Cutting through the noise for safer warehouses

At iSB, we are passionate about ensuring workplaces are safe for everyone.

In an earlier blog, we explored some of the actions the logistics industry can take to reduce the risk of pedestrians being struck by moving vehicles, including revisiting warehouse routes, signage and floor markings, and guarding against employee complacency over following safety protocols.

As a business, you could do everything possible to minimise the risk of accidents happening, but one still happens. This is because workplace safety is a partnership, and your employees have an equal part to play in keeping themselves and others around them safe.

We talk regularly about the importance of engaging your staff but, in reality, this is only part of the solution.

As human beings, we are exposed to so many different messages and stimuli during our daily lives that can distract us in the moment and increase the risk of accidents happening. In this blog, we look at the science behind how our brains process information, and offer some tips for cutting through the ‘noise’.

 

What does the science say?

Studies have shown that, in human beings, the senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste) send around 11 million bits per second to the brain for processing. However, our conscious minds are only able to process around 50 bits per second. Everything else is processed unconsciously or, in other words, outside our direct conscious control.

Our brains are also limited on how much information they can process at any one time. Anything outside of this simply does not register, even if it is valuable to us, resulting in what is known as ‘inattentional blindness’ to stimuli in plain sight.

 

What does this mean for employee safety?

Well, firstly, it suggests what many of us know already - that practice and habit are important because they train the brain to carry out some actions unconsciously.

By ensuring safety protocols are kept at front of mind through signage and regular reminders, employers can help these safety-critical actions become instinctive and automatic, reducing the risk of non-compliance.

The research also suggests how important it is to minimise distractions in the workplace.

If you have ever tried to communicate with a child whilst they are watching TV, you’ll know how difficult it is for them to concentrate on and retain what you are saying whilst they are distracted. And this is the same for adults in a busy work space.

If our brains can only process so much information at a time, we need to make sure that they are focused entirely on the task in hand when ours or other people’s safety is at risk.

Employers should do everything they can to minimise distractions at work, including banning the use of mobile phones in warehouses.

Visual reminders by way of warning signs and floor markings are a critical part of keeping warehouses safe, but it is important to ensure they are as clear and direct as possible, and not surrounded by other, non-safety-critical visual stimuli that could distract or divert attention.

We can help you to create bespoke workplace signage that commands attention and communicates clearly and directly with your employees and visitors. For more information, give our team a call on 0121 749 4433.