It’s all too easy to forget that a warehouse is a dangerous place - especially after an extended period without a safety incident. In this article, we’ll look at the top warehouse accident causes and how to prevent them.
Problem: Slips and Trips According to the US Department of Labor, slips and trips cause around 25% of workplace injuries each year. Most of these injuries can be prevented.
Solution: Add slip and trip hazards to your safety checklist. Hazards can be things like stray cords, spills, even scattered packing materials. Fill cracks or pits in the floor that could trip up employees or damage equipment. If your facility has surfaces such as stairways or catwalks that are frequently wet, use a non-skid floor coating.
Problem: Falls Though most warehouse activity occurs at ground level, injuries (even fatalities) from falls are a problem. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 15 percent of all fatalities in the workplace are the result of falls. More than two-fifths of occur from 15 feet or lower.
In a warehouse, a fall can happen if an employee climbs a rack to retrieve a product or is lifted elevator-style by a forklift. Though the employee may perceive this as an efficient way to do their job, they’re risking a serious injury or even death.
Solution: Insist that material handling staff use a forklift or other equipment to access objects that are out of their reach. Provide employees with fall protection whenever they need to be in a position more than four feet off the ground. Fall protection can include a lightweight lanyard, safety harness, or combination of both.
Problem: Hazardous Energy Hazardous energy is incredibly dangerous. A machine that unexpectedly energizes, starts up, or releases stored energy can severely injure or even kill someone. OSHA states, “ Workers injured on the job from exposure to hazardous energy lose an average of 24 workdays for recuperation.”
Solution Prevent unauthorized staff from trying to use machines in need of service. A lockout / tagout kit is an easy solution to a serious problem. Read more about OSHA's requirements for controlling hazardous energy.
Problem: Heavy Equipment Accidents According to OSHA: 100 employees are killed and 95,000 injured every year while operating forklifts.
Solution: Ensure that all employees, even those who don’t operate heavy machinery, understand and respect the dangers of material handling equipment. Additionally, post safety expectations near each machine as a constant, visual reminder of how to avoid injury. Download free safety posters here.
Problem: Accidents with Pedestrians According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), nearly 20 percent of forklift accidents involve a pedestrian. That’s roughly 19,000 people injured each year.
Solution: The best way to prevent warehouse accidents with pedestrians is with visual barriers such as:
- A quick-mount barricade or other barrier system
- Signage warning the pedestrian they are entering a hazardous area
- Blue lights, and red zone warning lights to designate an area where heavy equipment is approaching or operating
Audible hazard indicators from backup alarms to simply shouting, “coming through!” can also prevent accidents. Browse our catalog of warehouse safety products or read more about pedestrian safety around powered industrial equipment.
Problem: Exposure to Harmful Substances Battery acid and propane and are just a few of the harmful substances your employees may be exposed to during their work day. Ensure your employees are both protected from and prepared for exposure to harmful substances.
Solution: Avoid accidents in the first place by:
- Ensuring adequate ventilation to disperse fumes from gassing batteries
- Providing rubber gloves, eye and face protection, and other protection
- Enforcing required procedures when refueling gas or propane forklifts
- Utilizing conveyors, overhead hoists, etc. for servicing batteries
Be prepared for the worst-case scenario. Confirm all employees know how to find the closest eye wash station, first-aid kit or fire extinguisher. This can mean the difference between a minor and major accident. Also, be sure your fire extinguishers are current and fully charged.
We offer a range of battery care and safety products including a spill kit, eye wash station, PPE kit, battery slings and stands.
Problem:Ergonomics Improper lifting, repetitive motion or poor design of operations can lead to musculoskeletal disorders in workers, according to OSHA.
Solution: Help your material handling employees have long, healthy careers by promoting ergonomic safety. Recognize and reward staff who choose to follow ergonomic best practices such as using a machine to assist with heavy items. Consider purchasing backrests, anti-vibration seat cushions or other ergonomic devices for your lift trucks.
One Final Thought: Allowing warehouse safety procedures to fall by the wayside opens the door to unpleasant, even tragic consequences. Invite your staff to participate in a safer warehouse by creating a safety committee. Empower them to create a system for identifying and correcting warehouse safety hazards.
Don’t wait until an incident happens to take action. For more safety tips and ideas, download OSHA’s free Warehouse Safety Pocket Guide. Or contact us to schedule training for your staff. You can also search our overview of forklift and warehouse safety for statistics and other info.