Warehouse safety sometimes gets ignored, perhaps on the assumption that it’s part of “safety” in general. But warehouses have specific and unique safety hazards, and as a result it’s worth looking at those in more detail and on their own.
We’ll take a look at some warehouse hazards and safety tips in this article.
If you work in a warehouse, please use the comments section below to share your own experiences. What are some hazards you see at work? What are your own safety tips? What kind of safety training for warehouses do you recommend?
According to an OSHA Warehouse Safety Pocket Guide:
That’s reason enough to take a few moments to learn some warehouse safety tips, right?
In addition, that same OSHA Warehouse Safety Pocket Guide says that “for warehouse establishments, the 10 OSHA standards most frequently included in the agency’s citations were:
So that list right there gives you a good idea of where to focus your own warehouse safety and compliance efforts. We’ll cover a lot of this in more detail in the sections below.
Note: The OSHA pocket guide quoted from above is from 2004. You may also be interested in the list of OSHA’s Most Cited Violations for the current year–right now, that’s OSHA’s Top Ten Citations, Fiscal Year 2017.
It’s often said that one of the first things to do in order to stay safe in a hazardous work environment is to be aware of the hazards.
The video sample below from our online Warehouse Safety course serves as a first step of building that awareness.
With that awareness in place, we can now begin considering hazards and how to stay safe in a warehouse more closely. Here are some of the things that the conference presentation brought to mind for me.
There are a lot hazards at a warehouse. Many, but not all, are related to equipment. This includes:
The short video sample from our warehouse training illustrates a few of these.
In the section above, we mentioned some of the common equipment hazards in a warehouse.
Forklifts and other powered industrial trucks (PITs) are one of the biggest safety issues in a warehouse and we want to take a closer look at them in this section. According to the OSHA Warehouse Safety Pocket Guide we mentioned earlier, “about 100 employees are killed and 95,000 injured every year while operating forklifts (this is in all industries, not just warehousing, but it gives you a sense of the risk here).
Forklifts super helpful, which is great, but they also present a lot of hazards, which is less great. Knowing more about forklifts, how they operate, and how to work safely with and in their presence is the first step, as explained in this sample from our online Forklift Safety training video.
As a result, if you want to create a safe working environment in a warehouse, you’ll be paying a lot of attention to powered industrial trucks–forklifts, order pickers, and similar equipment.
Some common hazards posed by forklifts and PITs include:
The sample below from our forklift safety training video illustrates some of these hazards.
There are many ways to help control the hazards associated with PITs and forklifts in a warehouse. These include but are not limited to:
Proper forklift operator training is an essential part of using forklifts safely in a warehouse. We have an extended article on forklift operator training if you’d like to read more detail about that. However, two important things for a forklift operator to keep in mind are that forklifts have rear-wheel steering and that forklifts can be very unstable.
The video sample below from our online forklift safety training video illustrates how the rear-wheel steering of a forklift is different than the steering of an automobile.
It’s also important for forklift operators to know how to prevent their forklift from tipping. Understanding what is known as the “forklift stability triangle” will help operators avoid tipovers. The video sample below from our forklift safety training demonstrates the stability triangle.
You might also want to review this article for more detailed tips on how to operate a forklift safely, including pre-operation checklists, traveling, load handling, and maintenance.
Of course, driving a forklift or PIT isn’t the only PIT-related hazards in a warehouse. For example, we also mentioned that proper refueling techniques are critical.
The sample below from our forklift safety video goes over some good tips for refueling forklifts.
Mobile equipment such as forklifts and other powered industrial trucks that are operated with internal-combustion engine (meaning they run on gasoline and/or diesel) expel carbon monoxide as exhaust.
Carbon dioxide can build up to dangerous, even fatal levels if an internal-combustion forklift is used indoors without proper ventilation inside a warehouse.
Forklift operators must be aware of carbon monoxide hazards and use internal-combustion engines only when appropriate and only in a safe manner.
Early signs of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
These symptoms can lead to loss of consciousness and death.
For more information, check out this OSHA Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Fact Sheet and/or this OSHA Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Quick Card.
Many additional warehouse safety hazards are located in and around loading docks.
Common injuries include having forklifts run off the decks (falling to lower levels), having products or equipment fall on employees, and having equipment (including forklifts) strike a person.
The short sample video below from our online loading dock safety training course introduces some key safety issues and precautions for loading docks at warehouses.
Hazards associated with loading docks at warehouses include but are not limited to:
The short sample video below from our online warehouse safety course gives at closer look at hazards associated with truck trailers at warehouses and warehouse loading docks.
Some ways to control hazards at loading docks, reduce safety risks, and minimize or eliminate injuries at your warehouse include:
Many injuries at warehouses include pedestrians and mobile equipment such as the forklifts and powered industrial trucks (PITs) we’ve already mentioned. As you’d guess, with forklifts being so big, heavy, and capable of moving at relatively high speeds, these don’t turn out well for pedestrians.
The sample video below from our warehouse safety training course introduces some key safety precautions for keeping pedestrians safe while working in the presence of mobile equipment such as forklifts at a warehouse.
To reduce the hazards to pedestrians working around forklifts and other mobile equipment, here are SOME responsibilities of the forklift operator:
Likewise, here are SOME responsibilities of the pedestrian working around forklifts:
According to OSHA, “workers can be injured when they’re caught in pinch points or in the in-going nip points, when they’re hit by falling products, or when they develop musculoskeletal problems associated with award working postures or repetitive motions.”
Here are some possible controls for these hazards at your warehouse:
For more information, check this sample from our Online Conveyor Safety training course, below.
Other warehouse safety hazards come into play when materials are stored, and in particular when the materials are potentially hazardous.
The video sample below from our warehouse safety training gives some tips for storing materials safely and for working in a warehouse with potentially hazardous materials.
Some tips for reducing materials storage hazards include:
A proper Hazard Communication program and hazard communication training can help make working in a warehouse with hazardous chemicals much safer for workers.
That hazard communication training should include an explanation of safety data sheets (SDSs), which this sample from our online Hazard Communication training course explains.
Hazard Communication training for workers in warehouse environments should also include an explanation of the (still-relatively-new, dating-back-to-2012) GHS-compliant Hazard Communication chemical label elements, which are explained in the short sample below from our online Hazard Communication safety training video below.
As part of a warehouse employee’s Haz-Com training, they should learn the potential exposure routes of chemicals at the warehouse, which may include:
A particular hazard to keep in mind at a warehouse is compressed gas. These gases are under great pressure and, when handled improperly, the cylinders can essentially become missiles, even breaking through a wall or ceiling–as the sample video below demonstrates.
Here are some good safe work practices to keep in mind when working with compressed gases and compressed gas cylinders in your warehouse to improve safety:
For more information, see OSHA’s Compressed Gas & Gas Cylinders Safety and Health Page or check out our online Compressed Gas training course.
For more information, see OSHA’s Hazardous Chemicals and Toxic Substances Safety and Health Page and/or OSHA’s Hazard Communications Safety and Health Page.
Warehouses are often full of hazards related to material handling and ergonomic stresses, which lead to serious, often long-term, and even fatal incidents.
Ergonomic hazards at a warehouse are often associated with:
To protect against injuries at a warehouse from ergonomic hazards:
Washington state has made a great set of ergonomic checklists that can help with this process.
Back injuries are one of the most common types of injuries associated with ergonomic hazards. The tips below from our Online Back Injury Prevention training course are a good place to start in reducing back injuries in warehouses.
Wall and floor openings at warehouses present many safety hazards, including:
The sample video below covers this in a little more detail.
Controls for these safety hazards include:
For more information, see OSHA’s Fact Sheet on their new Walking-Working Surfaces rule.
It may not seem especially exciting, but lack of housekeeping creates many hazards in warehouses and contributes to many injuries suffered in warehouses.
And so it follows that proper housekeeping in a warehouse can keep everyone safer.
Some tips for proper warehouse housekeeping, as demonstrated in the video below, include:
Fires are also a major hazard in a warehouse environment.
All efforts should be made to reduce fire hazards in the warehouse. This includes many things, including buying proper fire extinguishers (and other sprinkler systems) and placing the extinguishers correctly.
Most importantly, it includes a well-prepared fired prevention plan. This OSHA Fire Prevention Plan eTool will help you plan yours. Your plan should include:
In addition, all workers should receive proper fire prevention training, and it may be a good idea to teach them how to operate a fire extinguisher (read this article for more thoughts and when to teach employees to use fire extinguishes and when not to).
The short video sample below, from our online Fire Extinguisher Safety training video, demonstrates the P-A-S-S method for using a fire extinguisher to put out a small fire.
Fires, environmental releases, and natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, civil disturbances, and workplace violence all present special hazards for warehouses.
Every warehouse should have an emergency action plan in place and all workers should know what they should do in specific emergencies. This OSHA Emergency Action Plan eTool will help you create yours.
You may also want to include:
This sample video from our warehouse safety training sets the scene for this preparation.
You may find additional helpful information in our online Emergency Action Plan training course. We’ve provided a short sample below.
We hope you found these warehouse safety tips helpful.
In addition to this article, you may find some of these other materials related to warehouse safety helpful as well: