Industrial warehouse safety requires specific employee care and guidelines. Warehouses are large buildings designed to store things like raw materials and finished inventory before those items are sold or used. In total, over 19,000 independent warehousing facilities are operating across the U.S., and that number doesn’t include the warehouses privately owned by companies to store their goods. As of 2021, more than 1,766,600 people work in the private warehousing industry, and that number continues to rise.
Employee growth in warehouses has increased over the past decade due to e-commerce.
Warehouses are classified as general warehousing, refrigerated warehousing, or farm product warehousing. Each has different needs with regards to protecting workers from workplace hazards. Across these different types of warehouses, there are similar types of employees. The most frequent occupations in warehouses are order fillers, laborers who move materials, and packagers. All these workers use their hands, meaning work gloves are essential protection. And, in the case of those working in the refrigerated sector, insulated gloves are a must.
Besides hand protection, workers wear numerous other types of personal protective equipment (PPE), so it’s critical to understand the most common warehouse hazards and how to minimize risks. This article will discuss the most common OSHA violations found in warehouses, review the rules and guidelines that are essential to the safety of warehouse workers, and highlight PPE to help keep warehouse workers safe on the job.
Top OSHA Violations
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that the warehousing industry, represented by NAICS code 493, experiences 4.8 total recordable injuries for every 100 employees. That is 39% higher than the 2.9 injury average across all industries. Each year, OSHA provides information regarding the most common warehouse safety violations that often contribute to such a high rate of injuries.
Here are the top 10 safety issues at a warehouse, based on OSHA recorded violations:
- Forklifts – hazards often occur when equipment or unsecured products strike workers. Forklift operators who don’t have the proper training increase the likelihood of injury from forklift turnover and driving mishaps. Standard 19100178 addresses this violation.
- Hazard Communication – violations exist when companies fail to provide written communication for employees around hazardous chemicals. Workers must know what potentially dangerous chemicals exist and the best protection methods when working around these hazards. Standard 19101200 addresses this violation.
- Electrical Wiring – dangers are all over commercial buildings in the form of raceways, conductors, busways, and cable assemblies. Any incorrect method of wiring poses a potential hazard. Standard 19100305 addresses this violation.
- Electrical Systems – when proper grounding and circuiting are not in place or safety barriers are not guarding electrical systems, workplace hazards are common. Standard 1910301 addresses this violation.
- Guarding Opening – violations exist when workers are exposed to unguarded staring openings or wall openings. They can also exist around open pits, tanks, vats, and ditches.Standard 19100037 addresses this violation.
- Multiple Exits – are required in the event of fire or smoke. At least two exits must be well constructed and far apart.Standard 19100037 addresses this violation.
- Mechanical Power Transmission – violations result when improper operations exist concerning mechanical components that transmit energy, such as moving belts found on conveyors. Workers can quickly become caught in such systems if guards are not in place.Standard 1910145 addresses this violation.
- Respiratory Protection – violations occur when workers are exposed to harmful airborne particles and toxins without proper PPE. Standard 19100134 addresses this violation.
- Lockout/Tagout – violations occur when hazardous energy is not adequately controlled. Standard 1910147 addresses this violation.
- Portable Fire Extinguishers – violations occur when extinguishers are unavailable, fully charged, or easily located.Standard19100157 addresses this violation.
OSHA identified the above hazards when they wrote their Worker Safety Series Warehousing Guide in 2014. Based on 2020 and 2021 citations, some others have moved up the list: material handling with 22 citations, OSHA General Duty Clause with 15 citations, and fall protection with five citations.
It’s essential to be current on the latest safety regulations to protect both warehouse workers and owners. Though the above violations can lead to severe injury, steep fines, and legal penalties, there is guidance offered by OSHA to combat hazards and ensure a safer workplace. The online warehousing website lists hazards and recommended solutions to all warehouse-related safety concerns.
OSHA’s Pocket Guide to warehouse worker safety is a helpful resource that identifies a range of warehouse hazards and provides solutions to reduce risk and increase safety. It also provides checklists for warehouse owners to ensure they do everything possible to protect their employees.
Here are some more OSHA resources that can aid operational staff:
- Powered Industrial Trucks
- Temporary Workers
- OSHA Warehouse Safety Checklist
What are the safety rules for a warehouse? In some ways, this is a complex question since safety rules vary depending on the types of operations, equipment, and materials used in a particular warehouse. However, some general rules should be followed by workers in any warehouse. Knowing these rules can help you assess your warehouse safety currently and guide you in making the proper adjustments to increase safety.
Here are some general tips anyone overseeing warehouse safety should follow:
- Keep floors clean and free of slip and trip hazards.
- Loading docks with the potential for a four-foot fall or more should be chained or roped off.
- Provide workers with proper ergonomic training, especially around proper lifting techniques. More on ergonomics is found in our article Educating Workers about Ergonomics.
- For storage, place heavier loads on lower or middle shelves. Also, provide overhead guards to protect forklift operators from falling objects.
- Maintain three points of contact when climbing ladders. More on ladders can be found in our article Shining a Light on Ladder Safety.
- Prohibit stunt driving and horseplay in the warehouse.
- Ensure an adequate ventilation system exists to disperse dangerous gases.
- Install safeguarding equipment between conveyors and workers, ensuring clothing, body parts, and hair cannot become entangled in the machinery.
- Provide easily accessible warehouse safety procedures for all, such as fire safety procedures in an emergency.
How can a warehouse ensure the safety of its workers?
- Several important safety guidelines exist to protect warehouse workers, including using the proper safety equipment, such as hard hats and safety goggles, and eliminating potential floor hazards.
How can paint improve warehouse safety?
- Paint can outline safe walking paths, improve floor traction, create effective warning signs, denote specific areas and types of materials, and more.
What are other ways to improve warehouse safety?
- Helpful tips to improve warehouse safety include installing a camera inside the warehouse to alert workers when a trailer has arrived and installing safety lights around the loading dock. For additional safety tips, check out our safety rules section above.
This article republished with permission from MCR. View our other blog posts related to Facility Safety.