Warehouse Safety: 5 Tips For Handling Hazardous Materials

Handling Hazardous Materials

Proper handling of hazardous materials is a necessity for a safe workplace. Improper handling can pose serious threats to humans, the environment, and your overall business.

Human exposure to certain chemicals has the potential to cause everything from skin irritation to cancer. Furthermore, chemicals can easily get released into the air or seep into the ground and water, posing serious threats to the environment and residents living in the area.

One of the biggest contributors to chemical spillage aside from chemical refineries is warehouses that store chemicals for transport. To combat this, most warehouses pair hazmat safety practices with leading logistics tech platforms such as RedwoodConnect 2.0 and consult with an experienced 3PL such as Redwood Logistics. By doing so, they create a preventative model that also gives them complete visibility over the movement of all chemicals they handle.

Ready to start examining your own warehouse hazmat handling practices?

Here are some tips for keeping your warehouse and its employees safe when handling hazardous materials...


Assess Risks and Plan Ahead

The best way to ensure your distribution center runs smoothly is by prioritizing safety first and foremost. That means assessing where your warehouse is right now versus where it should be moving forward to provide the highest level of safety protection for your workers.

Before you start implementing equipment or changes, create a safety strategy. Consider which hazardous materials come through your center or could come through your center, and what that means for your storage and transport. Think of a safety strategy as you would any other strategy implementation. Go through the risks, the objectives, and the plan step by step. It’s not just about the hazardous materials; that should just be one stage of an overall safety overhaul.

Also, create a risk management plan. This includes emergency procedures and equipment, like defining responses for evacuation and medical emergencies. The more you’re prepared for, the better you’ll be to prevent risk and respond to the unexpected.

Redwood Logistics can help you understand, assess, and respond to the challenges of your center and supply chain. We’re offering a free consultation to create a custom solution for training and tech to address your specific safety needs.


Provide Adequate PPE and Information Materials

Personal protective equipment is even more important than ever, following COVID-19, to ensure workers are fully safeguarded against potential risks. PPE is the most effective way to protect workers from injury or illness as a result of coming in contact with any hazards. This, in turn, provides a level of safety and comfort that creates happier and more productive employees.

There are different types of protective equipment for respiratory, eye/face, skin, and noise. This includes everything from chemical resistant gloves and steel toe boots to breathing apparatuses and full hazmat suits. You’ll need to assess the individual risks of your warehouse to ensure you have the appropriate PPE for employees to use.

It’s also important to note that there are limitations of PPE. There are still some safety hazards, and it may restrict movement, vision, or communication. That’s why training employees in effective usage of PPE is critical to success and safety.


Focus on Safe Hazardous Materials Storage

Storing and transporting hazardous materials require special consideration. You need to ensure that your workers are using the right safety containers, properly labeled, in the right area.

Some tips for storing hazardous materials:

  • Create a designated storage area for hazardous materials. Identify it as a hazard zone and make it inaccessible to unauthorized individuals.
  • Keep the storage zone ventilated, dry, and cool. Make sure you’re following all requirements for each material being stored.
  • All containers should be sealable, weather-proofed, and resistant to corrosion in order to prevent the release of harmful chemicals.
  • Make sure the containers are compatible with the storage space. (Circular containers won’t fit in square pallets, for example.)
  • Ensure all containers are properly labeled (with weather-resistant labels).
  • Perform and document weekly inspections of all storage or transportation areas. Routine assessments can catch small issues before they become a big liability.
  • Use safety barriers, like warning and caution signs, in and around areas with hazardous materials.

It’s the warehouse director’s job to ensure that there are the appropriate materials, labels, and information regarding hazardous materials. Investing in quality protection is the key to the comfort and safety (and engagement) of employees.


Train Employees Regularly

A trained workforce is critical to safety success. However you set up your hazardous materials processes, everyone in your center should be aware of and trained in your hazardous materials processes. This includes everything from where and how the materials are stored, what the transport looks like, who is authorized, how to use PPE, what the labels mean, et cetera.

You’ll want to go over the basics, like not eating, drinking, or handling contact lenses while working with hazardous materials; but you’ll also want to delve deep beyond legal compliance to train on your center’s specific processes. The more your employees know and retain, the safer everyone will be. Even those who never work with hazardous materials should be trained in case they come across something.

Part of training your employees should be to encourage them to report any unsafe practices, such as damaged containers, illegible labels, worn out PPE, or other issues. Instill an open door policy for safety and health concerns, so your employees know that their wellbeing is your number one priority. It’s critical that all supervisors live, breathe, and work by the motto that safety comes first.

Redwood Logistics is proud to say that we were the winner of the Chicago Top Workplaces Award in 2019 because of our employee engagement levels. We care about safety and productivity training, so our employees know just how valued and cared for they truly are. Want to follow suit with your center’s employees? We offer warehouse management consulting.


Work With Supply Chain Partners

Everyone in the chain should be on the same page when it comes to safety. If even one logistics partner doesn’t follow the same sort of handling processes, the entire chain could be in jeopardy. Avoid any breakdowns by focusing on communication between partners and creating a unified plan for handling hazardous materials.

Whenever we implement a safety procedure, we train our partners as well as our employees. This creates a synergistic supply chain that enables the smoothest and safest handling of all materials.

At Redwood Logistics, we have the engagement, history, and technology to back us up. We know how to create safety plans that don’t just meet compliance regulations. Our custom solutions ensure the highest level of safety and security for your warehouse.

Whether you’re dealing with hazardous materials or other logistics concerns, Redwood Logistics is here to help. We’re the partner you need to bolster your supply chain with productivity, safety, and growth.

Reach out to us for a FREE consultation about your operational needs.