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6 Essential Warehouse Safety Rules to be OSHA Compliant

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 145,000 people work in over 7,000 warehouses. However, there has been a steady rise in warehouse-related injuries and fatalities every year.

Statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that in 2015, there were 11 worker fatalities related to warehouses. This figure increased in 2016 when the warehouse-related deaths rose to16.

In 2019, the rate of warehousing worker injury stood at 4.4 per 100 full-time workers.

Statistics show that the warehousing sector has the second-highest death cases in the private sector. In addition, the fatal injury rate in the warehousing industry ranks the highest in the national average for all industries.

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 The key areas of risk among warehouse workers include:

  • Failing to make use of appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment)
  • Not adhering to forklift safety best practices
  •  Failing to follow the laid down tagout/lockout procedures
  •  Products that are improperly stacked
  •  Insufficient provisions on fire safety

To minimize fatal warehouse injuries, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has developed warehouse safety standards that all warehouses must observe.

Safety Rules on Forklifts

Safe use of forklifts in a warehouse

According to statistics from OSHA, forklift accidents cause 100 employee deaths and 95,000 injuries every year. To curb this, OSHA has developed health and safety rules to govern this particular sector.

They include:

  • All operators must be trained and certified
  •  Forklifts should be inspected before use
  •  Forklifts should be driven at a speed not exceeding 5 mph
  • A forklift should not be overloaded or lifted above an unsafe height
  • A forklift should be operated in a well-lit area that is devoid of warehouse hazards
  • There should be designated paths for forklifts to travel
  • Ensures that all workers not using the forklift are aware when it’s in operation
  • Other than the forklift operators, no other worker should be allowed to operate the forklift

Common forklift-related injuries, according to the National Safety Council injury facts include:

Injury Prevalence
Fractures 19%
Bruises, contusions 14%
20%
Soreness, pain 20%
Cuts, lacerations, punctures 9%
Multiple traumatic injuries 5%
Amputations 1%

Safety Rules on Hazard Communication

The spilling of hazardous materials can cause safety risks such as chemical burns. For this reason, there is demand for chemical manufacturers and distributors to provide information on the dangerous chemicals in their products.

In the same vein, OSHA warehouse safety tips place a demand on all warehouse establishments to:

  • Carry proper training for all employees about the dangers of all hazardous chemicals in the warehouse
  • Ensure there is a written spill control plan
  • Keep all chemicals at a specific distance from forklift traffic areas
  • Ensure all chemicals are stored safely and securely 
  • Keep a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for all chemicals
  • Ensure employees follow all the instructions on the MSDS to the letter
  • Have spill cleanup kits where chemicals are stored
  • Provide adequate training to all employees on how to clean up spills and dispose of used chemicals properly

Safety Rules and Respiratory Protection

OSHA warehouse safety procedures require that warehouse employers provide all employees with the proper PPE equipment.

Toxic airborne substances are common in warehouse environments. Such environments call for the use of respirators at all times.

Dust, pesticides, sprays, and fumes are toxins that can cause long-term health challenges or even death.

OSHA warehouse safety programs demand that employees be properly trained on how to use personal safety equipment. Some personal safety equipment includes:

  • Eye and face protection: An employer should provide safety glasses plus other face and eye protection to workers. Eye and face protection are crucial for employees who work with harmful chemicals or concrete.
  • Foot protection: Employees should have boots that are slip and puncture-resistant (steel toe). Such boots can also protect workers from crushed toes caused by falling objects.
  • Hand protection: Employees should use work gloves. For workers who are at risk of electrical dangers, insulated gloves are appropriate.
  • Head protection: Warehouse workers should have hard hats to protect them from falling objects or fixed objects that cause bumps to the head.
  • Hearing protection: Earmuffs and earplugs are crucial for those working in loud areas or around loud machinery.

Safety Rules on Stacking/Loading and Unloading

Loading and unloading in a warehouse

When materials are improperly stored, they become a safety concern as they may fall and cause injuries to workers. OSHA outlines safety rules that govern material handling during loading and unloading, in standard number 1910.176(b).)

These rules dictate that:

  • The materials stored in tiers should be blocked, stacked, or interlocked to avoid sliding, falling, or collapsing
  • The maximum safe load limits must be observed, especially in the weight of stored materials
  • In all storage areas, employers should post maximum safe load limits for floors within the building and structures
  • Heavier loads must be stacked on lower shelves
  • Ensure there are no trip hazards in the storage areas
  • Loads must be stacked evenly and straight
  • Ensure you remove one item at a time
  • For greater stability, cross-tier loads
  • Ensure you paint walls to show the maximum stacking height
  • Materials that could cause fire or explosions should be kept in designated areas

Safety Rules on Portable Fire Extinguishers

To be OSHA warehouse safety compliant, warehouse owners must have fire extinguishers on site. Portable extinguishers ensure that small fire hazards do not get out of control.

The table below outlines the leading causes of warehouse fires (2014-2018 averages) and their prevalence:

Cause Prevalence
Electrical distribution and lighting system 19%
Intentional 15%
Heating equipment 10%
Shop tools and industrial equipment (excluding torch, burner or soldering irons) 10%
Torch, burner or soldering iron 6%
Exposure 6%
Cooking 5%
Smoking materials 4%
Spontaneous combustion or chemical reaction 4%
Fan or air conditioner 4%

As an employer, you need to keep portable fire extinguishers on hand around your warehouse. Moreover, ensure that they remain fully charged and accessible.

The chemical composition in fire extinguishers responds to four classes of fire:

  • Class A: Combustibles such as plastics, cloth, paper, or wood.
  • Class B: Combustible liquids, flammable gases, or grease.
  • Class C: Electrical appliances.
  • Class D: Combustible metals. Examples of such metals include magnesium, titanium, potassium, sodium, and lithium.

What you store in your warehouse determines the type of fire extinguisher appropriate for you.

A multipurpose fire extinguisher would be appropriate if your warehouse has combustible liquid, paper, and electronics. You can acquire one that fights Class A, B, and C fires.

According to the OSHA warehouse safety program, there should be a fire extinguisher accessible every 75 feet. This requirement is mainly for Class A models.

If you are using the class B fire extinguishers, place them no more than 50 feet apart.

Class D fire extinguishers can be placed using the spacing of either Class A or Class B.

Mark the location where you have placed the fire extinguishers to ensure your employees can access them effortlessly. You should also offer your workers warehouse safety training on their use.

Inspect all fire extinguishers once every month. Also, ensure you have a replacement before you take any fire extinguisher out for repair.

Safety Rules on Electrical Wiring Methods and System Design

OSHA safety regulations also dictate the electricity wiring methods and system design in your warehouse.

Poorly installed electrical cables can be a fire hazard. Proper wiring methods are critical in preventing short circuits or sparks.

OSHA regulation 1910.304 stipulates what rules to observe in wiring and design.

In this regulation, OSHA provides rules for grounding electrical connections correctly. Likewise, it details how to inspect electrical outlets and plugs before use for any signs of damage.

This standard also sets the maximum loads for outlets, and requires an employer make use of circuit breakers to avoid overloading outlets.

Moreover, regulation 1910.305 offers safety awareness of proper wiring methods. It also includes stipulations on how to run wires safely across your warehouse using tracks and wire trays.

Warehouse Safety Checklists for OSHA Compliance

Ensuring that your warehouse is OSHA compliant is critical. This checklist outlines the basic standard operating procedures to be followed:

  • Train all warehouse employees on how to work in extreme or cold conditions
  • Give your employees sufficient breaks
  • Ergonomic training must be given to all new employees
  • Keep the warehouse floor clean and clear of anything that can cause slips, trips and falls
  • Any open dock where a worker can fall 4 or more feet must be chained off, roped off, or blocked
  • Set realistic and attainable goals for your employees
  • Ensure your warehouse has proper procedures for lockout/tagout
  • Every employee workstation should have emergency buttons or pull cords for conveyors
  • Train employees on proper hazard emergency procedures
  • Instruct your employees on safety vernacular and terminology
  • Install a personal fall protection system such as that by Truck Fall Prevention

Determine Your Warehouse Safety Today

According to OSHA, warehouse accidents can be minimized if employers adhere to warehouse safety measures.

You can easily determine the risk level of your warehouse through Truck Fall Prevention’s Free Quiz.

Alternatively, our free eBook will help you significantly in ensuring worker safety.



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