The Occupational Safety and Health Administration statistics show that the rate of fatal injuries in warehouses is higher than the national average for all industries.
OSHA standards help create safe environments for warehouse workers, but only if the warehouse is in compliance. Even the best-run warehouses could be susceptible to OSHA violations, and the conditions could be dangerous for workers.
That’s why it’s important to focus on several areas when inspecting a warehouse to ensure it’s up to OSHA standards. Those standards are comprehensive and range from unsafe use of forklifts and stacking products to fire prevention and spill mitigation.
Here are some tips for eight areas you need to focus on to keep your warehouse safe and OSHA-compliant.
1. Dock Hazards
Docks can be dangerous areas for employees. Forklifts can run off docks, products can fall on employees, and other equipment can strike people and injure them.
For forklift safety, it makes sense to invest in a gate that could prevent a forklift from driving off an open dock. Depending on the layout of the area, that could include using a folding security gate, dock bug doors, a safety barricade gate or something similar.
A dock plate can also ensure a truck doesn’t fall through the space between the truck and the dock edge.
Warehouses should pay particular attention to docks to avoid those mishaps. Employees should keep clear of the dock edge, and all dock ladders and stairs should meet OSHA specifications.
2. Forklift Hazards
Forklifts help warehouses be productive, but they also cause fatalities and injuries.
Driving a forklift safely is one of the most important things you can do in the warehouse. Drive forklifts slowly and never back them up to the edge of the dock. Warehouses should also provide handrails, guardrails and bollards to prevent collisions or other accidents.
Hanging mirrors can also help forklift operators see if anyone is coming before crossing an aisle or turning a corner.
In fact, forklift violations are a top OSHA fine. Driver training, certifications, safety checklists, keeping speeds low and routing forklifts safely through a warehouse are essential to avoid penalties.
3. Materials Storage Hazards
Workers are always at risk of having materials fall on them in the warehouse. Anything that is improperly stored is a danger.
To limit this, make sure your warehouse has the proper shelving and rack back safety panels. Rack safety back panels stop loose packages or damaged pallets from falling on to aisle where workers might be walking. They may seem expensive, but an injured employee costs significantly more.
Because no mitigation strategy is perfect, it is helpful, whenever possible, to place heavier loads on lower shelves. And always remove items pallets one-by-one.
4. Hazard Communication Hazard
Chemicals that are not stored or handled properly can burn employees.
Your warehouse should maintain a material safety data sheet (MSDS) for chemicals, complete training for employees, and provide clean-up kits if a spill occurs. Proper protective equipment for employees is a must.
Hazard communication is another frequent area for OSHA fines. Focus on employee education and having a plan for control plus disposal.
It is recommended that hazardous chemicals are stored in specifically designed and labeled cabinets. Also known as flammable storage cabinets, these cabinets are reinforced, lock, and in most cases, include release valves so that noxious, flammable vapors don’t build up inside the cabinet and cause an explosion.
5. Charging Stations Hazard
There are always risks of fires and explosions in the warehouse.
There should be no smoking or open flames near charging stations. It’s also important to provide adequate ventilation to disperse fumes from gassing batteries. Fire extinguishers and personal protective equipment are mandatory. However, OSHA fines many warehouses for not having portable fire extinguishers and the related actions that should take place, like training on how to use them.
OSHA requires that there not be more than 50 or 75 feet of travel distance from any point of a protected area to the nearest fire extinguisher, depending on the type installed. Sprinkler systems must provide complete coverage. You must inspect and test sprinklers on a regular basis.
6. Poor Ergonomics Hazard
Since employees are always lifting materials, proper ergonomics is vital for safety. But improper lifting techniques and other factors can lead to injuries.
When lifting manually, it is best to reduce and reposition the load on a shelf when starting at the shoulder or floor. All floors should be clean of hazards.
7. Electrical Hazards
OSHA has strict requirements for wiring, and it’s often an area where warehouses fail upon inspection. Anything electrical that can cause a hazard must be fixed or eliminated. And OSHA requires ground-fault circuit interrupters for receptacle outlets.
8. Fall Hazards
OSHA defines fall hazards as anything in the factory that could cause someone to lose their balance and fall.
Warehouses tend not to score well with OSHA for fall hazards. Work to eliminate and control any fall hazards by using guardrails, handrails, safety nets, railings, harnesses or warning lines.
A starting point for warehouse safety
While these eight areas are not the only ones OSHA focuses on, they are a good place to start. If you want your warehouse workers to be safe and don’t want to run the risk of OSHA fines, the accompanying tips will help you create a safe environment for your team.
Need OSHA-compliant warehouse equipment?
American Storage & Logistics has a full inventory of warehouse equipment and provides engineering, design, and consulting services for businesses. We have the equipment you need to be OSHA-compliant and can find solutions if you’re having a hard time correcting an issue. Reach out to us today, shop our catalog online, or give us a call at (616) 246-8700!