Warehouse Safety Improvements

Risk Mitigation /

In 2011 I began a project in conjunction with the Harris Scarfe Warehouse Manager and Inspectors of WorkSafe Victoria to improve safety within the Harris Scarfe distribution centre. Physical, behavioural and management changes were required. The project consisted of 11 key steps, briefly listed below.

  1. Physical site compliance audit, assessing physical hazards and risks on the site and proposing solutions;
  2. Re-establishment of consultative mechanisms, involving the OHS Committee in the development of risk controls;
  3. Development of an internal and external traffic management plan;
  4. Gain support of key stakeholders through the business to support improvement plan;
  5. Control of hazardous manual tasks through elimination or engineering;
  6. Selection of contractors and engagement of specialist consultants;
  7. Implementation of engineering controls;
  8. Implementation of administrative controls, training and information to team members;
  9. Evaluation of controls, review initial audit;
  10. Ongoing training and support;
  11. Hand-over to site OHS Committee and Management.

During the initial site compliance audit 62 physical safety issues were identified across the site, over a three month period I led the DC team to resolve 80% of the identified issues, with the remainder to be managed by the Site Safety Committee. This initial audit provided for a better understanding of the key site risks, these were:

  • Manual Handling – no controls in place to reduce the potential for musculoskeletal disorders to occur;
  • Traffic Management – no formal traffic management processes in place internally or externally;
  • Plant & Pedestrian Interaction Zones – no barriers or segregation of pedestrians and operating plant.

Manual Handling

Manual Handling within the centre was very labour intensive requiring workers to adopt sustained awkward postures, particularly when bending to stack the first level of an outgoing pallet. In consultation with key stakeholders I worked to develop a cost effective solution, whereby the sitting height of a pallet was raised above ground level to reduce bending. In order to properly understand the risks and the viability of controls I conducted an ergonomic study of the task, utilising the NIOSH Manual Handling Assessment Tool to obtain a lifting index for the task.



Traffic Management

With no formal policies, processes or physical means of directing pedestrian and vehicle traffic around the centre a full review was required. This consisted of a motion study to better understand the needs of workers, determining where people need to travel to across the centre and the safest most effective way of getting there. This same approach was applied to external traffic management around the outside of the building. Management of external traffic was significantly harder as external parties would be involved in the final plan. This meant traffic management needed to be self explanatory with no room for error. Detailed studies were completed for each of the plan’s elements.


Plant and Pedestrian Interaction

The third key risk identified in the centre was a lack of segregation between pedestrians and plant, in particular workers and forklifts. This required a review of the way work was conducted in the centre in order to find ways to completely eliminate the need for forklifts and pedestrians to work together. 85% of existing interaction was eliminated with the remaining 15% unable to be eliminated but was controlled through the use of signage, gates and barriers that could effectively stop a forklift. Worker training was a key step in reducing interaction through increases in team member awareness.


Through the effective management of identified risks I finalised the ‘improvement project’ after a total of 6 months, leading to the next on-going phase of continuous improvement. This has included the formalisation of working practices and the development of individual work instructions, an online induction program is soon to be implemented to brief new team members on the sites safety journey.