What Are Some Tips for Working Safely in a Warehouse?March 30, 2022
Warehouses are inherently dangerous places to work, and the industry consistently reports the highest fatality rates than any other occupation. The sheer size of the building, height of shelving and racks, moving vehicles, heavy loads, hazardous materials, and thousands of workers create an environment rife with potential hazards.
Typical accidents in a warehouse setting often occur from heavy equipment accidents, objects falling from above, machine entanglement, slip and fall accidents, and chemical exposure.
Employers and warehouse managers know that in this environment safety is of the upmost importance and have established safety protocols to protect their workers. If you are embarking on a new warehouse career or already work in one, it is good practice to educate yourself on the hazards and safety measures to protect yourself and your colleagues.
Steps to Ensure Safety in a Warehouse
- Learn emergency procedures: In an emergency, the most important factor is knowing what to do so you can react immediately. Prior knowledge and understanding of the established procedures reduce panic and confusion and can decrease the number of potential serious personal injury or deaths. Learn the procedures, such as fire safety, hazard communication, and evacuation, and the emergency protocols the employer has implemented. Emergency guidelines and procedures should be given on the first day of employment, but if not, ask for a copy. Study equipment safety manuals, acquaint yourself with the facility, and memorize the layout of the warehouse and the posted safety route maps in case you need to navigate your way to safety in low-visibility situations, such as smoke. Management should also provide regular safety drills throughout the year with the entire department. Practicing what to do in an emergency helps develop response skills when an actual emergency arises.
- Training: Adequate training is a must for those working in dangerous environments. In addition to learning safety measures and life-saving skills, training also teaches employers to be aware of the potential safety hazards and consequences of an unsafe workplace. Workers should train on basic first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), the proper way to utilize machinery and its potential dangers, proper lifting and moving techniques to avoid personal injury, and other important issues. Memorize where fire extinguishers, eye washers, emergency push/kill buttons, chemical showers, safety data sheets, and other safety equipment are located and learn how to use them.
- Training software: Many employers now offer training software that not only instructs but also tracks the users’ training progress.
- Follow procedures: Always follow the procedures you learned in training and do not ignore steps or entire procedures. They were developed to ensure the safety of you and everyone else in the warehouse.
- Wear proper clothing: In warehouse settings, refrain from wearing loose clothing that can be snagged, caught in machinery or pallets, and will not cause you to trip.
- Wear protective equipment: Chances are, personal protective equipment (PPE), such as hard hats or goggles, is already mandated in your workplace and provided in most cases. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has many guidelines employers are required to follow to ensure the safety of the workforce. Protective gear is worn to lessen exposure to worksite hazards that can cause serious injuries, illnesses, and fatalities should you come in contact with them, such as electrical, mechanical, chemical, radiological, and others. Protective gear includes fire-resistant clothing, steel-toe boots, gloves, safety glasses, respirators, vests, coveralls, and full body suits.
- Do not work alone: Rules on this may vary with employers, but in large settings such as warehouses, working alone is generally not preferred. Working alone in such a vast structure can make it difficult for you to call for help if you become injured, particularly in warehouses with machinery running that creates a lot of noise. Should you be alone in a remote area and something falls on top of you, it could be hours before you are discovered. Work in pairs or in a group and always be aware of where others are and what they are doing. In addition, have a spotter to help you and others around you if you are operating large or overhead equipment.
- Stick to your job: Never attempt to perform job duties that you are not trained or licensed to do, particularly operating vehicles. Doing so endangers not only your own life, but also the lives of those around you if you are not familiar with the equipment and its operation. This is a serious violation of OSHA standards, which can lead to your firing and potential consequences to the company. If you are asked to operate something you have not been trained to do, decline and inform them you are not trained to do so.
- Vehicle safety: In warehouses, forklift and lift truck safety is essential to avoid serious injuries such as crushing. According to OSHA, forklift safety measures are the most overlooked standard in warehouses and reports over 95,000 injured workers per year. Operational training, daily inspections, and regular maintenance improve the safety of all warehouse workers.
- Proper lifting: Warehouses are required to follow OSHA’s Ergonomics Standards and Enforcements focusing on heavy lifting, individually and with machinery. Familiarize yourself with the manual for lifting equipment, do not operate recklessly, and never overload them. When not using equipment, do not lift more than you are able and try to avoid repetition while lifting and placing items on shelves or other locations. Repetitive movements can lead to painful injuries. Over 10 percent of warehouse workers suffer from lifting-related injuries. Training on the proper techniques is essential, as is protective equipment such as back braces, gloves, and knee pads.
- Clear the way: Decluttering and relocating items from pathways and aisles help prevent a multitude of potential injuries, especially slip and fall accidents, which are the most common warehouse accidents. Emergency exits should always be clear and accessible, cargo should never be left in a pathway, cords and cables should be secured and covered, liquid spills should be addressed immediately, floors should be swept from debris, and cracks or holes repaired and clearly marked until then.
- Stay alert and focused: Be aware of your surroundings and remain alert for potential dangers to you and those around you. Just like driving, pay attention to lights and signs, look before crossing pathways and aisles, follow floor markings, and always walk through the man-walkway rather than the “streets” designated for forklifts and other vehicles. Just because you can see them does not mean they can see you.
- Hazardous zones: Pay attention to signs and stickers posted throughout the warehouse alerting you to potential safety hazards. They are typically found on equipment, shelves, racks, stairways, vehicles, and any other potentially hazardous location.
- Report: If you witness any of the following, report it:
- Injuries: If you are injured in an accident, no matter how minor it may seem, always report this to your supervisor. If all proper procedures were followed, but you still became injured, there may be faulty equipment that needs to be addressed quickly. If you witness a coworker’s injuries, alert a supervisor immediately and render aid if you are able.
- Unsafe behavior: If you witness a coworker ignoring safety protocols or operating recklessly, no not hesitate to alert a manager out of solidarity. Even minor infractions, such as refusing to wear safety protective gear, could have serious consequences.
- Noncompliance: If you believe your employer is not following OSHA standards in the warehouse, you are guaranteed under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 the right to file a complaint and request an OSHA inspection. You do not have to be certain there is a violation, and your job is also protected from retaliation under the act.
Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Help Protect the Rights of Workers
Working in a warehouse is challenging, including dangers of sustaining an injury. If you were hurt while working in a warehouse, contact the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. Our legal team will investigate the cause of your accident and fight to secure the compensation for which you are entitled. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
Our offices are conveniently located in Baltimore, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent clients throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.