Warehouse Safety Painting
Warehouses are busy and hazardous environments with unique challenges to managing productivity, efficiency and safety issues. No one is more aware of this fact than the warehouse logistics manager. It’s always a struggle to provide optimum, safe working conditions in a warehouse setting. However, many significant improvements come from proper warehouse safety painting.
What is warehouse safety paint improvement? It’s a plan to use paint technology and strategic color combinations to make a warehouse safer, thereby improving protection for employees, equipment and products. Safety improvements result from initiatives like painting warehouse ceilings, warehouse floor painting and warehouse safety floor markings, and pedestrian walkway lines and aisles. Professional warehouse managers and facility engineers know the value in safety painting. They gauge the return on investment after upgrading and improving safety floor line markings and non-slip flooring. Without question, the money spent on warehouse safety painting pays back in spades.
Statistically, many warehouses have shaky safety records. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (USBLS) reports that approximately 1.031 million Americans work in the warehouse and storage industry. Of those, five out of 100 suffer some form of work-related injury each year. That equates to 51,550 workers being hurt or killed on the warehouse job. The United States Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) refined the USBLS statistics by identifying two main warehouse accident areas. One is moving equipment striking workers, and the other is workers slipping, tripping and falling.
While it’s not realistic to prevent all accidents and injuries, careful warehouse managers can significantly reduce their chances of being an injury statistic by taking simple and precautionary measures with paint. Brightly painted floor lines and hazard symbols draw warehouse workers’ attention. Both consciously and subconsciously, employees increase situational awareness of moving equipment and safe lane travel when they have clearly demarcated pathways to follow.
Improving floor and stair traction through proper paint application also reduces warehouse injury rates. So does having warehouse walls, ceilings and storage racks painted in colors known to psychologically affect workers and move them toward a safe working attitude. In fact, OSHA even recognizes paint as an effective safety tool.
Paint and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration
OSHA is the prime source for government regulations covering almost all American industries. Where OSHA once took an enforcement and punishment approach to worker safety, they now focus more on training and educating workers, managers and business owners. Part of OSHA’s mandate is helping everyone in the national workforce to understand safe workplace practices through visual awareness.
Recognizing that mobile and slippage hazards comprise most warehouse mishaps, OSHA developed standards addressing both issues. They made recommendations on warehouse environment safety improvements. OSHA aimed to reduce “walking/work surface violations” and increase “visual organization.” This program came full-circle when they tied color schemes and anti-slip paint procedures into their standard recommendations.
Directives from OSHA recommend that warehouse companies enhance workplace visual organization by marking hazardous locations with uniform and consistent color schemes. Doing so lets workers quickly identify potential hazards and dangerous spots based on easily recognized colors. Color coding in strategic places greatly enhances workflow and provides excellent safety benefits.
OSHA’s guidelines require permanent marking in warehouse passageways and aisles. Currently, the OSHA standard 1910.22 governs aisles and passageways. These standing orders prescribe aisle widths and passageway line marking sizes. However, the administration no longer specifies required color combinations. They leave color schemes to the individual facility’s discretion, recommending warehouses follow universal safety sign colors.
OSHA’s 1910.22 directive also addresses warehouse walking surface conditions. Again, OSHA allows leniency in how warehouse managers and their safety committees achieve safe and practical surface conditions. Their official position on walking surfaces is that floors must be clean, dry and free of any condition making them slippery or presenting a tripping hazard.
Surface traction, or friction coefficient, is part of OSHA’s concern. With their mandate now being an advisory resource rather than a prime enforcement body, they provide information on what floor surface treatments and construction methods offer the highest safety return. A primary OSHA recommendation is painting warehouse floors and stair steps with a high-friction product that performs well under wet and dry conditions. Most commercial painting companies are completely familiar with paint products that give great traction as well as have high visibility to mark hazards.
Painting Floor Lines and Markings
Demarcation lines on warehouse floors provide tremendous benefits for worker safety and welfare. Lines and markings clearly identify warehouse regions and sectors. They provide safe walkways for pedestrians and non-hazardous thoroughfares for mobile equipment like forklifts. Lines also mark tool storage areas, waste disposal points and risky spaces like fuel depots and recharging stations.
A key element in planning warehouse lines and markings is consistency. Even though OSHA relaxed their prescribed color schemes and marking restrictions some time ago, it’s still important to use consistent floor lines and marks. Workers always recognize colors associated with a message more so than specific shapes and sizes. The important point in ensuring a safe solution is ensuring that directions are easy to understand and follow.
The only specifics OSHA now has on line markings for warehouse floors and aisles are about sizes. These measurements are minimum standards for visibility, practicality and safety. OSHA line and aisle standards include the following directives:
- A minimum line width of two inches is mandatory in all warehouse settings where aisle markings exist: OSHA recommends lines be larger, if possible. They suggest line size increments of three, four and up to six inches wide. Beyond that, OSHA reports that very large lines can have a negative visual effect.
- Corridors marking egress to emergency exits must be at least 28 inches wide: They allow greater magnitude where possible. The 28-inch rule derives from accessibility factors so that someone in a wheelchair has a clearly marked passage.
- Warehouse aisles must be marked to 36 inches wide: This distance allows ample room for most forklifts and other material handling equipment to turn without restriction. The three-foot rule also reduces the potential for standing workers to get trapped behind or beside equipment.
OSHA line marking regulations allow warehouse owners common-sense latitude in implementing a line and marking program that works for their individual situation. It’s long-proven that effective lines improve traffic flow and even worker morale in a warehouse. But there’s more to implementing a line and marking plan and deciding colors. It’s necessary to physically install the directions on the warehouse floor. That brings in three longevity parameters:
- Temporary floor lines and markers: Warehouse managers and safety officers need to assess how long they want their lines to exist. In short-term, ever-changing warehouse environments, it might be wise to use temporary marking symbols and lines. They might be tape-based or delineated by removable markers like bollards, guards or traffic direction cones. However, warehouses with stable layouts won’t benefit from investing in cheap and disposable products. In their case, properly painted lines are the only answer.
- Semi-permanent floor lines and markers: For longer wear and intended applications, most warehouse operators turn to paint as a minimal standard. Tapes and adhesive markings won’t stand up in long-term and heavy use, no matter what material they’re constructed from. Paint is a longer-lasting marking solution, whether that’s semi-permanent or for an indefinite period. Not all floor marking paints are the same though. A professional painting company specializing in commercial work can recommend paint types based on expected traffic and product use time.
- Permanent floor lines and markers: For warehouses in it for the long-haul, there’s no substitute for paint as a permanent fix. Commercial painters know what paint products give an indefinite life, and they know how to correctly apply them. Some permanent floor paints are epoxy-based. Some require etching the warehouse concrete floor so that the marking paint deeply bonds into the floor’s structure. Many permanently painted lines and markers have sealants and protective coats placed on top so that traffic never touches the paint pigment.
Painting Non-Slip Flooring and Textured Steps
The same painting principles apply to safely treating warehouse floors and steps. While lines and markings serve their intended purpose of directing traffic and alerting people about hazards, the overall warehouse floor is an accident waiting to happen unless it’s painted with a non-slip or non-skid product. That’s especially important for textured warehouse stairs and steps, which are terrible safety offenders waiting to happen — stairs like that without non-slip finish are riskier and should have markings.
Painted warehouse floors and steps achieve two goals. One is the non-slip issue. The other is the high-visibility issue. Both are inextricably linked to each other in safety and performance terms.
OSHA made the wise move of regulating warehouse and workplace floor surfaces on a performance base rather than a prescriptive base. The OSHA Surface Conditions Directive 1910.22 states that floor surfaces must perform to a standard that allows workers safe access and egress across all working surfaces under all conditions.
OSHA doesn’t prescribe any specific method of achieving it. All excellent commercial painting companies understand that prescribing the right warehouse floor and step paint is the key to performance. They also know that workers can’t depend solely on anti-slip footwear to protect them. It’s the paint type and application that guarantees performance.
As with line- and floor-marking, high visibility is a vital part of every company’s safety strategy. It’s crucial for warehouse workers to be seen by mobile machinery operators. That’s why hi-vis personal protection equipment is a mandatory dress code in all American warehouses. But it’s another thing for warehouse workers to be able to see. That’s where the right warehouse floor and stair surface paint colors come in.
So do the floor and stair paint textures. Light reflection is a core part of floor paint safety. It comes from the color hue and the paint’s surface sheen. The safest warehouse floors have light colors that reflect light and make it easy for workers to see where they’re going. Sheens have to reflect light but not be blindingly bright. Finally, floor paints must contrast with lines and markings. That way, they combine to work as safely as possible.
Safety Paint Products and Colors
Over the years, the safety industry settled on universal colors for specific hazard warnings. While OSHA removed their prescriptive rules under the old Safety Color Code, they strongly suggest warehouse managers, engineers and safety officers adopt color strategies universally recognized in modern workplaces.
Commercial painting contractors are excellent resources for planning warehouse color safety paint strategies. Commercial and industrial painters go beyond the basic principles where red is primarily for sprinklers, orange is typically found on ammonia pipes and floor bollards get bright yellow paint. Although paint schemes aren’t mandated by law, commercial painters follow prescriptive safety paint rules. Generally, they include these color messages:
- Yellow: Aisles and traffic lanes, or paths of egress, use highly-visible yellow tones.
- White: Production areas, including racks, machines and benches, use bright white shades.
- Red: High hazards and warning tags, along with defected parts, use red paint.
- Orange: Energized equipment or materials needing inspection and servicing are orange.
- Green: First-aid-related areas and equipment, as well as raw materials, use green.
- Blue: Water sources and works-in-progress utilize blue color schemes.
- Black: Finished goods and stationary equipment usually have black paint.
- Black/Yellow: High-risk areas and objects identify with a black/yellow paint combination.
- Red/White: Safety warnings and “keep-clear” areas are demarcated with red/white patterns.
- Black/White: This combination signals “no-go” zones for safety and non-safety regions.
High-hazard and risk-warning regions aren’t the only highlights to a warehouse safety color plan. Floors, walls, and ceilings also need attention. So do barriers like gates, guards, and bollards. In fact, colors have so much effect on human behavior that they’re impossible to ignore in every warehouse safety program. The following are color effects to consider when planning warehouse painting schemes:
- Red: Reds stimulate people’s emotions and bodily functions. Red accents are excellent for detail focusing and attention gathering but can be overpowering when excessively used.
- Green: Green is nature’s most popular color. It promotes harmony, relieves stress and delivers tranquility. Too much green, however, can sedate warehouse workers.
- Yellow: Like orange, yellow is a stimulant and creates enthusiasm as well as promotes creativity. Some people have negative reactions to yellow and get angry or frustrated.
- Brown: Brown is a good accent color, as it’s earthy and natural. On one hand, brown gives comfort. On the other hand, it can be depressing.
- White: Too much white is overpowering and institutional. While it gives a clean, bright look, it’s also stark and bland to many warehouse workers.
- Blue: Blue is a can’t-go-wrong color. Light blue tones appear neutral and encouraging, while dark blue is a universal sign of authoritative reassurance.
Work With PennCoat for Safe Warehouse Painting
PennCoat is America’s leading industrial and commercial painting company serving the mid-Atlantic region. For 30 years, we’ve worked with warehouse managers and engineers to professionally plan and paint their facilities. Beyond adding safety to warehouse environments, PennCoat has an impressive company safety record.
It takes a safe painting company to understand warehouse safety painting. PennCoat approaches challenging projects with pre-planning, expertise and common sense. All commercial painting projects start with a comprehensive site evaluation followed by detailed budgeting options and a guaranteed work schedule.
PennCoat uncovers and eliminates conditions that threaten future paint failure, including comprehensive substrate testing to identify contaminants. All PennCoat customers receive a complete scope of work and specifications list. Customers also get a PennCoat safety plan to avoid potential job-site hazards.
For more information on our commercial painting services, call 1-888-600-5220 today. You can also reach us through our online contact form.