Warehouses may look and feel safe since they typically don't have any dangerous machines inside. But, the reality is different. Accidents in warehouses happen rather frequently, and the fatality rates are rising. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), over 823,000 employees work in different types of warehouses. Their job positions include everything from order fillers to truck and tractor operators to material movers.
The BLS also reports that tripping, falling, and slipping make up most general warehouse accidents. Most of the accidents occur on docks, forklifts, conveyors, materials storage, and manual lifting/handling. Around 20,000 employees are injured in forklift accidents alone each year. Slip and fall accidents make up 15% of all accidental deaths, 25% of injury claims, and 95 million lost workdays annually.
Injuries and fatalities can occur even with adequately trained and qualified workers; however, they tend to happen more in lower numbers. This shortage of experienced employees can lead to higher rates of accidents and fatalities. This happens for several reasons. First of all, baby boomers are retiring in greater numbers, and companies often don't have new managers to replace them. Also, fewer educated employees are choosing to work in this industry. Cost-cutting measures and cutting training programs are also the reason for employee shortages.
The Rapid Growth of E-Commerce
Over the past year, the e-commerce sector has experienced a massive boost, mostly due to the ongoing global pandemic. People have turned to the internet for their shopping needs, leaving actual stores to struggle. Many businesses had to lay off their employees, which is an especially dangerous situation for warehouse workers. Without enough warehouse workers, warehouses fill up with merchandise and create hazardous working conditions ideal for injuries.
Workflow and Workload Changes
Even in the best and safest conditions, working in a warehouse is physically demanding. Employees are always walking, bending, lifting heavy packages, etc. The workload needs also change daily, if not from hour-to-hour. Workplace environment factors such as high or low temperatures, noise, or inadequate lighting can also affect employees' health and safety. If not properly managed, these changing conditions can negatively impact warehouse safety.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has provided the brochure on safety, Worker Safety Series: Warehousing, covering the most common hazards in warehouses, from docks to the conveyors, and providing tips on reducing hazards in those areas. When assessing properties and companies for safety, OSHA recognizes ten warehouse standards:
- - Forklifts
- - Hazard communication
- - Electrical, wiring methods
- - Electrical, system design
- - Guarding floor and wall openings and holes
- - Exits
- - Mechanical power transmission
- - Respiratory protection
- - Lockout/tagout/LOTO
- - Portable fire extinguishers.
Keeping all the safety requirements straight can be challenging, but you can ensure nothing slips through the cracks with proper checklists. Each of these checklists is available from The Checker as software or Checklist Books. Feel free to browse our checklist library to find the inspections you want.