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Managing safety training, enforcing safety rules, and monitoring employee performance is a big responsibility. You’re the one who can do the most to successfully promote safety in the workplace.

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June 02, 2015
Prevent injuries and OSHA citations with these warehouse safety tips

Last week, OSHA cited a manufacturer for 15 violations of agency standards at its warehouse, including three repeat violations for lockout/tagout issues. Keep reading for potentially life-saving reminders about your responsibilities plus tips for protection.

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Warehousing is a complex activity with many moving parts, many of them quite hazardous. More than 145,000 people work in over 7,000 warehouses in the United States. The fatality rate for the industry is higher than the national average for all industries.

Injuries and deaths are caused by improper use of forklifts, material handling, inadequate or improper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and other causes. Commonly cited OSHA standards in warehouse inspections include forklifts, electrical hazards, machine guarding, respiratory protection, lockout/tagout, and portable fire extinguishers.

Serious injuries occur when forklifts run off docks or turn over and products fall on employees. In some cases, workers become caught in pinch points, are burned by chemicals, and sustain injuries due to improper lifting or issues with PPE. Warehouse workers can slip and fall, suffer eye injuries, experience burns, and sustain hand injuries from material handling.

According to OSHA, warehouses need a lockout/tagout program to prevent equipment from being accidentally energized during service and maintenance and injuring employees. A site hazard assessment must be conducted as well to determine what PPE must be worn based on the hazards and train employees on selection, use, and maintenance of protective gear.

How do these solutions stack up against your warehouse practices?

Docks

  • Drive forklifts slowly on docks and dock plates.
  • Secure plates and check to see if the plate can safely support the load
  • Provide visual warnings near dock edges.
  • Make sure ladders and stairs meet OSHA specifications.

Forklifts

  • Train, evaluate, and certify all operators.
  • Prohibit anyone under age 18 from operating a forklift.
  • Train employees to examine equipment for hazards before using.
  • Never drive more than 5 miles per hour, and slow down in congested areas.
  • Maintain sufficiently safe clearances for aisles.
  • Train employees on the hazards associated with combustion-related byproducts of forklift operation, such as carbon monoxide.

Conveyors

  • Inspect conveyors regularly.
  • Ensure that pinch points are adequately guarded.
  • Develop ways to lock out conveyors.

Material storage

  • Stack loads straight and evenly.
  • Place heavier loads on lower or middle shelves.
  • Train employees to remove one object at a time from shelves.
  • Keep aisles and passageways clear and in good repair.

Manual lifting/handling

  • Provide ergonomics awareness training.
  • Train workers in proper lifting.
  • Minimize the need for lifting by using engineering controls, adjusting work practices, and providing hand trucks and other material handling aids.

Hazard communication

  • Maintain a safety data sheet for each hazardous chemical to which workers are exposed.
  • Train employees on the risks of all stored chemicals.
  • Provide spill cleanup kits.
  • Develop and implement a written spill control plan.
  • Store chemicals safely and securely, away from forklift traffic areas.

Small warehouse safety improvements yield big benefits

One New Jersey warehouse was averaging two back injuries a month. Leadership decided that was two too many and adopted several OSHA recommendations for reducing ergonomic risk factors. Not only did the site see an elimination of back injuries, but it also experienced an improvement in morale and productivity among the facility’s 50 employees.

Controls implemented included:

  • Adjusting the height of shelves.
  • Providing stools or ladders to employees.
  • Reducing the depth of shelving.
  • Raising loading heights.
  • Evaluating the flow and volume of orders so that faster-moving products were placed on more accessible shelves.
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