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How warehouses can streamline safety training for peak-season hires

Telematics can control access to forklifts and avoid fines

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Supply chain anxiety is mainstream news this peak retail season. As of Oct. 5, 55 ships were anchored off the coast of California. Big retail is preparing the public for imminent shortages, while truckers are working tirelessly and bracing themselves to deal with pent-up demand. The CEO of MGA Entertainment, a leading global toymaker, recently said, “Everything that can go wrong is going wrong at the same time.” 

But once the cargo hits the docks, labor shortages in warehouses are further stalling the distribution of products via trucking and intermodal throughout North America, even amid additional seasonal hires. As e-commerce continues to soar, so does the demand for warehouse space and skilled warehouse labor. Companies such as Prologis are taking steps to meet their need for workers. The industrial warehouse operator is launching a training program that will onboard 25,000 logistics employees.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that distribution and logistics employment from 2019 to 2022 is expected to grow almost 30%. By 2031, 735,000 workers are projected to be added to the warehousing and distribution industry. 

Arts and crafts retailer Michaels is adding 20,000 store and warehouse workers this holiday season ⁠— 25% more than last year — while Kohl’s is adding a count similar to last year’s 90,000 seasonal workers. At the same time, these employers are tasked with ramping up safety training for all those new workers.

“Employers are having to deal with the challenge of quickly training warehouse employees to not only follow OHSA regulations but also their own safety practices, whether they’re new full-time hires or new seasonal workers,” said Mark Stanton, GM of Supply Chain Solutions, PowerFleet. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, forklift-related accidents cause more than 7,000 nonfatal injuries with days away from work each year. In addition, between 2011 and 2017, more than 600 workers also died from forklift-related incidents. Because warehouse operations can be dangerous, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides training regulations to prevent the improper stacking of goods, repetitive motion injuries and the unsafe use of forklifts. Among the warehouse violations reported to OSHA, forklift accidents rank as the most common, and multiple violations can result in serious fines. Repeated violations in a three-year period can cost a company over $136,000, not to mention the fines that can ensue from workers’ compensation litigation.

“The use of telematics helps enforce safety policies, checklists and OSHA compliance, as well as control operator access to forklifts,” said Stanton. “It helps management keep track of equipment maintenance and utilization at each facility and compare to corporate averages, which in turn helps make informed decisions on where to allocate equipment to facilities that may experience increased demand during peak season.”

Telematics providers like PowerFleet offer best-in-class solutions that can lock out unauthorized operators and provide centralized reporting so management can easily verify compliance, track trends and avoid liability. Additional safety features for forklifts include LED safety lights, speed and abuse monitoring, weighing systems, camera systems and pedestrian alerts. These systems help keep operators, pedestrians, equipment and facilities safe.

PowerFleet IQ is the accompanying analytics software that easily integrates with a WMS and ERP system, allowing for a comprehensive and actionable overview of warehouse operations. Analytics can help reduce forklift-related damage costs by 60-90%. PowerFleet IQ analytics provide KPIs for critical forklift and material handling equipment safety metrics such as rate of impact events per vehicle motion time, rate of vehicle lockouts due to critical safety issues and rate of vehicle lockouts due to failure of operators to complete their pre-shift safety checklists. With this detailed visibility, managers and operators can see who drives safely and who needs more training. 

The visibility of forklift data not only improves safety, but it optimizes equipment usage across locations in a way that streamlines operations and promotes profitability. Analytics can help identify activity gaps between the number of forklifts available at each site versus the peak number actually in use at any given time. Intelligence on actual material handling equipment usage helps management to rightsize fleets and reallocate equipment to busier or growing sites and reassign staff to other jobs.

For more information on how telematics can streamline safety training and equipment usage at your warehouse operation, click here.

Corrie White

Corrie is fascinated how the supply chain is simultaneously ubiquitous and invisible. She covers freight technology, cross-border freight and the effects of consumer behavior on the freight industry. Alongside writing about transportation, her poetry has been published widely in literary magazines. She holds degrees in English and Creative Writing from UNC Chapel Hill and UNC Greensboro.