Warehousing workers face countless hazards as they navigate shipping and fulfillment facilities. From forklifts and multi-story storage racks to dock ledges and sweating slabs, the dangers are numerous. In fact, the fatal injury rate for warehouse workers is higher than the national average for employees in all sectors, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Forklift incidents alone claim more than 100 lives per year. With these data points in mind, many warehouse operations managers are searching for enterprise-grade safety solutions capable of keeping their workers safe. Surprisingly, many warehouse leaders are turning toward automated technology to accomplish this goal.
In late 2016, Peerless Research Group connected with shipping and receiving stakeholders throughout the U.S. and asked them to rank the most important issues in the industry, Logistics Management reported. More than 80 percent placed safety in the top position, indicating that continued investment was needed now and would be essential over the years to come. As more warehouse managers have embraced improved environmental health and safety strategies, the use of automated technology has risen. An estimated 63 percent of distribution centers are currently using process automation solutions, while another 22 percent have adoption plans in place, according to survey data from Modern Materials Handling and the Peerless Research Group. While these two developments appear to be evolving in isolation, a growing number of forward-thinking enterprises are fueling the expansion of an industrial intersection where automation meets EHS strategy.
More and more organizations are discovering that automated technology not only bolsters warehouse productivity but also improves worker safety, Engineering Review reported. How? Here are some of the safety benefits that come along with the implementation of automated warehousing solutions:
"An estimated 63 percent of distribution centers are currently using process automation solutions."
Securing the loading dock
The loading dock is perhaps the most dangerous area in the warehouse. Here, large pallets of products mingle with large pieces of machinery, all while human workers move in and out of the space. The hazards are manifold. However, automated technology has the potential to mitigate these dangers and keep employees safe amidst the chaos, according to EHS Today. Conventional automated platforms like warehouse management systems can add visibility to the shipping process, leading to right-sized staffing arrangements, less congested docks and safer loading zones. More advanced options such as sensor-operated door control solutions can facilitate even more worker-friendly docking operations, giving operational leaders the power to secure trailers without risking injury to staff.
Assisting with physical tasks
Modern warehouses continue to serve as epicenters of human movement. Workers drive processing, picking and packing workflows, expending significant energy to ensure that customers receive their products on time. All told, more than 960,000 individuals work in distribution centers across the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, an increasingly large number are working with cutting-edge technological tools that enhance their physical capabilities and protect them from bodily harm, the MIT Technology Review reported. These devices support "human-robot symbiosis," wherein workers leverage automated fixtures – robotic rolling shelves, for example – to bolster efficiency on the warehouse floor without overstressing their bodies and increasing the risk of injury.
These automated innovations are improving warehouse working conditions, while also allowing businesses to boost productivity and expand profit margins.
Interested in improving worker safety at your warehouse by implementing automated shipping and fulfillment technology? Connect with F&A Data Systems today. We work with cutting-edge industrial technology partners such as Dell, Microsoft and Rockwell Automation to develop and deploy customized warehouse management solutions that not only support more productive warehouse workflows but also facilitate safer working conditions. Contact us to learn more about how we can transform the warehousing operations at your business.