During the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is relying on the availability and delivery of goods more than ever due to sheltering in place. Warehouse employees are working around the clock to keep the supply chain moving to support this increase in demand. While this can have a positive effect on business revenue and job availability, it is important to prioritize warehouse safety and hygiene more than ever for this essential workforce.
OSHA Warehouse Safety Guidelines
Safety in American warehouses is regulated by a series of standards from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, also known as OHSA.
The main focus of OSHA is to prevent work-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths. Since the administration began, occupational deaths have reduced; however, the fatal injury rate for the warehousing industry is higher than the national average for all industries.
Warehouse operations can present a wide variety of potential hazards for the worker. Follow OSHA’s warehouse safety guidelines to ensure your warehouse is taking the proper precautions. OSHA lists common warehouse citations. These potential hazards for warehouse workers include:
1. Unsafe use of forklifts
According to OSHA, about 100 warehouse employees are killed and 95,000 are injured every year while operating forklifts – forklift turnovers account for the highest percentage of these fatalities. Follow these guidelines to ensure forklift safety:
- Train, evaluate, and certify all operators to ensure that they can operate forklifts safely. Note: it is recommended that no one under the age of 18 operate a forklift.
- Follow safe procedures for picking up, putting down, and stacking loads
- Drive safely, never exceed 5 mph, and ensure that the operator wears a seatbelt installed by the manufacturer.
- Maintain sufficiently safe clearances for aisles and at loading docks or passages where forklifts are used
- Train employees on the hazards associated with the combustion byproducts of forklift operation, such as carbon monoxide.
2. Poor hazard communication
Hazard communication refers to the information communicated about chemical hazards, including spills and burns. OSHA recommends the following in regards to hazard communication:
- Train employees on the risks of each chemical being stored.
- Provide spill cleanup kits in any area where chemicals are stored.
- Have a written spill control plan.
- Provide proper personal protective equipment and enforce its use.
- Store all chemicals safely, securely, and away from forklift traffic areas.
3. Manual lifting injuries
Back injuries may occur from improper lifting or overexertion. Furthermore, this can lead to musculoskeletal disorders in workers. To combat potential back injuries:
- Provide general ergonomics training and task-specific training. Use your legs and keep your back in a natural position while lifting.
- Minimize the need for lifting. If possible, use powered equipment instead of requiring a manual lift for heavy materials;
- Lift properly and get help from a coworker if a product is too heavy.
- Keep floors clean and free of slip and trip hazards.
4. Fall Hazards
Improperly stored materials may fall and injure workers. The easiest way to avoid falls in the warehouse is by eliminating fall hazards. This can be achieved by:
- Slacking loads evenly and straight
- Placing heavier loads on lower shelves
- Removing one object at a time from shelves
- Keeping aisles and passageways clear
Warehouse Safety Checklist
Keeping all the safety requirements straight can be a daunting task. Use checklists to ensure nothing slips through the cracks. Here are a few examples of checklist items to help avoid hazards that cause injuries, illness, and fatalities.
- Implement COVID-19 controls: Stagger work schedules, enforce face-covering usage, Mark 6-foot distances on the floor where employees may be working in a line or row and install physical barriers where needed.
- Proper ventilation: Ensure the warehouse is well ventilated.
- Clear obstructions: Clear floors and aisles of clutter, electrical cords, hoses, spills, and other hazards that could cause employees to slip, trip, or fall.
- Label all hazardous materials: Properly label hazardous materials, indicating the chemical’s identity, the manufacturer’s name and address, and appropriate hazard warnings. Make sure this list is updated.
- Check warehouse lighting: Keep the building well-lit so workers can safely navigate aisles.
- Warehouse hygiene: Inspect cleanliness to eliminate anything that could pose a health risk.
- Clearly mark exits: In the event of an emergency, all employees will need to leave the premises, and to do this, they need to be able to easily see where the nearest exit is.
- Confirm proper personal protective equipment: Provide proper personal protective equipment (for example, a hard hat in areas where objects are at risk of falling or disposable gloves for employees who touch shared surfaces) and enforce its use.
How to Prepare for a Warehouse Emergency
We covered common workplace safety issues, but what if disaster strikes? OSHA suggests brainstorming emergency situations to make sure your staff is well prepared to handle a catastrophe.
What would you do if a hurricane ripped through the warehouse? A fire? There are several precautions that all workplaces should implement in the event of any emergency:
- An evacuation plan
- A list of emergency contacts
- A fully stocked first aid kit
- Up-to-date fire extinguishers
- A safe outdoor gathering point
- A warehouse equipment list of what needs to be shut down
Find Warehouse Workers
Fulfilling orders rapidly and accurately is crucial for every business in today’s society. Customers want to receive their orders promptly, which means that employers need warehouse employees fast.
Like many other essential industries, warehouse jobs are plentiful but the workforce to fill those spots is slim. The shortage of experienced workers across supply chains can lead to higher rates of accidents, injuries, and fatalities. Don’t let this happen to you.
Whether you’re looking for a temporary or permanent hire, we’ve got you covered. GigSmart bridges the gap between your company and capable candidates. We enable you to fill vacancies quickly with employees that are ready to work. Using Get Workers, you can choose from many warehouse associates with all the qualities and essential skills they need to perform the job well – from forklift drivers to warehouse packers. Build a strong warehouse workforce to support your business operations and reach your organization’s goals.