Essential Warehouse Equipment for Safety, Ergonomics, and Higher Throughput
The warehousing and storage industry employed well over a million people in 2019. More than 300,000 of those employees were manual material handlers, the largest occupation of any in the sector. (By contrast, there were only 12,500 managers and fewer than 200,000 industrial truck operators.) These statistics illustrate the central role manual material handling continues to occupy in our global logistics systems.
But material handlers can’t do the job without the right warehouse equipment, and identifying those tools isn’t always straightforward. From Order Picking Carts to Battery Room Signage, warehouse workers need products built to prevent injuries, meet productivity goals, and simplify day-to-day tasks. So how do you know what you need to ensure success at your facility? Start with this basic warehouse equipment checklist, complete with essential items and examples of products that meet most material handling needs while providing a quick return on investment.
Warehouse Equipment for Safety, Traffic Control, and Hazardous Material Response
Warehouse safety remains the industry’s top priority. Still, warehouse workers suffered injuries and illnesses requiring days off work at more than twice the rate of the national average in 2019 (3.7 injuries per 100 warehouse workers vs. a national average of 1.6 per 100 for all occupations). Clearly, there’s still work to do to create safer workplaces. The following equipment can help.
- Structural Barriers are simple but effective products for protecting facilities — and workers — from contact with industrial trucks. They also prevent falls to lower levels. Use them to establish forklift traffic lanes, line the edges of mezzanines and pits, and protect shelving units even in the event of a lift-truck strike. Choose products with high impact ratings, such as BHS Structural Barrier Rails and Structural Bollards from Solus Group, which are rated for impact forces of 10,000 pounds at 4 miles per hour.
- Personal Protective Equipment protects workers from chemical splashes, pathogen spread, mechanical irritants, and other workplace hazards. PPE Kits for forklift battery room staff, for instance, include acid-resistant aprons, goggles, boots, gloves, and face shields. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), with a few exceptions outlined here, employers must provide this PPE to their employees. Store PPE in clearly marked, easily accessible locations, such as PPE Storage Carts.
- Spill Response Kits and Supplies allow workers to safely contain spills and leaks involving acids, oils, and chemicals. If you operate an electric forklift fleet, OSHA standard 1910.178(g)(2) requires you to provide equipment for “flushing and neutralizing spilled electrolyte,” such as AcidSafe Spill Kits, which include a neutralizing sorbent powder, acid-resistant PPE, a broom and dustpan, and containers for disposing of used AcidSafe Sorbent safely.
- Eye Wash Stations or safety showers must be posted wherever “the eyes or body of any person may be exposed to injurious corrosive materials,” states OSHA standard 1910.151(c). That includes forklift battery rooms, where electrolyte contains sulfuric acid. If you handle hazardous chemicals anywhere else in your facility, those areas also require eye wash and/or shower facilities — even if those materials are packaged in sealed containers.
- Safety Alarms and Response Tools are your first defense against workplace hazards, from hazardous gas accumulations to fires. OSHA requires employers to post hydrogen gas exhaust fans in battery charging areas (1910.178[g]); smoke detectors throughout the facility (164); and fire extinguishers within 75 feet of employees in most instances (1910.157[d]).
- Signs and Equipment Labels are crucial pieces of your safety-equipment puzzle. Everywhere in your facility, post signage that details dangerous or hazardous materials, marks weight capacity limits, or simply notes the action/movement range of heavy equipment to minimize injuries.
Ergonomic Material Handling Carts
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are injuries to muscles and bones, as the name implies, but they also affect spinal discs, nerves, tendons, and other soft tissues. They’re a leading cause of workplace injury, accounting for 30 percent of U.S. workplace injuries requiring days off work in 2018. That year, laborers and freight, stock, and material movers suffered more MSDs than any other occupation, with nearly 10,000 cases more than the second most-injured job category.
Ergonomic warehouse equipment cuts down on MSDs by removing the most common causes of these injuries: heavy lifting, awkward postures, prolonged muscular strain. Material handling carts from Solus Group feature industry-ready design and ergonomic features that keep workers safe while improving overall productivity. Here are some of the options that work particularly well in the warehouse environment.
- Stock Picking Carts are ideal for distribution centers that fill orders for fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and other relatively small products. But that doesn’t mean they’re lightweight. Capacities up to 1,000 pounds allow these carts to support industrial heavy products like mechanical components and dies, while welded steel construction gives them long service lives in any warehousing environment. An integrated step ladder gives order pickers quick access to higher shelves.
- Order Picking Carts support bulk picking operations, with up to four steel shelves shaped with lips to keep bins or items firmly in place. Integrated fork pockets allow lift trucks to carry these items wherever they’re needed, while smooth-rolling casters limit push-force required for operation — a strong ergonomic benefit. Maximum capacities of up to 3,000 pounds are available on select models.
- Panel Carts provide safe, efficient material handling for warehouses that stock building materials and furniture, including drywall, granite, glass, folding tables, and carpet rolls. Two casters swivel while the others remain fixed, providing the greatest combination of maneuverability and straight-rolling travel. A rounded steel frame with a smooth powder-coat finish provides comfortable handling even over large distances.
- Flat Stacking Carts handle bulky materials for furniture warehouses and handlers of large items with varying footprints. While they provide a large, flat surface like any furniture cart, they also include four removable steel posts that allow users to stack a second cart on the top, customizing the warehouse equipment for a particular material handling challenge.
Warehouse Trailers for Order Picking Trains
Warehouse managers can sometimes improve overall throughput by implementing new order picking strategies, such as wave or batch picking. Many of these techniques work most efficiently with picking trains, which include an electric tugger (or even an automated guided vehicle [AGV]) attached to multiple Warehouse Trailers. Depending on the common SKUs you handle, and overall facility layout, your picking train may include one or both of the following types of Warehouse Trailers.
- Center Steer Warehouse Trailers function perfectly in narrow aisles thanks to a fifth caster in the center of the unit, which allows these models to turn on a dime. Heavy-duty construction and a 2,500-pound capacity make them ideal for picking orders in virtually any warehouse or distribution center.
- Quad Steer Warehouse Trailers follow tuggers and AGVs in a tight, predictable pattern to create long, safe picking trains in any environment. Standard shelving dimensions of 36 inches by 60 inches provide plenty of storage, while models are available with capacities of 2,500 pounds and 5,000 pounds.
Warehouse Equipment for Work Positioning and Order Packing
Order pickers aren’t the only warehouse employees at risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders. Packers, kitting staff, and the workers who provide other value-added warehousing services can be subjected to repetitive motions and awkward reaches throughout their shifts. Remove these risks with work-positioning equipment like the following.
- Lift Tables create varying-height workstations that support any materials, from a common FMCG order to kitted manufacturing parts. Pallet Carousel & Skid Positioners are self-leveling tables that allow workers to build and unpack pallets without bending, stretching, or constantly repositioning themselves. No warehouse that handles pallets is complete without these specialized Lift Tables.
- Tilt Tables provide work positioning and ergonomic access to boxes of parts for kitting operations and order packers. Solus Group’s collection is particularly suited to manufacturing supply chains, with capacities of up to 6,000 pounds, but we also offer 2,000-pound-max models for consumer-facing distribution centers.
- Adjustable Packing Desks make ideal order packing stations for multiple employees. Variable-height design provides ergonomic benefits, allowing order packers to keep work within a comfortable range of motion. Like most of Solus Group’s products, these desks are built for tough daily use, with steel construction and a durable powder coating.
- Shipping and Receiving Desks from Solus Group are modular and adjustable, allowing shipping staff to easily reach paper rolls, labels, and boxes without reaching. Monitor and keyboard mounts are also adjustable to prevent strain to hands and wrists. Durable, all-steel construction provides a lifetime of service.
Waste Handling Equipment for Warehouses and Distribution Centers
Simplify your sustainable materials management plan — or simply limit the time employees spend handling waste — with warehouse equipment built for the task. Lifting and emptying bins is an ergonomically risky task, since it requires workers to lift, twist, and bend all at once. By providing waste handling equipment that removes the risk, employers can prevent injuries while freeing more resources for throughput.
- Tilt Cart Dumpers empty waste containers off of docks and into dumpsters, removing a risky task for operators. These electric material movers plug into standard 120-volt outlets to charge, and fully enclose carts for the safest dock-to-dumpster waste handling experience available.
- Bin Dumpers lift and empty trash cans, bulk bins, and even drums without placing a strain on operators. Choose the assisted winch-operated Ezi-MT Bin Dumper for relatively light-weight waste-handling tasks, or upgrade to the Multi-Tip for hydraulic power and a higher capacity. For heavy-duty dumping tasks, try Dumpmaster models, which handle containers of up to 550 pounds.
- Garbage Bins and Wheel Carts are available in a range of styles, capacities, and colors. This variety helps to divert waste into multiple streams, from landfill-bound to recyclables to compost. Toter Wheel Carts are built to withstand industrial environments and are ideal for warehouse use. For higher-capacity waste storage, choose Mobile Garbage Bins, available with or without tow hooks.
Learn More About Ergonomics and Warehouse Equipment
Looking for other ways to improve ergonomics at your warehouse or distribution center? Try the OSHA ergonomics checklist to find trouble spots hindering workplace safety and productivity. You may find the solution to your ergonomics challenge on the list above. If you need more information about ergonomics, productivity, or warehouse equipment’s role in improving both, call Solus Group at 314-696-0200 today.