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Creating a Healthy Self-Storage Work Culture: Focus on Safety

Workplace safety is everyone’s responsibility. Here’s how to create a healthy self-storage work culture, from writing a safety manual to looking for hazards to responding in a crisis.

We all want to be safe, whether it’s in our own home or while performing our jobs. In the workplace, it’s essential for employers to create a safe, healthy environment for their staff. It’s equally vital that employees are aware of—and follow—safety policies and procedures.

The self-storage industry isn’t as dangerous as some other professions, but we must still take precautions to ensure we’re providing an environment that’s good for team members, tenants and visitors.

The Safety Manual

The first step in providing a safe environment is to develop and implement a safety manual. This guide will help employees understand the potential risks associated with tasks they may perform. Additionally, it should outline those responsibilities they shouldn’t be attempting, such as electrical repairs if they aren’t trained and licensed to do so. From a broad perspective, your manual should cover:

  • Company safety policies and programs
  • Rules (general and job-specific)
  • Rule enforcement
  • Proper use of equipment
  • Proper clothing and personal protective equipment
  • Materials handling
  • General housekeeping
  • Emergency contacts and procedures
  • Location of first-aid kit
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations that apply to the industry
  • Employee responsibilities and roles
  • Documentation

To develop and maintain a safe workplace, you need high safety standards. Educate new team members on your policies and procedures and establish continued education for tenured staff.

Maintenance Matters

Safe workplaces often employ preventive-maintenance programs. These address specific areas at specific times, drawing attention to the functionality of the items and areas in question. Examples at a self-storage facility might include:

  • HVAC system
  • Elevators
  • Gate systems
  • Golf carts

There could be more on that list, but you get the idea.

Items used in everyday tasks should be routinely inspected for wear that may pose a hazard. For example, examine the ladder every time you use it. Look for anything that could put an employee in jeopardy. Is there a loose rung? Are the feet in good shape? Do you know the working capacity of the equipment?

Any item that isn’t functioning as intended should be repaired as quickly as possible. If necessary, assign a level of priority. For example, a unit door with faulty springs could cause injury and should be addressed as soon as possible. One of four lightbulbs in a fixture being burned out is also important, but not as critical. It still will require fixing, of course; and from an aesthetic perspective, we wouldn’t want to let this go on for long either. With an overall property-maintenance program, you can reduce many risks and expenses.

Potential Hazards

Be alert to potential hazards on your property. By routinely walking through and inspecting your facility, you’ll gain a working knowledge of what’s out of place. Staff should take off their “blinders” and really look for items that might pose a risk to themselves or anyone visiting the site. Look up, down and sideways, from the frayed floor mat that’s a trip and fall hazard to the wall corner that was hit with a cart and now has an exposed piece of sharp metal. Look for these types of situations daily.

Of course, facilities in areas with harsh winters will be exposed to additional risks. When should you salt your grounds? How many inches of snow need to fall before you plow? Are your entry points free of ice? These situations need to be addressed with thoughts of safety for all. A hazard-free environment should be the goal for every employee.

Emergency Action

So, you’ve patrolled your property and identified potential hazards; and you’ve addressed these items to make your facility safe. But then you have an emergency. It could be anything from a broken sprinkler pipe to a gas leak to an onsite injury. What you do next will go a long way toward limiting damage to people and property. Staff action can make a marked difference. Knowing what to do and who to call will also factor heavily in the outcome.

First, you’ll need to assess the situation—and fast. You may need to call local emergency services such as fire, police or an ambulance. You may have to call your sprinkler company or turn off the water. The possibilities are endless, so knowing what to do and acting quickly and calmly is the key to limiting further injury or damage.

Once the situation is contained, focus on communication and documentation. You’ll need a written incident report with pictures. Notify any superiors as well as any tenants who may be affected.

Creating a safe and healthy work culture is an ongoing concern and requires the participation of all employees. Any risky conditions should be documented and communicated to the appropriate authorities. Regular training to review policies and procedures should be scheduled and mandatory, with attendance taken for accountability. By being educated and vigilant, we can all make our facilities safe for employees, tenants and guests.

Jeff Fickes joined Storage Asset Management Inc. (SAM) as a store manager six years ago. He was later promoted to district manager and currently serves as regional director for the company’s managed properties in the Northeast. Based in York, Pa., SAM is a property-management and consulting firm that oversees 120-plus facilities along the East Coast. For more information, e-mail jfickes@storageasset.com; visit www.storageassetmanagement.com.

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