Creating a Safe Workplace: A Guide for Self-Storage Operators in 2024

Everybody wants to feel physically and mentally safe while at work, right? That’s sometimes easier said than accomplished. At a self-storage facility, dangers can span from crime and aggressive tenant behavior to accidents and natural disasters. Still, there are things you can do to ensure a healthier environment. Find out what they are.

Susan Haviland

May 20, 2024

7 Min Read

When you manage employees, you have a legal and moral responsibility to provide them with a safe work environment. Every year, thousands of people experience accidents or other tragic incidents in the workplace, which can have devastating consequences for staff and the business. Think of the physical and emotional harm, lost productivity, deflated morale, medical expenses, and legal fees that can result. These situations will affect everybody on your team in one way or another. 

As I visit self-storage facilities for clients and talk to the onsite staff, I’m surprised to hear some of the comments they make about feeling unsafe at work, whether it’s due to physical hazards or certain tenants that make them feel uncomfortable. No employee should have to deal with that in their place of business. As an employer, you certainly don’t want to deal with the negative ramifications, either. 

Maintaining a safe workplace and providing your self-storage team with the right tools, knowledge and conditions to work unharmed should always be your top priority. Luckily, this doesn’t have to be complicated. Below, I share key tips to help you protect your employees and keep your business running smoothly. 

Evaluate Your Site 

Regular and timely analysis of your workplace conditions is essential. When was the last time you really audited your self-storage property from a safety perspective? As a facility owner or supervisor, you have a responsibility to identify and eliminate potential or existing hazards. This activity has the added benefit of helping you avoid incidents or risks that might be very expensive to fix. 

Your facility managers and other staff are a great resource for understanding what perils exist on your property; however, they may not always report them to you. They might not want to be seen as being a tattletale or whistleblower, or perhaps they assume ownership doesn’t want to pay for necessary repairs. They may simply think, “If the owner doesn’t care, why should I?” 

Or course, recognizing safety issues is great, but you need a plan for addressing them, too. In short, if you can prevent something bad from happening, you’re making a positive contribution to workplace safety. This can save time and money and potentially prevent someone on your team from being hurt. 

Aligning Staff on Safety 

Once you know the potential risks lurking at your self-storage site, you must ensure your entire facility staff knows how to work safely. To begin, you need policies and procedures in place to encourage a secure, healthy environment. Your focus should be twofold: to ensure your team understands and has easy access to your company’s safety protocols, and to provide regular training on safety measures and proper work methods. Together, these efforts help establish a companywide culture that lowers the likelihood of accidents and boosts performance.  

Having the right practices in place is vital to workplace safety, but they mean nothing if your staff doesn’t know about them or fails to follow them. To ensure compliance, invest in team training. Include everyone from full-time site managers to part-time employees to maintenance workers. We often think that if we train the property manager, it’ll have a trickledown effect; but this leaves room for error or gaps in knowledge. Be diligent in your follow-up and make sure everybody receives the same level of instruction. 

If you aren’t comfortable providing this training yourself, ask your insurance agent for assistance or check with the local police and fire departments for community programs that teach safety and awareness. You can seek information from a nearby health center or hospital, too. There are also many online resources offering great information. Just remember: It’s always preferable to over communicate than to come up short or leave room for miscommunication, so use all the appropriate options available to you. 

What to Cover 

Next, you need to decide what to include in your self-storage safety training. It might differ based on your facility location, size and type as well as the size of your team and their level of experience. That said, here are some essentials to consider: 

  • How to spot and report potential site hazards 

  • What repairs staff can make themselves and which require a professional 

  • What personal protective equipment (PPE) is available for employees, where to find it, when and how to use it, and how to maintain or replace it 

  • Proper lifting techniques 

  • How to prevent slips and falls, which account for many onsite injuries 

  • How to properly use a ladder and work at height 

  • How to correctly use maintenance and repair tools 

  • How to drive and park the golf cart and rental truck 

  • How to handle cleaning and pest-control products and other hazardous chemicals 

  • How to administer basic first aid and possibly CPR 

  • Where the fire extinguishers are and how to use them 

  • How to handle a person who seems dangerous 

  • How to respond to a criminal attack, such as a robbery 

  • What to do in the event of a natural disaster 

As part of your safety training, run emergency drills with your self-storage staff for a variety of incidents, so they understand their responsibilities. For example, do they understand the specific protocols in case of a fire, flood, tornado or other catastrophe? If your facility has a power outage, do they know how to manually open your gate? They should know what to do if someone gets injured on site, how to diffuse a tense situation and when to seek help from local law enforcement. 

Let’s dig into a few of the above training elements in more detail, starting with situational awareness. Personal safety is paramount, and your team should know how to look for suspicious activity and what to do if they see it. That said, it’s your job to make their job easier in this regard. Is your facility well-lit at night? Are there any “hidden areas” of your property that should be better exposed? Your staff and tenants should feel safe on your site after dark. 

Also, make sure you’re supplying your self-storage employees with the proper equipment they need to do their jobs and that it’s well-maintained. Over the years, I’ve seen many broken tools and taped-up electrical cords at facilities. Not good! 

It’s critical that your equipment is regularly inspected for wear and tear and replaced as needed. This includes your golf cart, power tools, ladders and PPE. What gear do your managers have for cutting or drilling locks? Do you provide gloves and goggles? These items should be replaced if become worn or damaged. In addition to understanding how to correctly pick up and carry heavy items, your staff should have access to mechanical aids to prevent strains and sprains. 

Among the items you provide to your self-storage team are no doubt some cleaning products, maybe some pest-control devices or chemicals. There might be substances to avoid ice build-up in the winter. Any potentially hazardous items need to be handled correctly as well as properly stored and disposed of, when necessary. Create a binder of safety-data sheets for any products you use on site. These are usually available online. 

As a final note, please be aware that some states might require that you assign a safety manager for your self-storage site or have at least one employee who is CPR-certified. Check your local regulations to ensure you comply. 

ABC: Always Be Careful 

We should all strive to operate a self-storage facility where employees and tenants like to be and feel safe. If you don’t, you could wind up dealing with a variety of unpleasant circumstances including worker’s compensation claims, lawsuits, staff loss and more. Workplace-safety training helps reduce risk and creates a great environment that’s healthy and productive for everyone connected to your business. 

Susan Haviland is the owner of Haviland Storage Services, which specializes in self-storage auditing, manager training, market studies and operational reviews. She has more than 32 years of industry experience, from serving as a site manager to acting as vice president of operations at Extra Space Storage Inc. and Price Self Storage. She’s a frequent speaker at industry conferences and tradeshows. For more information, call 760.401.0297. 

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter
ISS is the most comprehensive source for self-storage news, feature stories, videos and more.

You May Also Like