Warehouse operations can present a wide variety of potential hazards for employees. Safety issues commonly found at warehouse facilities involve forklifts, hazard communication, guarding floor and wall openings, blocked exits, electrical and mechanical power, lockout/tagout, personal protective equipment, hand-held fire extinguishers and ergonomics.
Injuries can occur when forklifts run off the dock, products fall on employees or a piece of equipment strikes a person. To avoid these types of injuries:
- Drive forklifts slowly on docks and dock plates.
- Secure dock plates and check to see if the plate can safely support the load.
- Be aware of dock edges and never back-up forklifts to the edge.
- Observe visual warnings near dock edges.
- Do not jump between different docks.
Improperly stored materials may fall and injure employees. Materials handling is also a hazard due to improper use of equipment and lifting of heavy objects. Ensure that you:
- Stack loads evenly and straight.
- Place heavier loads on lower or middle shelves.
- Remove one object at a time from shelves.
- Keep aisles and passageways clear and in good repair.
Improper lifting, repetitive motion or poor design of operations can lead to musculoskeletal disorders in employees. To avoid injury:
- Use powered equipment instead of requiring a manual lift for heavy materials.
- Reduce lifts from shoulder height and floor height by repositioning the shelf or bin.
- Ensure overhead lighting is adequate for the task at hand.
- Get trained on the proper ergonomics for each specific task.
- Use your legs and keep your back in a neutral position while lifting.
- Test the load to be lifted to estimate its weight, size and bulk and to determine the proper lifting method.
- Get help if the load exceeds the maximum weight a person can lift safely without assistance.
- Don't twist while carrying a load, instead shift your feet and take small steps in the direction you want to turn.
Forklifts are one of the most common material handling devices in warehouse facilities. Only trained and certified operators may use these machines. Forklift accidents injure thousands of employees every year. Here are some ways to prevent some of these injuries:
- Ensure only trained and certified operators operate the forklifts.
- Do not allow anyone under 18 years old to operate a forklift.
- Properly maintain all haulage equipment, including tires.
- Before each use of the forklift, examine it for hazardous conditions which would make it unsafe to operate.
- Follow safe procedures for picking up, putting down and stacking loads.
- Drive safely, never exceed 5 mph and slowdown in congested areas or on slippery surfaces.
- Always wear a seatbelt installed by the manufacturer.
- Never drive up to a person standing in front of a fixed object such as a wall or stacked materials.
- No horseplay.
- Do not handle loads that are heavier than the weight capacity of the forklift.
- Remove unsafe or defective trucks from service until the defect is properly repaired.
- Maintain sufficiently safe clearances for aisles and at loading docks or passages where forklifts are used.
- Ensure adequate ventilation either by opened doors or windows or using a ventilation system to provide enough fresh air to reduce concentrations of noxious gases and carbon monoxide from engine exhaust.
Exposure to hazardous chemicals may occur through chemical spills or leaks. The spill or leak may result in eye injuries, skin burns or inhalation exposure to hazardous chemicals. The following procedures can help avoid some of these exposures:
- Review a safety data sheet (SDS) for each chemical you may be exposed to in the facility.
- Follow instructions on the SDS for handling chemical products.
- You must be trained on the hazards of each chemical being stored.
- Know the location of the spill cleanup kits in any area where chemicals are stored.
- Know and understand the written spill control plan.
- Know how to clean up spills, protect yourself and properly dispose of used materials.
- Wear all required personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Store all chemicals safely and securely.
- Store chemicals away from forklift traffic areas.
Inadequate fire safety provisions, improper use of lockout procedures and failure to wear personal protective equipment also create hazards in the warehouse workplace.
- Emergency preparedness: Organizations must have an emergency plan that describes what is expected of employees in the event of an emergency, including:
- Provisions for emergency exit locations and evacuation procedures.
- Procedures for accounting for all employees and visitors.
- Location and use of fire extinguishers and other emergency equipment.
- Lockout/tagout: Warehouse operations need a lockout/tagout program to prevent equipment from being accidentally energized and injuring employees. Employees must perform these operations and be trained. All employees must have a working knowledge of the program.