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July 19, 2023
OSHA launches warehouse enforcement program

On July 13, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced the launch of a National Emphasis Program (NEP) of outreach and enforcement focused on warehouses, postal processing facilities, distribution centers, and high-risk retail establishments.

According to OSHA, warehousing and distribution centers have seen tremendous growth in the past 10 years and now employ more than 1.9 million workers. Injury and illness rates for these workplaces are higher than in private industry overall and, in some sectors, more than twice the rate for private industry, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data cited by OSHA.

Hazards in warehouses and distribution centers include struck-by hazards; caught-in and caught-between hazards; slip, trip, and fall hazards; blocked aisles; means of egress; powered industrial trucks and other material-handling equipment; heat hazards; and ergonomic hazards, according to the agency.

Under the 3-year emphasis program, OSHA inspectors will conduct comprehensive safety inspections focused on hazards related to powered industrial vehicle operations, material handling and storage, walking and working surfaces, means of egress, and fire protection. The program will also include inspections of retail establishments with high injury rates focused on storage and loading areas.

“Our enforcement efforts are designed to do one thing: lead to permanent change in workplace safety,” Doug Parker, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, said in an agency statement. “This emphasis program allows OSHA to direct resources to establishments where evidence shows employers must be more intentional in addressing the root causes of worker injuries and align their business practices with the goal to ensure worker health and safety.”

Inspectors also will assess heat and ergonomic hazards under the emphasis program, and health inspections may be conducted if OSHA determines these hazards are present. Some industries targeted by the new NEP are also targeted by the indoor and outdoor heat-related hazards NEP issued last year.

Also last year, OSHA’s Region 3 office launched an REP for warehouse operations in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia that includes a focus on ergonomic and heat hazards.

The new NEP covers a wide swath of warehousing, distribution, and retailing. Workplaces targeted by the NEP include:

  • Postal service processing and distribution centers;
  • Local delivery and messengers, couriers, and express delivery services;
  • General warehousing and storage;
  • Refrigerated, farm product, and other warehousing and storage;
  • Hardware stores, home centers, and building material dealers;
  • Supermarkets and grocery stores; and
  • Warehouse clubs and supercenters.

Establishments selected for inspection will be chosen from two lists, according to OSHA. One list includes establishments with industry codes covered under the emphasis program. The second consists of a limited number of retail establishments with the highest rates of injuries and illnesses resulting in days away, restricted duty, or job transfer.

OSHA’s Office of Statistical Analysis (OSA) will provide area offices with a list of establishments in their area in targeted industries. Area offices have the option of inspecting the entire list of establishments provided by the OSA in any order, inspecting facilities in a random order provided, or inspecting a select number of establishments sorted in random number order.

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