According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the fatal injury rate for warehouse workers is higher than the national average for all industries. Among the most common safety risks are being struck by a forklift or a falling object, falls off unguarded surfaces, electrical shocks, entrapment in unguarded machinery or equipment, and poor ergonomics.
Here are a few recommendations for how to prevent those potential injuries.
- Impact Avoidance. To reduce the risk of employees being struck by a forklift as they walk through a facility, be sure forklift operators are trained to observe all traffic regulations and requirements. That includes ensuring they maintain a clear line of sight as they drive either forward or backwards, they honk when approaching intersections, and they run their vehicles at a safe speed that will enable them to stop safely.There are a variety of safety accessories available for industrial storage rack — such as netting and steel mesh guarding panels — that can be added to catch any items that may fall from their overhead storage position and potentially strike a pedestrian below. Further, ensuring that every load stored overhead in a pallet rack (above floor level position) is unitized with banding or stretchwrap will also significantly reduce the chance that a product or case will fall. Loads should also be placed evenly and straight, with heavier pallets on lower or middle shelves. Finally, storage rack aisles should be kept clear to ensure forklift operators can both safely maneuver through them, as well as can see the path (and personnel) ahead with no obstructions.
- Fall Prevention. Shipping and receiving docks, with elevated openings that allow trailers to be parked and accessed at floor level for loading and unloading, should be guarded with a device that obstructs the opening — or the door closed — when no trailer is present. Otherwise, the unprotected opening poses the potential for a fall. Additionally, visual warnings should be added to dock doors to alert pedestrians (and forklift operators) of the edge.Other potential areas for warehouse falls are elevated work platforms and pick modules. The edges of, and stairs for access to, these internal structures should be protected with secure guardrails and foot plates that prevent people or products from toppling over the side. Any elevation of 4-feet or higher should be secured. Personnel working at heights should be equipped with safety harnesses, as well as trained on their proper use. In general, any trip hazards within the building should also be marked with highly visible safety tape or other protective barrier.
- Avoiding Electrical Shocks. All electrical access panels should be enclosed, guarded, and secured to prevent unauthorized access. Additionally, signage should be posted that indicates a warning, such as “Danger/High Voltage/Keep Out.” Electrical equipment should be properly grounded to prevent the build-up of voltages, and circuit protection devices should be in place to limit or stop the flow of current should a ground fault, overload or short circuit in the wiring system occur. Most shocks can be prevented by shutting off the power prior to inspecting or repairing the equipment, wearing appropriate protective gear when working on electrical components, and being cautious and aware of the danger.
- Entrapment Prevention. Lock-out/tag-out procedures to ensure that automated or mechanical equipment is rendered completely functionless (no power) prior to repair and maintenance activities is a critical aspect of preventing serious injury from entrapment. Likewise, warehouse workers should be trained to be aware of and avoid pinch points in equipment such as conveyors or racking — particularly push-back and carton flow systems that utilize mechanical movement in load storage. Train employees on how to safely remove an item stuck in a conveyor or rack, including removing the system from service in order to do so without risking injury.
- Better Ergonomics. Workers should be trained on using proper lifting techniques to reduce the risk of injuries related to overexertion. These include strains, sprains, or other musculoskeletal damage caused from reaching, stretching, bending, twisting, stooping or other potentially harmful motion. For workers who are picking items to fill orders, products that are accessed most often should be stored in what’s known as “the Golden Zone,” or waist heigh. Additionally, there are a variety of ergonomic lift assist devices available — such as lift tables, workstation cranes, vacuum lifters, and more — to help workers handle heavy items while minimizing the effects of strenuous or repetitive tasks.
Looking for more information about the types of solutions DCS can implement in your operation that enhance worker safety? Connect with us.
Danny Krause, Senior Site Manager, email@example.com
Danny Krause serves as the Senior Site Manager of Designed Conveyor Systems and has 15+ years of experience in leadership roles with complex integrated conveyance systems for MHE, DC operations, and baggage handling operations. He is a forward-thinking safety specialist with a positive record managing crew, materials, and site activities. In his free time, he enjoys being on the water and spending time with his wife, daughter, and granddaughter.