It is critical for facilities to ensure that they are meticulously following the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) standards in their warehouses because employee safety is paramount to successfully running a warehouse.
OSHA inspections are not scheduled, so they can happen at any time. The federal arm of OSHA inspects about 40,000 facilities a year. 26 state OSHA organizations inspect another 60,000 facilities annually. The dollar cost of citations for violating OSHA standards can be up to $7,000 for violations that are not serious, but if re-inspections show the same violations, the cost can be up to $70,000.
However, the cost of OSHA fines should not be the primary motivation for keeping your warehouse in compliance with OSHA standards. Instead, your focus should be on the safety of all your warehouse employees because the environment in a warehouse is, by its nature, very hazardous.
The Top Four Warehouse Problems
OSHA has identified the top four problems – for which they issue citations – they see concerning warehouse safety.
On average, there are 100 warehouse employee deaths and 95,000 warehouse employee injuries directly related to forklift operation each year. All forklifts are required to have seatbelts, and all forklift operators are required to wear them. The biggest number of forklift deaths is from the forklift turning over on unseatbelted drivers. The next highest number of forklift deaths is due to being crushed between the forklift and something else. The third largest number of forklift deaths is from being hit by a forklift. Also, the fourth highest number of forklift deaths is related to being hit by material falling from a dropped forklift load.
Many of the forklift deaths and injuries can be avoided by following OSHA’s guidelines for operating forklifts:
- All forklift operators should be trained, evaluated, and certified in safe forklift operations.
- Forklift operators should use extreme caution when they are driving, especially in busy areas of the warehouse, and they never exceed a speed of 5 mph.
- All areas where forklifts are being used should have a sufficient amount of clearance space so that the forklifts can safely drive through or around them.
Warehouse fires seem to be on the rise, in part either because hazardous chemicals are not stored properly, or there is a chemical spill that is not cleaned up or cleaned up properly. There are often fatalities involved in warehouse fires. More commonly, though, is a lack of education and enforcement for warehouse employees on the chemicals they are using. This can result in death, if the exposure is great, as well as chemical burns, eye injuries, and inhalation injuries, among other types of injuries.
OSHA’s guidelines for hazard communication include:
- Each chemical in a warehouse should have a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for it. The facility’s safety officer is responsible for maintaining an accessible and current SDS folder for all chemicals in the warehouse, and for making sure that warehouse employees are educated in the correct way to store and use all warehouse chemicals.
- The safety officer is also responsible for making sure that warehouse employees have and use the proper protective equipment for using warehouse chemicals.
- Additionally, the safety officer needs to have a chemical spill control plan and needs to instruct warehouse employees on how to clean up a chemical spill properly.
Electrical hazards are often responsible for warehouse deaths and injuries. Faulty wiring or overloaded circuits is the other main reason for warehouse fires and any related injuries or fatalities. However, the primary electrical danger in the warehouse itself is the possibility of a ground fault electrical shock. If the electrocution is strong enough, death can result. Federal statistics estimate that 100 people are year are killed by ground fault electric shock. Even if the electrocution is milder, electricity isn’t kind to the body and can result in severe burns, bleeding, respiration problems, and ventricular fibrillation.
To ensure better electrical safety for warehouse employees, OSHA recommends:
- Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) should be installed for all receptacle outlets
- Warehouses should use an assured equipment grounding conductor program (AEGCP)
Falls in warehouses can be fatal, but they can also result in some very serious, and, perhaps, debilitating injuries. Many warehouse falls are the result of the lack of proper protection in fall risk areas, like loading docks and elevated walkways. Other warehouse falls are the result of carelessness when covering open holes in walls and floors. A final cause of warehouse falls is not following safety procedures or doing something reckless.
OSHA has several recommendations to enhance warehouse fall protection:
- Install fall restraints, such as safety rails and safety gates, in vulnerable areas, like the loading dock area.
- Ensure all wall and floor holes are covered when not in use, and clearly taped off to regular traffic when they are.
- Train warehouse employees how to properly use warehouse equipment and enforce the consequences of infractions.
Call Us Today
Parts Brite can help you make your loading dock safer so that you can comply with OSHA standards. We specialize in providing high-quality aftermarket loading dock parts, including safety equipment. We have a full line of dock parts that can fulfill your specific needs. Our sales office is in California and we have distribution warehouses in both Wisconsin and California, which enable us to ship dock parks quickly throughout the United States. Contact us at 1-855-PARTSBRITE (1-855-727-8727).