglary and theft from both internal and external parties. Internal threats are posed by employees and third parties hired by the organization, while external threats would involve general thieves.

Establish facility boundaries use separate areas for dispatching and receiving goods. Where possible, provide physical barriers between these two areas. always Keep the gate to the exterior yard area locked when the warehouse is closed. Provide audible exit alarms on all emergency exit doors.

Establish a visitor register and do not allow visitors or delivery drivers to go through the warehouse unaccompanied. Install electronic security and surveillance systems can control access into high-value rooms or cages.

The access control system should be capable of providing an audit trail of who entered the cage, when, and for how long. Use video surveillance systems to record activity in high-value cages and rooms. Cameras should be placed to view entrance points as well as interior areas. Install intruder alarms to enable a fast and coordinated response in the event of theft and vandalism.


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About the Author: David Chew Kian Peng has substantive years of experience in the field of logistics and warehousing, and specifically in the area of shipping as a global logistics service provider. He is a member of Singapore Institute of Purchasing and Materials Management (SIPMM). David completed the Diploma in Logistics and Supply Management (DLSM) course on December 2018 at SIPMM.