According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), private industry employers reported approximately 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2019. This estimate comes from the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII). Nearly one-third of these injuries and illnesses resulted in days away from work. The BLS also reported that there were “888,220 nonfatal injuries and illnesses that caused a private industry worker to miss at least one day of work in 2019” and a total of 64,640 days away from work for injury or illness.
In addition, a total of 5,233 fatal workplace injuries were reported in 2019, up 2% from the previous year. It’s clear that warehouse safety is an incredibly important aspect of your operations, both to keep your company running successfully and to keep your employees safe and productive. Here are the top 10 warehouse safety hazards to keep on your radar when performing your warehouse safety checks.
In the latest data, the BLS reported that non-fatal falls, slips, and trips increased 11 percent in 2019 to 880. Falls accounted for a total of 792 fatalities in 2019. Make sure your employees know how to use safety railings, harnesses, and other measures to protect themselves. It’s also beneficial to cordon-off uneven or damaged areas while completing repairs.
After all, the cost of fixing a damaged pathway will be much less than paying for an injured employee. Falls, in total, are actually costlier and more dangerous than overexertion. Falls account for 27% of injuries and cost businesses $15-18 billion on average annually.
Working with heavy equipment produces many opportunities for injury. Make sure equipment is properly maintained and in good working order. Always ensure that your employees are well-trained on how to use any heavy equipment. Ensure your employees know the top safety tips for working with and around heavy equipment: being aware of your surroundings, safely entering and exiting equipment, sustaining communication with other workers and using appropriate spotter signals, creating buffer zones, and workers knowing when to stop so that they are not in a dangerous situation.
It should come as no surprise that the heavy equipment frequently used in warehouse operations creates a huge safety concern, especially when it’s in motion. In fact, inadequate forklift safety is a common source of citations from OSHA. Keep the moving parts of any equipment labeled clearly with any potential safety concerns. And, as always, be sure to provide continuing awareness and job-specific education on how to use or avoid unwanted contact with these machines.
According to OSHA reports, 83 workers died in 2019 – an average of almost 7 workers every month – from crushing injuries typically caused by heavy machinery and materials. Similar to heavy equipment injuries, it’s important to train employees on how to move and store heavy materials — and the equipment used to move them safely.
Overexertion is the leading cause of disabling injuries in warehouses and distribution centers, accounting for 31% of injuries and costing businesses an estimated $12-14 billion annually. What are overexertion injuries? For example, injuries caused by lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying, or throwing objects all fall under the category of overexertion.
To help prevent overexertion-related accidents, your employees must receive proper safety training. In particular, learning how to lift and carry objects without injury is a vital part of warehouse worker training. Be sure to provide your employees with safety equipment such as lifting straps to help encourage safe moving and lifting.
Slips and Trips
Accidents happen and are probably obvious warehouse safety hazards, but it’s important to take every precaution to avoid as many of them as possible. Slips and trips are often grouped with falls in reporting, but the cause of falls vs. slips and trips is typically different.
Be aware of any loose materials on the floor, poor lighting, spills, or any steps or uneven flooring and correct these dangers as soon as possible. Hazard signs, caution tape, and anything else to increase visibility and awareness are important to implement while working on more long-term corrections.
Solvents, flammable substances, and carcinogens are some of the harmful substances that can cause injury or death at work. Hazard communication is key when it comes to these types of materials.
Store potentially harmful substances correctly and provide proper safety equipment like eye and mouth protection as well as respiratory aids when required. Also, ensure that your work environment does not contain substances like asbestos that can seriously harm your workers both short- and long-term.
Warehouse fires can obviously be devastating to your business and your employees. Luckily, they’re also extremely preventable. One of OSHA’s top citations is a lack of portable fire extinguishers. You should also ensure exits are free of obstructions and can be found easily. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there is an average of 1,210 warehouse fires every year. These fires resulted in the death or injury of 22 employees and cost an average of $155 million in direct property damage.
Clearly marking your fire exits, providing fire extinguishers, storing flammable materials properly, and not leaving wires exposed are quick ways to make your warehouse safer in the event of a fire. Maintaining a clear flue space will reduce the chance that the fire will spread, as sprinklers can more easily access it and extinguish it. The Rack Safety Strap and Fixed Rack Safety Net are wonderful products for maintaining a clear flue space.
Working in a warehouse almost guarantees that some materials will be stacked on racks above the heads of employees. Therefore, it’s possible for items to fall from those racks and cause injuries or get lost in the flue space.
Luckily, the solution to this potential problem is quick and affordable. Adrian’s Pallet Rack Safety product line offers effective, simple, and affordable solutions for work area protection and flue space compliance. Our products do not require any tools or retrofitting, install in seconds, and are more affordable than many other safety solutions.
Lack of Awareness
A common thread in preventing all these workplace injuries is awareness. It’s the responsibility of managers and supervisors to provide the proper awareness and work-related education for operating machinery, lifting, and other potential dangers.
It’s never worth it to skip training — this is a lame and false attempt to save time and money. It should be your utmost goal to keep employees safe and limit warehouse safety hazards. Of course, injuries will cost your company more money in the long run — especially if they’re due to company negligence.
This information was originally published on March 6, 2019 and has since been updated.