To Improve Worker Safety in the Warehouse or Distribution Center, Measure Safety, Train for Skills
The April issue of Distribution Center Management highlights some of the common mistakes made in safety improvement efforts. These include measuring productivity only, using incentive programs, and being too quick to punish.
(Boonton, NJ, April 25, 2011) Safety expert Judy Agnew sees an obvious contradiction in most warehouses: While managers say safety is important, they send a clear message that speed and productivity are their true priorities.
After all, most DCs measure worker behavior very closely, whether it's how many items a worker picks in an hour or a shift or how long it takes to fill each order, down to the second. Yet associates tend to get few specific guidelines on safety.
If workers constantly are graded on speed and productivity, they're unlikely to be receptive when you say safety is a priority, says Agnew, co-author of the book "Safe by Accident? Take the Luck out of Safety."
In an article in the April issue of Distribution Center Management, Agnew points to seven common practices that DC management must avoid in order to improve safety. The first troublesome practice is providing safety incentives.
Injury-based incentives are common in DCs and the logistics industry in general. While managers embrace these sorts of programs, few understand the complexities behind these incentives. In the best case, such programs might cause employees to work safely, which is what you want.
But these programs also can teach undesirable behaviors. One possibility is that workers will engage in risky behaviors but won't get hurt, which means the incentives reward luck, not safety. Another possibility is that employees won't report accidents because they don't want to lose the incentive. If you have an injury-based incentive program, it may be time to eliminate it, Agnew says.
The April issue also features an article on an inexpensive software solution that improved delivery schedules at Crescent Crown Distributing, six steps to better managing change in the DC, and an update on Sysco's use of biodiesel delivery trucks.
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For more than 40 years, Distribution Group publications have helped distribution center and warehouse managers increase productivity, cut costs, and meet increasing customer demands. Distribution Group publishes Distribution Center Management newsletter, books and reports, and a free e-newsletter.