Workplace Safety is Non-Negotiable for Warehouse Operations

January 17, 2024

By Jens Bohnwagner, CEO, XSQUARE Technologies

Workplace safety - a perennial issue

The issue of workplace safety is prevalent in many countries, and Singapore is no exception. In 2022, Singapore recorded 45 workplace fatalities1, with 10 of them attributed to warehouse accidents2. Warehouse accidents can occur due to various reasons, such as inadequate training, lack of appropriate safety equipment, and machinery maintenance - which can result in injuries, property damage, and even loss of life. Governments in the region have introduced and enforced mandatory safety regulations, such as Singapore’s Workplace Safety and Health Act, Japan’s Industrial Safety and Health Act, and Australia’s Work Health and Safety Act.

Although laws and regulations are crucial for improving workplace safety, they are not a panacea.

Workplace safety – a different perspective

By implementing technology and warehouse automation, we can reduce the risks of accidents resulting from slip and fall hazards, collisions with machinery or other objects, human errors, heavy lifting, exposure to hazardous materials, and other physical strains that can lead to injuries. This paves the way for workplace and warehouse operators to simultaneously benefit from workplace safety - for both economic and welfare reasons.

Workplace safety measures help prevent accidents and injuries, reducing compensation claims. Secondly, prioritising workplace safety and well-being can increase job satisfaction among employees, who are also the heartware of the company. When employees feel valued and cared for,  they are more likely to be more productive, efficient and accurate, leading to increased accuracy and reduced lost workdays and medical compensations. They are inextricably linked as investing in workplace safety measures is not only responsible, but also fosters a culture of care and respect for employees, ultimately leading to increased employee satisfaction, loyalty, and retention, all of which can contribute to the overall success and profitability of a business.

Your new ‘colleague’

Autonomous forklifts are a game-changer in the world of workplace safety. They are designed to minimise the need for physical exertion involving heavy lifting and reduce the chances of human errors, so that workers can work more efficiently and focus on high-level jobs that provide better compensation. Autonomous forklifts can operate safely alongside human operators, detecting  potential hazards such as a person approaching them, alerting the worker through its warning lights and avoiding collision by activating its obstacle avoidance function. With technology and warehouse automation becoming an essential part of ensuring workplace safety, technology can be viewed as a new colleague to warehouse operators - empowering them to work safely and more efficiently.

Workplace safety is a duo approach

Workplace safety is a collaborative effort between humans and robots, where technology supports workers in performing tasks safely and efficiently. Repetitive and physically demanding tasks that can potentially harm workers should be handled by automation while the human operators monitor its performance and intervene when necessary. Human workers can also be responsible for identifying potential hazards that may not be detectable by technology and taking appropriate measures to mitigate those risks. By combining the strengths of both human and robotic intervention, workplace safety can be optimised and accidents can be reduced.

At the same time, it is important to note that implementing warehouse automation is not as simple as purchasing off-the-shelf solutions with the aim to heighten workplace safety standards overnight. Instead, it should be a deliberated and detailed process where your operational and business needs are carefully assessed and communicated to the automation provider. An overhaul of the entire system may not always be necessary or feasible, and the provider should comprehend the unique requirements of a business and tailor solutions to suit those needs.

Nurturing the heartware to develop a liking for hardware

The truth about warehouse automation is that technology adoption without adequate training and partnership with the right intelligent warehouse solution provider will prevent operators from meeting their business goals. Such an outcome is also at the expense of workplace safety.

As such, leaders have a vital role to play in leading the journey of workplace safety.  It’s important for leaders to communicate a balanced viewpoint and gain buy-in from their workers and emphasise the benefits of warehouse automation while also acknowledging the importance of human intervention.  It is essential to convey how humans have a cognitive power that robots cannot replace, and together, they form an effective combination for warehouse automation. Retraining workers is also crucial to get them in tune with the extra pair of helping (steel) hands they have on deck now. Lastly, leaders  should continually show appreciation to their workers when they eventually reap the benefits of heightened productivity and increased customer satisfaction.

Automation solutions must be implemented thoughtfully, with a focus on addressing the specific needs of each operation and the potential risks associated with their work processes. XSQUARE Technologies is committed to working with warehouse operators to develop automation solutions that meet their needs, prioritise workplace safety and help businesses achieve their operational goals.



As published in WSH Asia. Read here:

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