In the newspaper 2 days back there was a news item about a fire in a warehouse. Hence, I decided to write about safety in warehouse operations.
Unlike developed markets, there are no statutory warehouse safety standards in India. In developed markets, sprinklers and quick closing firewalls are mandatory in warehouses.
In India, most warehouses are 4 walls and a floor!. [ that is slowly changing but the majority of warehouses are godowns/ storerooms ] Warehouses in India are nothing more than godowns or store rooms. They are not accorded any importance and seen as a ‘necessary evil’ to do business. Hence no planning goes into the layout design, material flow, calculation of number of loading docks required, space required for picking and staging and parking area for trucks. It is no surprise that safety is not given any thought.
Fire-extinguishers are a must. The thumb-rule is one fire-extinguisher for every 3000 square feet of storage space. These fire-extinguishers should be of Type A. The fire-extinguisher should be placed on the wall and spread throughout the warehouse. The fire-extinguisher location should be marked on the wall at eye-level.
There should also be a Type C Fire-extinguisher for electrical fires. This should be kept close to he switchboard.
If the warehouse has a generator then there should be Type B fire-extinguisher close to the generator room
The fire-extinguishers should be checked and refilled every year. During the checking and refilling, the opportunity should be taken to give hands on training to all the warehouse employees. The gas/ liquid is changed. Rather than pouring it out, better to use it to give some practice to the people who will use the fire-extinguishers in case of a fire.
Have first-aid box in the warehouse. In the first-aid box, we had specified that anti-dotes for the pest-control chemicals should be kept.
In warehouses where forlifters and high-reach trucks are used, the operators had to undergo a safety lesson every year. I remember we used to show a forklift safety video with some ‘hardhitting scenes’. That video was extremely effective and did the job of putting some safety sense into the operators!
As part of our consulting work, we visit warehouses. Most of them do not have any fire extinguishers. The warehouses store material worth Crores [ 1 Crore = 10million] but do not have a single fire extinguisher.
As quality of warehouses in India improves, hope warehouse safety improves!