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August 24, 2022
OSHA Region 3 launches warehouse emphasis program

On August 17, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Region 3 office announced a regional emphasis program (REP) of outreach, inspection, and enforcement for warehouse operations that includes a focus on ergonomic and heat hazards. In response to the ongoing growth of e-commerce, the REP focuses on employers in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

Maryland and Virginia have their own state workplace safety and health programs.

“With the rapid growth of e-commerce, the warehousing industry has significantly expanded. This emphasis program will address hazardous conditions these workers continuously face every day,” Michael Rivera, OSHA’s regional administrator, said in an agency statement.

“Through coordinated outreach, education efforts, and on-site inspections, OSHA is determined to identify hazardous workplace conditions and hold industry employers accountable for providing a safe and healthful workplace,” Rivera added.

OSHA noted that Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data shows that the warehousing and storage industry’s injury rate of 4.8 per 100 workers is higher than the U.S. average rate of 2.7 injuries per 100 workers for all private industries. The BLS also reported 93 work-related fatalities nationally in the industry from 2017 to 2020.

The REP began on August 3, with a 3-month period of outreach aimed at education and prevention. During the initial outreach, agency officials are sharing safety and health information with employers, trade associations, workers, and other stakeholders.

OSHA will begin targeted enforcement in the fall with on-site inspections to identify safety and health hazards. According to the agency, workplace hazards and safety controls typical of the warehousing industry include fire suppression, lockout/tagout procedures, machine guarding, means of egress, and hazards posed by the use of powered industrial trucks, such as forklifts. Inspections under the REP will not include marine terminals or shipyards. However, facilities targeted by the REP do include those located at federal agencies and installations.

The agency will perform inspections of warehousing, storage, and distribution yard operations of the following industries:

  • Bottled and canned soft drinks and water manufacturing;
  • Fluid milk manufacturing;
  • General warehousing and storage;
  • Refrigerated warehousing and storage;
  • Supermarkets and groceries; and
  • Wholesale beer and ale, general line grocery, groceries and related products, and meat and meat products.

Several industries are also targets of OSHA’s national emphasis program (NEP) for indoor and outdoor heat hazards, including beer, wine, and distilled alcoholic beverage merchant wholesalers; grocery and related product merchant wholesalers; and warehousing and storage. Supermarkets and groceries are already targets of OSHA’s COVID-19 NEP.

During the opening conference of an inspection, an agency compliance safety and health officer (CSHO) will determine whether there are temporary workers at the facility. The CSHO will then obtain all documentation and information about health and safety training programs for temporary workers at the facility. Host employers and temporary agencies are jointly responsible for temporary workers’ health and safety.

An evaluation of powered industrial truck compliance will include checks of hazards such as standup forklift under-ride hazards, maintenance of vehicles, operations and practices, proper charging or fueling procedures, safety rule enforcement, and training.

 Agency inspectors will also look at:

  • Capacity and structural integrity of storage racks and the safe and stable storage of items;
  • Fire suppression and means of egress, as detailed in the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Life Safety Code (NFPA 101-2009), which is incorporated by reference in several OSHA standards;
  • Injury and illness recordkeeping and reporting compliance, including electronic reporting of injury and illness information;
  • Lockout/tagout (hazardous energy control) procedures, with a check of records for injuries related to servicing and maintenance; and
  • Ergonomic hazards (musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)), hazardous chemical exposures, and heat hazards.

The agency referred CSHOs to the OSHA Pocket Guide: Worker Safety Series Warehousing (OSHA 3220-10N 2004), Guidelines for Retail Grocery Stores: Ergonomics for Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders (OSHA3192-05N 2004), and the Outdoor and Indoor Heat-Related Hazards NEP for specifics.

Unless extended, the REP ends August 3, 2027.

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