Warehouse work comes with quite a few safety risks. Workers in warehouses must be aware of many potential dangers to stay safe on the job. They also need to take many warehouse safety issues seriously, including slips and falls and operating heavy equipment. Learn about the most common safety issues in warehouses and how you can protect yourself while on the job.
What Is OSHA?
When talking about warehouse safety, you need to understand the role that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) plays in keeping workers safe. This government agency works to create safe working conditions. It sets safety regulations for various industries, including warehouse work.
Some warehouse jobs require training through OSHA. Many warehouse managers also use OSHA resources to train their employees. When workplaces do not follow the required safety regulations, OSHA may charge a fine.
OSHA has had a large impact on workplace safety plans over the years. This impact includes dangerous work settings such as warehouses. Since OSHA began in 1970, workplace injuries have been reduced by 42 percent. Also, the number of occupational deaths has gone down by 62 percent. However, thousands of accidents take place in workplaces every year. It’s important to follow OSHA rules when trying to make warehouses safer places to work.
Some of the most dangerous accidents in warehouses involve electricity. You may be exposed to electrical hazards when working on equipment or coming into contact with line-to-ground faults.
When trying to save time and money, some warehouse managers make the mistake of having workers try to fix electrical problems. However, it’s important to call an electrician for these issues to avoid electricity-related injuries.
Ground fault electrical shock is one of the most common electrical hazards in warehouses. OSHA requires that employers use ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) or an Assured Equipment Grounding Conductor Program (AEGCP) in these settings. This use minimizes the safety risk from receptacle outlets and cord sets by covering up potentially charged surfaces.
Failure to Wear Proper Equipment
Warehouse workers are required to use proper personal equipment (PPE) to protect themselves from workplace hazards. Different jobs require different types of PPE that relate to various job functions. Some examples of PPE include protective eyewear, goggles, gloves, and dust masks.
Unfortunately, one of the most common OSHA violations in warehouses is not wearing PPE. This situation increases the risk of accidents and injuries, including crushing and impacts, breathing in contaminated air, eye injuries, and hearing loss.
Respiratory issues can become a serious problem in warehouses when employees don’t wear PPE. The right respiratory gear helps to protect against fumes, dust, and other toxic substances in the air. If you’re exposed to these substances, again and again, you could develop a severe illness.
Warehouse managers should give all their employees a complete list of the PPE they are required to wear. Also, safety programs should explain the proper way to wear, clean, and maintain protective gear.
In many cases, warehouses stack items up high. This height helps to use vertical space more efficiently. Unfortunately, it can also lead to a bigger risk of injuries involving falling objects. If you work in a warehouse, you should be trained on how to stop objects from falling.
Creating stable stacks can lead to fewer objects falling. When possible, bulky items should be placed on bottom shelves. This rule also applies to any pile of items being moved.
Cylindrical items should always be stored and moved with a flat side facing down. Make sure you take the time to make your stacks as neat as possible. Also, equipment should not be loaded beyond the weight limit.
Falls and Slips
Slips and falls account for a high number of workplace accidents. OSHA found that 12 percent of the major workplace injuries in 2013 were caused by slips and falls. Follow these guidelines to avoid slips and falls in warehouses.
First, clear the floor of any obstructions, such as holes, cracks, or loose cords. Clean up spills immediately. Anti-slip floor tape and mats can be used to reduce the risk of slips and falls.
Next, make sure you are trained to use fall restraints such as body harnesses, guardrails, and warning lines. These items are helpful when using scissor lifts and working in other high workspaces. In some cases, safety nets can be used to catch someone who has fallen, also known as “fall arrest.” These steps can help to reduce the risk of slips and falls in a warehouse setting.
Fires are one of the most preventable warehouse accidents. They can also be some of the most dangerous. Unlike many other types of common warehouse accidents, a single fire could hurt dozens or hundreds of workers rather than only one person. Fortunately, you can take several precautions to reduce the risk of fire in a warehouse.
Every warehouse needs to get the correct building permits for their business. These permits will ensure that steps have been taken to prevent fires, such as providing enough emergency exits for all workers and installing automatic sprinklers.
If you work in a warehouse, you need to be trained in fire prevention. This training includes exit strategies and how to locate and operate the nearest fire extinguisher. Regular inspections should include checks for possible fire hazards. Two common issues to watch for are exposed wires or leaking flammable fluids.
According to OSHA, harmful chemicals are the second-most cited regulation in the workplace. You can find some chemicals in many warehouses. Improper handling increases the risk of many injuries and health hazards.
Any dangerous materials should be carefully stored and labeled. You should also be trained to handle them properly. This training may involve the use of PPE to avoid contact with chemicals. Attend or ask for training about how to clean up spills and dispose of dangerous chemicals.
Some harmful materials, such as asbestos, may not lead to an obvious injury right away. However, they could irritate and lead to serious health problems over time. Warehouse managers should monitor for these silent risks that may otherwise go unnoticed.
If you believe that you have inadequate working conditions, you can flag the warehouse for possibly violating the rules.
If you use heavy equipment on a daily basis, it’s easy to become very comfortable when using it. The bad news is that this comfort could cause you to ignore or forget the usual safety procedures.
Unfortunately, OSHA has found that two workers die each month on the job as a result of being crushed. These deaths usually happen when workers don’t handle equipment correctly. Forklift usage alone was the cause of 37 percent of deaths and 71 percent of serious injuries in 2013.
All employees working with heavy equipment should have regular training. This training will help keep safety procedures like weight load limits fresh in their minds. In fact, all workers should be taught how to work safely near the dangerous equipment. Even if you don’t handle the equipment, knowing how to avoid operator blind spots can save lives.
Lack of Safety Education
Some workers don’t get the training they need before starting on the job. This lack of training can make it difficult to do your work safely. When warehouse managers don’t offer the training required for their workplace, you can unknowingly put yourself and your co-workers in danger.
In some cases, training is shortened or cut entirely to save money. However, these actions pose a serious threat to worker safety and can lead to lawsuits or fines.
Managers should put a training system into place. This training system can help to make sure that all employees review the safety procedures for their workplace on a regular basis.
Long Work Hours
Since warehouses have to make deliveries on time, employees may be asked to work long hours. However, pushing employees to work extra hours can lead to tiredness and poor concentration.
Unfortunately, these effects can have adverse consequences in a warehouse. Paying attention to details is vital for keeping everyone safe in a place where heavy equipment gets used. To avoid accidents and injuries, warehouses should limit the length of worker shifts. When workers get rotated regularly, they can stay more alert and focused while on the job.
Many warehouse workers have jobs that require the same motions over and over. This repetitive motion may include actions such as lifting, pulling, and pushing. To prevent injuries from occurring, employers can optimize the warehouse for ergonomics.
If you place objects at chest height instead of on the floor, for example, you can lift them more easily. Forklifts and other equipment should feature ergonomic seating and controls. Finally, you should be trained how to lift objects safely. For example, you want to keep your back straight and bend at the knees.
Workplace safety is important in warehouses. These settings have many risks that could hurt employees or cause deaths. To reduce injuries for warehouse workers, businesses should follow OSHA rules and use smart safety tips in the workplace.