In the past few years there was been a significant increase in the number of warehouse and warehouse workers in the world.  In the United States alone, there are more than one million warehouse workers!  These employees can be exposed to many hazards and it is important to train your staff so that everyone stays safe while at work.

Back injuries are one of the most common workplace injuries and in warehouses, they usually arise from improper lifting techniques.  Improper lifting or twisting while carrying a heavy load can lead to sprains, torn muscle or cartilage and displaced vertebrae.  The most repetitive lifting your employees do, the more at risk your employees are for back injuries.  Mechanical lifting methods, like a pallet jack or dolly, should be available on site but if you do not have any mechanical lifting methods, you should train your employees on ways to reduce the risks of a manual lift.  Safe manual lifting practices include:

  • Planning lifts before getting started
  • Checking the load for information tags
  • Using the handles on the load or adding some if not already available
  • Testing the load’s stability and weight
  • Asking for assistance if the load is too heavy or awkward for one person
  • Wearing gloves and long sleeves to protect hands and forearms
  • Bending your knees to lower yourself in front of the item, instead of bending your back
  • Keeping the load between your chest and knees

By properly handling and storing materials it will help reduce the risk of multiple hazards including slips, trips and falls, fires and dropped objects.  To prevent boxes and materials from falling, they should be stacked evenly in a straight line with the heaviest materials on the bottom.  Employees should only remove items from shelves one at a time.  By blocking, interlocking or limiting the height of the pile, this will help loose materials from falling.  Materials should be stored safely to help prevent fire hazards, explosions and pest infestation.  Keep the floors clean and free of slip and fall hazards.

Forklifts and trucks can be located on a loading dock and where heights and heavy lifting can take place.  Open loading dock doors should be blocked off when not in use and the edges of the dock should have visual warnings and signage.  Never jump off or climb up a loading dock; use the ladder or stairs.

If the warehouse has chemicals or compressed gas, each chemical should have a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) associated with it.  The SDS will tell you how to handle and safely store the chemical.  Employees should never attempt to use or clean up a chemical even after reading the SDS, unless they have been trained on how to properly handle the chemical.  An emergency plan should be put into place which delegates what roles people should be responsible for in case of an emergency.  The plan should include emergency exit locations, evacuation procedures and the location of all emergency equipment including fire extinguishers.  This plan should be reviewed thoroughly and constantly revised so that your team is up to date on all safety precautions.

To reduce the risk of fires, flammable and explosive materials must be stored in appropriate storage areas away from other materials and any source of ignition.  Chemicals should be stored according to manufacturer recommendations and relevant fire codes.  Smoking and open flames should be prohibited in the warehouse especially in battery charging or compressed-gas storage areas.

Providing your employees with mechanical equipment to help them lift heavy or bulky objects can help speed up the process and reduce the risk of injuries but come with their own risks.  Forklifts alone cause approximately 8,500 injuries and 90 deaths each year across all industries.  Lifting equipment involves pinch point hazards and cranes create overhead, struck by and dropped object hazards.  Before allowing any employee to use any equipment, you should properly train them and make sure they are following manufacturer instructions.  Forklift is a term commonly used for a group of vehicles that OSHA classifies as “powered industrial trucks.”  The most common types of powered industrial trucks (PITs) are electric and internal combustion engine rider trucks.  Forklift tractors, narrow aisle trucks, motorized pallet jacks and rough terrain forklifts all classify as PITs.  Employees should be trained on using a forklift from the controls, to any specific hazards that are found in the workspace.

Warehouses are a necessity in many industries but they come with their own risks such as heavy machinery and hazardous substances.  Training is an important part of running a safe warehouse and will be an effective communication tool for your staff.  Your employees will be working in a safe environment and will know what their role is within the warehouse.

If you have recently suffered an injury in a warehouse contact Losi Gangi at 716-854-1446 for a free consultation.  We will make sure you are represented fairly throughout every step of your case.

Article adapted from: https://safetyskills.com/warehouse-safety/