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Top 4 Most Common Warehouse Accidents and How to Avoid Them

You start off the day with high hopes, your warehouse production and distribution is on target.

Suddenly there is an accident on the warehouse floor and everything goes wrong in the blink of an eye. Production stops, employee morale takes a hit and your business could be liable for compensatory damages. 

Unfortunately, many business owners and warehouse compliance and safety managers face this all too familiar situation.

“In its 2018 Workplace Safety Index, Liberty Mutual estimated that employers paid more than $1 billion per week for direct workers' compensation costs for disabling, non-fatal workplace injuries in 2015. The National Safety Council estimated that work-related deaths and injuries cost the nation, employers, and individuals $151 billion in 2016.”
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

OSHA also noted that all 10 most violated safety standards in 2020 affected warehouse employees. In other words, warehouse workers registered the highest number of workplace injuries.

With this in mind, here are the top 4 most common warehouse accidents and effective OSHA endorsed safety procedures to help you avert them.

Accident 1- Slips, Trips, and Falls 

Slips, trips, and falls account for 15% of accidental deaths and 25% of reported injury claims every year.

Their prevalence is attributable to the warehouse workplace environment and tasks.

For instance, warehouse floors may have plugged-in devices, protruding furniture, clutter, and spillages. Besides, warehouse workers often operate on lifted surfaces, like flatbed trucks.

A flatbed truck: Example of a common raised work surface in a warehouse

Because of their often fatal outcomes, fall injuries have the highest workers' compensation claims.

Common injuries associated with fall injuries include:

  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Bruising

Preventing Slips, Trips, and Falls 

To prevent fall accidents within the workplace and possible criminal charges, OSHA requires that you provide adequate training and use fall protection systems.

In line with the United States Department of Labor regulations, your training should cover:

  • Fall hazards in the warehouse
  • Employees’ roles in ensuring safety within the warehouse
  • Proper usage and operation of the fall protection systems in place

Worth noting is that different warehouses have different fall hazards. To ensure that you’ve covered all the hazards in your warehouse, begin by listing them according to category.

The table below shows the most common fall hazard categories and the related hazards.

Fall Hazard Category Examples of Dangers to Look Out For
Trip hazards Air hoses and extension cords
Slippery surfaces Water, dust, and oil
Area of operation On top of trucks and rafters
Poor lighting Too much light or too little light

Next, analyze your training needs and institute standard inspection processes.

You’ll also determine the restraint and fall protection devices needed. With this information in mind, you can offer your warehouse workers comprehensive training.

Yet, despite training your employees, you remain liable for any workplace accidents that occur in the warehouse.

That’s why you also need to install effective personal fall arrest systems.

One such system is the NoFalls System that Truck Fall Prevention created to prevent some of the most fatal warehouse accidents—truck flatbed falls.

NoFalls System

Designed to meet OSHA safety guidelines, the personal fall protection system is affordable and easy to set up.

It’ll also save your company a good sum of money as one of our clients found below.

“When a driver nearly sued us after falling from a flatbed truck we knew we had to get serious about safety. Given how easy the NoFalls System is to use, making it mandatory for all drivers is a no-brainer.”
Rabih Elzaroui, Plant Manager, Hercules Drawn Steel. 

Accident 2- Forklift Accidents

Forklifts account for a substantial proportion of general industry accidents. Evidence also shows that forklifts can also result in serious injury within your warehouse.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), around 100 employees die from forklift accidents each year. The institute also notes that an additional 20,000 workers are seriously injured, leading to huge payouts in worker compensation.

Some common warehouse accidents involving forklifts include:

Nature of Fatal Warehouse Accident % of Forklift Accident Victims as per NIOSH
Forklift rolls and ejects people 22%
Forklift strikes warehouse pedestrians 20%
Forklift crushes warehouse users 16%
Warehouse worker falls from forklift 9%

Like other warehouse accidents, a fatal forklift accident will cost your company millions of dollars.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Operating Forklifts 

To avert fatal accidents, OSHA recommends that your warehouse’s forklift operators:

  • Are well trained and licenced
  • Are equipped with safety gears like seatbelts
  • Adhere to assembly instructions on weight capacity 
  • Don’t use the forklift forks to elevate warehouse employees
  • Don’t allow unlicensed people to ride with them on the forklifts
  • Alert other warehouse users, by sounding the horn, at cross aisles
  • Lower the work platform when moving from one location to another
  • Don’t exceed a reasonable speed limit—they should be able to stop the forklift in an emergency

The institution also recognizes that you have a general duty of care to your warehouse employees.

Therefore, it requires that you create a safe work environment by training your workers and availing safety equipment.

It also directs that you don’t assign your employees any duties that may risk their safety and health.

Accident 3- Falling Objects Warehouse Injuries

Falling objects in your warehouse range from steel beams to small hand tools. Accidents associated with these objects are attributable to poor construction practices, employee carelessness, and machinery malfunction.

Some of the most common falling objects injuries include:

  • Sprains
  • Fractures
  • Bruises
  • Head injuries and trauma

When heavy objects fall on your workers' heads or ribs, the injuries can be fatal.

But even when they’re not life threatening, they can lead to disabilities, costing you millions in workers’ compensation.

Preventing Falling Objects Accidents in the Warehouse

You can promote warehouse safety in the workplace by instituting physical and procedural controls.

Physical controls refer to the physical protection systems or deterrents that you use to keep objects in place.

Procedural controls are the guidelines that change how your warehouse workers operate, reducing the risk of fatal accidents.

The table throws light on these controls by providing some great examples of each.

Examples of Physical Controls Examples of Procedural Controls
Guardrails Securing elevated objects within the warehouse environment
Carts with sides Restricting heavy loads to the lower shelves
Teethers Blocking off areas where loads are being hoisted
Barricades Stacking materials on flat surfaces
Non-slip plywood Storing materials 7 feet away from edges

If you’re unsure of the best procedural and physical controls for your warehouse, Truck Fall Prevention provides free consultation.  Contact us today and talk to an expert.

Accident 4- Sprains and Strains

Sprains are injuries affecting the muscles and ligaments that connect your bones to other bones. Workers who have sprain injuries may complain of painful ankles, wrists, and knee joints.

On the other hand, strains refer to injuries that affect the tissue connecting your muscles to your bones.

An ankle sprain Leg muscle strain

Warehouse accident statistics indicate that these injuries are equally common in the warehouse environment.

Both soft tissue injuries can be disabling, and affected workers often require lengthy recovery periods.

Reducing the Risk of Sprain and Strain Accidents in Warehouses

There are three main steps that you can take to minimize these injuries:

  • Provide a design-friendly workspace
  • Use mechanical aids around the warehouse
  • Train employees on proper lifting techniques

Your warehouse should have footrests, height-adjustable chairs, and resilient floor mats for employees who have to stand for long periods.

It should also have step stools and warehouse ladders so workers can use the overhead storage comfortably. 

Workers should also be trained on proper lifting and load handling techniques to reduce the rate of injury.

In addition, you should provide your employees with mechanical aids like hand trucks, conveyors, pallet jacks, and pneumatic lifts.

Take a Quick Quiz to Determine Your Warehouse’s Safety

According to OSHA, most of the common warehouse accidents can be avoided by instituting its outlined safety procedures.

Truck Fall Prevention’s Free Quiz will help you access the risk of the most common and fatal warehouse accidents: fall accidents.

It’ll also:

  • Show you how you measure to your peers
  • Allow you to get personalized safety recommendations

Alternatively, download our free E-book and find out how you can best ensure your worker’s safety.

Featured Image: Flickr by CIFOR