Without the proper precautions, a warehouse can be a hazardous environment. In fact, despite steadily improving safety standards, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that the fatal injury rate for the warehousing industry is higher than the national average for all other industries.
Taking a serious look at safety means much more than just ensuring that you’re compliant. Being informed about common dangers is a vital step toward protecting against them. With that in mind, below, we outline three of the most common warehouse safety hazards and ways to avoid them.
Forklift accidents are some of the most severe types of accidents in warehouses for three primary reasons: the sheer size of the vehicles, their ability to maneuver quickly, and the fact that they operate close to other workers. OSHA estimates that forklifts cause about 85 fatal accidents per year — they also contribute to 34,900 serious injuries and 61,800 non-serious accidents. Consider the statistics: While the average automobile weighs about 3,000 pounds, the average forklift weighs roughly 9,000 pounds. That’s an enormous amount of weight moving in what are often close quarters.
There are three primary warehouse safety hazards regarding forklifts:
Since a forklift turns by moving the rear wheels, it has a much smaller turning radius than a car. When cornering, the back end swings outward, making it easier for the forklift to tip over.
B. Striking a Worker
Since forklifts are designed to function equally well moving either forward or backward, there’s an added need for drivers to pay close attention. Unfortunately, drivers often become comfortable driving forklifts, and that can lead to carelessness. Likewise, visibility is often compromised by the load the driver is carrying, increasing the likelihood of striking a fellow worker.
C. Mishandled Materials
Mishandling materials is usually the result of overloading a forklift. This can lead to damaged stock and a tipping hazard — endangering the driver and anyone else around the forklift.
To reduce the chances of an accident, workers need to participate in proper training and an OHSA-approved safety course. Operators who have received the appropriate training should be enrolled in refresher courses regularly to avoid complacency and bad habits. Those operating the machines should be aware of the load capacity and be careful not to overload it. They also need to be mindful of their surroundings. Safe procedures should be followed at all times — whether driving, picking up, putting down, and stacking loads. Above all, maintaining a responsible speed is critical — OSHA recommends never exceeding five mph in a forklift and slowing down in congested or slippery areas.
2. Slips and Falls
Slips and falls are common concerns in warehouses, as liquids can spill, gravel and other small items can end up on the floor, and boxes and pallets may be left in the wrong place. All of these can increase the risk of an accident.
To prevent these types of injuries, warehouses need proper safety training and safety procedures. Situational awareness is vital. Floors, doorways, and any other traffic areas should be free of clutter and debris. Wet floors should be clearly marked. OSHA also recommends blocking off any location where an employee could fall four feet or more with a chain, rope, or other barriers.
3. Manual Handling
Manual material handling, including order-picking and pallet handling, leaves employees prone to injuries. Lower back pain is one of the most common warehouse injuries year in and year out. Manual handling injuries can occur suddenly or over time, affecting the back, shoulders, and feet. The risk is elevated when a person handles heavy or awkward loads.
You can easily modify your warehouse to minimize such risks. A few steps OSHA recommends to reduce manual lifting and handling injuries include:
- Providing general ergonomics training and task-specific training
- Minimizing the need for lifting by using good design and engineering techniques
- Training workers to lift correctly and have a coworker help if a product is too heavy.
Avoiding Warehouse Accidents
Understanding your local, state, and national safety regulations is one of the first steps in avoiding warehouse accidents. These laws are intended to keep you in compliance and help you maintain a safe working environment.
All staff members should be supplied with proper safety policies and guidelines. In addition, handbooks should be readily available to provide a reference point should they need it.
Minimizing warehouse safety hazards is everyone’s responsibility — from board members to forklift operators. Not only does it impact the wellness and productivity of your workers, but it also has a direct effect on your bottom line.
At Gorgo Group, we take safety seriously. We provide ongoing safety compliance meeting and trainings for our team and evaluate our facilities regularly to maintain proper working conditions and environments for everyone.