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Warehouse Health and Safety Risks

Chapter 7 provides a detailed discussion of warehouse health and safety risks. These include risks associated with layout, floors, heating, noise, housekeeping, and fire, among other hazards. Review the

Occupational Safety and Health (O.S.H.A) Guide (Links to an external site.)

posted in Required Resources in Week 3, and take note of the 10 standards listed on Page 1 of the Guide.

Select any five out of 10 potential health and safety hazards in warehouse operations listed in the O.S.H.A Guide and present a comprehensive risk assessment relevant to warehouse management. In addition, for each selected risk, provide at least one recommendation on how to mitigate that risk by describing specific methods, policies, procedures, or changes to be made within the warehouse.

OSHA 3220-10N 2004
Think Safety
Hazards & Solutions
• More than 145,000 people work in over 7,000
• The fatal injury rate for the warehousing
industry is higher than the national average
for all industries.
• Potential hazards for workers in warehousing:
• Unsafe use of forklifts;
• Improper stacking of products;
• Failure to use proper personal protective
• Failure to follow proper lockout/tagout
• Inadequate fire safety provisions; or
• Repetitive motion injuries.
Warehouse operations can present a
wide variety of potential hazards for
the worker.
For warehousing establishments, the
10 OSHA standards most frequently
included in the agency’s citations
1 . Forklifts
2. Hazard communication
3. Electrical, wiring methods
4. Electrical, system design
5. Guarding floor & wall openings
and holes
6. Exits
7 . Mechanical power transmission
8. Respiratory protection
9. Lockout/tagout
10. Portable fire extinguishers
Occupational Safety and
Health Administration
U.S. Department of Labor
Occupational Safety and
Health Administration
Hazard: Injuries happen here when forklifts
run off the dock, products fall on employees
or equipment strikes a person.
Hazard: About 100 employees are killed and
95,000 injured every year while operating
forklifts in all industries. Forklift turnovers
account for a significant percentage of these
• Drive forklifts slowly on docks and dock
• Secure dock plates and check to see if the
plate can safely support the load;
• Keep clear of dock edges and never back
up forklifts to the dock’s edge;
• Provide visual warnings near dock edges;
• Prohibit “dock jumping” by employees;
• Make sure that dock ladders and stairs meet
OSHA specifications.
• Train, evaluate and certify all operators to
ensure that they can operate forklifts safely;
• Do not allow anyone under 18 years old to
operate a forklift;
• Properly maintain haulage equipment,
including tires;
• Before using a forklift, examine it for hazardous conditions which would make it
unsafe to operate;
• Follow safe procedures for picking up,
putting down and stacking loads;
• Drive safely, never exceeding 5 mph and
slow down in congested areas or those with
slippery surfaces;
Occupational Safety and
Health Administration
Occupational Safety and
Health Administration
• Ensure that the operator wears a seatbelt
installed by the manufacturer;
• Never drive up to a person standing in front
of a fixed object such as a wall or stacked
• Prohibit stunt driving and horseplay;
• Do not handle loads that are heavier than
the weight capacity of the forklift;
• Remove unsafe or defective trucks from
service until the defect is properly repaired;
• Maintain sufficiently safe clearances for
aisles and at loading docks or passages
where forklifts are used;
• Ensure adequate ventilation either by
opened doors/windows or using a ventilation system to provide enough fresh air to
keep concentrations of noxious gases from
engine exhaust below acceptable limits;
Hazard: Workers can be injured when they
are caught in pinch points or in the in-going
nip points, are hit by falling products or
develop musculoskeletal disorders associated
with awkward postures or repetitive motions.
• Inspect conveyors regularly;
• Ensure that pinch points are adequately
• Develop ways of locking out conveyors and
train employees in these procedures;
• Provide proper lighting and working surfaces in the area surrounding the conveyor.
• Provide covers and/or guardrails to protect
workers from the hazards of open pits,
tanks, vats and ditches;
• Train employees on the hazards associated
with the combustion byproducts of forklift
operation, such as carbon monoxide.
Materials Storage
Hazard: Improperly stored materials may fall
and injure workers.
• Stack loads evenly and straight;
• Place heavier loads on lower or middle
• Remove one object at a time from shelves;
• Keep aisles and passageways clear and in
good repair.
Occupational Safety and
Health Administration
Occupational Safety and
Health Administration
Manual Lifting/Handling
Hazard Communication
Hazard: Back injuries may occur from
improper lifting or overexertion.
Hazard: Chemical burns are possible if spills
of hazardous materials occur.
• Provide general ergonomics training and
task-specific training;
• Maintain a Material Safety Data Sheet
(MSDS) for each chemical to which workers
are exposed in the facility;
• Minimize the need for lifting by using good
design and engineering techniques;
• Lift properly and get a coworker to help if
a product is too heavy.
• Follow instructions on the MSDS for handling chemical products;
• Train employees on the risks of each
chemical being stored;
• Provide spill cleanup kits in any area where
chemicals are stored;
• Have a written spill control plan;
• Train employees to clean up spills, protect
themselves and properly dispose of used
• Provide proper personal protective
equipment and enforce its use;
• Store all chemicals safely and securely;
• Store chemicals away from forklift traffic
Occupational Safety and
Health Administration
Occupational Safety and
Health Administration
Charging Stations
Poor Ergonomics
Hazard: Fires and explosion risks are possible
unless proper guidelines are followed.
Hazard: Improper lifting, repetitive motion or
poor design of operations can lead to musculoskeletal disorders in workers.
• Prohibit smoking and open flames in and
around charging stations;
• Provide adequate ventilation to disperse
fumes from gassing batteries;
• Ensure that fire extinguishers are available
and fully charged;
• Provide proper personal protective
equipment such as rubber gloves and eye
and face protection;
• Properly position forklifts and apply brakes
before attempting to change or charge
batteries; follow required procedures when
refueling gas or propane fueled forklifts;
• Provide conveyors, overhead hoists or
equivalent materials handling equipment
for servicing batteries;
• Provide an eyewashing and safety shower
facility for employees exposed to battery
• If possible, use powered equipment instead
of requiring a manual lift for heavy materials;
• Reduce lifts from shoulder height and from
floor height by repositioning the shelf or bin;
• Ensure overhead lighting is adequate for
the task at hand;
• Provide employees with task-oriented
ergonomic training;
• Use your legs and keep your back in a natural position while lifting;
• Test the load to be lifted to estimate its
weight, size and bulk, and to determine the
proper lifting method;
• Get help if the load exceeds the maximum
weight a person can lift safely without
• Don’t twist while carrying a load, but shift
your feet and take small steps in the direction you want to turn;
• Keep floors clean and free of slip and trip
Occupational Safety and
Health Administration
Occupational Safety and
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Other Hazards
Think Safety Checklists
Inadequate fire safety provisions, improper
use of lockout procedures and failure to wear
personal protective equipment also create
hazards in the warehouse workplace.
Employers should have an emergency plan
that describes what is expected of employees
in the event of an emergency, including:
The following checklists may help
you take steps to avoid hazards that
cause injuries, illnesses and fatalities.
As always, be cautious and seek help
if you are concerned about a potential hazard.
• Provisions for emergency exit locations and
evacuation procedures;
General Safety
• Procedures for accounting for all employees
and visitors;
• Location and use of fire extinguishers and
other emergency equipment.
Warehouse operations need a lockout/tagout
program to prevent equipment from being
accidentally energized and injuring employees.
Employees required to perform these operations should be trained and all employees
should have a working knowledge of the
Finally, management at warehouse operations
needs to conduct a site hazard assessment to
determine what personal protective equipment
(PPE) must be worn based on the hazards
present and train warehouse employees on
proper PPE selection, use and maintenance.
or open loading dock doors and
❏ Exposed
other areas that employees could fall 4
feet or more or walk off should be chained
off, roped off or otherwise blocked.
and aisles are clear of clutter,
❏ Floors
electrical cords, hoses, spills and other
hazards that could cause employees to
slip, trip or fall.
work practices are factored into
❏ Proper
determining the time requirements for an
employee to perform a task.
performing physical work
❏ Employees
have adequate periodic rest breaks
to avoid fatigue levels that could result in
greater risk of accidents and reduced
quality of work.
employees receive general
❏ Newly-hired
ergonomics training and task-specific
❏ The warehouse is well ventilated.
are instructed on how to avoid
❏ Employees
heat stress in hot, humid environments.
are instructed on how to work
❏ Employees
in cold environments.
❏ The facility has lockout/tagout procedures.
Occupational Safety and
Health Administration
Occupational Safety and
Health Administration
Materials Handling Safety
Hazard Communication Safety
are appropriately marked and
❏ There
sufficiently safe clearances for aisles and
at loading docks or passageways where
mechanical handling equipment is used.
materials which might fall
❏ Loose/unboxed
from a pile are properly stacked by blocking, interlocking or limiting the height of
the pile to prevent falling hazards.
containers, bundles, etc. are stored
❏ Bags,
in tiers that are stacked, blocked, interlocked and limited in height so that they
are stable and secure to prevent sliding
or collapse.
areas are kept free from accumu❏ Storage
lation of materials that could lead to tripping, fire, explosion or pest infestations.
vegetation is removed from
❏ Excessive
building entrances, work or traffic areas
to prevent possible trip or fall hazards
due to visual obstructions.
and/or bumper blocks are provided
❏ Derail
on spur railroad tracks where a rolling car
could contact other cars being worked on
and at entrances to buildings, work or
traffic areas.
Covers and/or guardrails are provided to
protect personnel from the hazards of
stair openings in floors, meter or equipment pits and similar hazards.
❏ Personnel use proper lifting techniques.
and hoists for lifting materials/
❏ Elevators
containers are properly used with adequate safe clearances, no obstructions,
appropriate signals and directional warning signs.
Occupational Safety and
Health Administration
hazardous materials containers
❏ All
are properly labeled, indicating the
chemical’s identity, the manufacturer’s
name and address, and appropriate
hazard warnings.
is an updated list of hazardous
❏ There
facility has a written program that
❏ The
covers hazard determination, including
Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs),
labeling and training.
is a system to check that each
❏ There
incoming chemical is accompanied by
employees are trained in the require❏ All
ments of the hazard communication
standard, the chemical hazards to which
they are exposed, how to read and
understand a MSDS and chemical labels,
and on what precautions to take to
prevent exposure.
❏ All employee training is documented.
outside contractors are given a com❏ All
plete list of chemical products, hazards
and precautions.
have been established to
❏ Procedures
maintain and evaluate the effectiveness
of the current program.
use proper personal protective
❏ Employees
equipment when handling chemicals.
chemicals are stored according to the
❏ All
manufacturer’s recommendations and
local or national fire codes.
Occupational Safety and
Health Administration
Forklift Safety
industrial trucks (forklifts) meet
❏ Powered
the design and construction requirements
established in American National
Standard for Powered Industrial Trucks,
Part II ANSI B56.1-1969.
approval from the truck
❏ Written
manufacturer has been obtained for any
are properly positioned and
❏ Forklifts
brakes applied before workers start to
change or charge batteries.
❏ Vent caps are properly functioning.
are taken to prevent smoking,
❏ Precautions
open flames, sparks or electric arcs in
battery charging areas and during storage/changing of propane fuel tanks.
changed to specify any modifications or
additions to the vehicle.
and other metallic objects are kept
❏ Tools
away from the top of uncovered batteries.
of noxious gases and
❏ Concentrations
fumes are kept below acceptable levels.
operators are competent to oper❏ Forklift
ate a vehicle safely as demonstrated by
and markings are in place
❏ Nameplates
and maintained in a legible condition.
that are used in hazardous loca❏ Forklifts
tions are appropriately marked/approved
successful completion of training and
evaluation conducted and certified by
persons with the knowledge, training and
experience to train operators and evaluate their performance.
modifications or additions that affect
the capacity and safe operation of the
operation and maintenance
❏ Capacity,
instruction plates, tags or decals are
for such use.
facilities are provided
❏ Appropriate
for flushing and neutralizing spilled
Battery charging is conducted only in
designated areas.
electrolytes, for fire extinguishing, for
protecting charging apparatus from
damage by trucks and for adequate
ventilation to disperse fumes from
gassing batteries.
Conveyors, overhead hoists or equivalent
materials handling equipment are provided
for handling batteries.
batteries are properly
❏ Reinstalled
positioned and secured.
tilters or siphons are used for
❏ Carboy
handling electrolytes.
Occupational Safety and
Health Administration
training program content includes
❏ The
all truck-related topics, workplace-related
topics and the requirements of 29 CFR
1910.178 for safe truck operation.
training and evaluation is
❏ Refresher
conducted whenever an operator has
been observed operating the vehicle in
an unsafe manner or has been involved
in an accident or a near-miss incident.
training and evaluation is
❏ Refresher
conducted whenever an operator is
assigned to drive a different type of truck
or whenever a condition in the workplace
changes in a manner that could affect
safe operation of the truck.
of each operator’s perfor❏ Evaluations
mance are conducted at least once every
three years.
Occupational Safety and
Health Administration
engaging means are fully lowered,
❏ Load
with controls neutralized, power shut
Warehouse Safety &
Health Resources
off and brakes set when a forklift is left
Operators maintain a safe distance from
the edge of ramps or platforms while
using forklifts on any elevated dock,
platform or freight car.
There is sufficient headroom for the forklift and operator under overhead installations, lights, pipes, sprinkler systems, etc.
guards are provided in good
❏ Overhead
condition to protect forklift operators
from falling objects.
observe all traffic regulations,
❏ Operators
including authorized plant speed limits.
are required to look in the direc❏ Drivers
tion of and keep a clear view of the path
of travel.
run their trucks at a speed that
❏ Operators
will permit the vehicle to stop in a safe
boards (bridge plates) are properly
❏ Dock
secured when loading or unloading from
dock to truck.
❏ Stunt driving and horseplay are prohibited.
loads are stable, safely arranged and
❏ All
fit within the rated capacity of the truck.
fill fuel tanks only when the
❏ Operators
engine is not running.
parts of trucks are equivalent
❏ Replacement
in terms of safety with those used in the
original design.
are examined for safety before
❏ Trucks
being placed into service and unsafe
Most resource materials can be found
on the OSHA website: www.osha.gov
Materials Handling
Materials Handling and Storage
OSHA Publication 2236 (Revised 2002).
559KB PDF, 40 pages.
A comprehensive guide to hazards and safe
work practices in handling materials.
Electrical Hazards
Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout)
OSHA Publication 3120 (Revised 2002).
174 KB PDF, 45 pages.
This booklet presents OSHA’s general requirements for controlling hazardous energy during
service or maintenance of machines or equipment.
Controlling Electrical Hazards
OSHA Publication 3075 (Revised 2002).
349KB PDF, 71 pages.
This publication provides an overview of basic
electrical safety on the job.
Safety and Health Topics: Lockout/Tagout
OSHA website index to information about
lockout/tagout, including hazard recognition,
compliance, standards and directives, Review
Commission and Administrative Law Judge
Decisions, standard interpretations and
Compliance Letters, compliance assistance
and training.
or defective trucks are removed from
Occupational Safety and
Health Administration
Occupational Safety and
Health Administration
Evacuation Plans and Procedures
An eTool designed to help small, low-hazard
service or retail businesses implement an emergency action plan and comply with OSHA’s
emergency standards.
Fire Safety
Safety and Health Topics: Fire Safety
OSHA website index to information on fire safety.
Fire Safety Advisor
OSHA’s Fire Safety Advisor is an interactive
expert software. It will help explain and apply
OSHA’s Fire Safety-related standards. It can
be used online or is available for download.
Forklift Safety
Safety and Health Topics: Powered
Industrial Trucks
OSHA website index links to specific requirements and other Federal agency requirements.
Sample Daily Checklists for Powered Industrial Trucks
Preventing Injuries and Deaths of Workers
Who Work Near Forklifts
NIOSH Alert Pub. No. 2001-109 (June 2001).
This alert instructs workers in the steps they can
take to protect themselves near forklifts. It is also
available as a downloadable PDF document.
Occupational Safety and
Health Administration
Protecting Young Workers: Prohibition
Against Young Workers Operating Forklifts
OSHA Safety and Health Bulletin (2003), 4
pages. Available as a PDF document, 109 KB.
Hazard Communication
OSHA’s website index for resources on hazard
More Hazard Communication
Frequently Asked Questions for Hazard
Communication. OSHA, 6 pages.
Hazard Communication Standard.
OSHA Fact Sheet (1993), 3 pages.
Hazard Communication Guidelines for
Compliance. OSHA Publication 3111 (2000), 112
KB PDF, 33 pages.
This document aids employers in understanding
the Hazard Communication standard and in
implementing a hazard communication program.
Chemical Hazard Communication. OSHA
Publication 3084 (1998), 248 KB PDF, 31 pages.
This booklet answers several basic questions
about chemical hazard communication.
NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards.
Handy source of general industrial hygiene
information on several hundred chemicals/
classes for workers, employers and occupational health professionals.
Occupational Safety and
Health Administration
Warehouse Industry
Safety and Health Topics: Ergonomics
OSHA website index to resources and publications on ergonomics.
Cooperative Programs
Grocery Warehousing – Ergonomics
An e-tool specific for warehousing operations in
the grocery industry.
Personal Protective Equipment
Safety and Health Topics:
Personal Protective Equipment
OSHA’s website index to hazard recognition,
control and training related to personal protective equipment.
Personal Protective Equipment. OSHA
Publication 3151 (2004), 695KB PDF, 44 pages.
Discusses equipment most commonly used for
protection for the head, including eyes and face,
and the torso, arms, hands and feet. The use of
equipment to protect against life-threatening
hazards is also discussed.
Voluntary Protection Programs
Numerous VPP worksites that OSHA
recognizes for their excellent safety and health
management systems deal with the hazards
of warehousing and storage. These model
worksites are willing to share their expertise
and many are available to mentor other
businesses. For further information on how
VPP participants can help you, contact the VPP
Manager in your OSHA Regional Office or the
Voluntary Protection Programs Participants’
Association, 7600-E Leesburg Pike, Suite 440,
Falls Church, VA 22043, telephone (703) 7611146.
Alliance Program
Alliances enable organizations committed to
workplace safety and health to collaborate
with OSHA to prevent injuries and illnesses in
the workplace. A number of Alliances have
an impact on the warehousing industry,
including the following:
Retail Industry Leaders Association
The OSHA Alliance with the Retail Industry
Leaders Association (RILA) is focused on
Occupational Safety and
Health Administration
Occupational Safety and
Health Administration
sharing safety and health best practices and
technical knowledge, including ergonomics in
retail warehousing and distribution facilities.
NJ Warehouse
Operation A Success Story
Industrial Truck Association
The Industrial Truck Association (ITA) and
OSHA also have an Alliance to promote the
safe operation of powered industrial trucks
through training and outreach. The goal of the
Alliance is to assist employers and employees
in reducing and preventing exposure to
potential hazards associated with the use of
powered industrial trucks in general, and in
warehouses in particular.
International Warehouse Logistics Association
OSHA and the International Warehouse
Logistics Association (IWLA) work together
to protect employees’ safety and health,
including hard-to-reach youth workers. The
Alliance addresses materials handling, forklift
safety, hazard communication and other
issues unique to the public warehouse industry.
National Lumber and Building Material
Dealers Association
OSHA has an Alliance with the National
Lumber and Building Material Dealers
Association (NLBMDA) to increase overall
safety awareness in that industry while
specifically addressing recordkeeping issues,
preventing forklift accidents and avoiding
lifting strains.
Occupational Safety and
Health Administration
OSHA recommendations result in
immediate, high payoff for an East
Coast warehouse operation.
Injury Reduction
Recently, a New Jersey warehouse operation
had been averaging two back injuries a
month. After adopting several OSHA
recommendations for reducing ergonomic
risk factors specific to their operations, the
company reported zero back injuries.
Boosting Morale & Productivity
And there was another benefit from adopting
OSHA’s recommendations. According to the
Marlton, NJ OSHA area office, company
sources reported that both the morale and
productivity of the company’s 50 warehouse
employees had subsequently increased.
Ongoing Help
As part of OSHA’s ongoing efforts to do a
better job in promoting workers’ safety and
health, the agency has developed a program
to help identify certain industries that have
exceptionally high injury rates. One of these
industries is warehousing. By identifying
these workplaces, OSHA is better able to
assist businesses in reducing their high injury
rates. Through the Site Specific Targeting
Plan, OSHA performs a comprehensive
evaluation of a workplace and, with the help
of its technical experts, helps the employer
develop a plan for improving its employees’
safety and health.
Occupational Safety and
Health Administration
Specific Recommendations
Feasible Controls
OSHA’s recommendations were developed
specifically for this New Jersey warehouse
operation by OSHA’s Salt Lake City Technical
Support Center following an inspection of the
186,000 square foot facility under the
agency’s Site Specific Targeting Plan which
included a comprehensive walkaround of the
workplace and a review of its injury records.
In OSHA’s detailed evaluation, each hazard
was carefully described, including photographs illustrating the task to help clearly
show the hazard. For each hazard, OSHA
specialists detailed several feasible controls.
These were straightforward, easy-to-implement actions such as:
Avoiding MSDs
• Providing stools or ladders to employees;
OSHA compliance officers worked with
experts at the Salt Lake City Center to tailor
specific recommendations to address the
potential ergonomic risk factors they
observed. Specialists at Salt Lake City
analyzed the warehouse’s various operations
and recommended 19 steps, known as
“feasible controls,” that the employer could
take to help employees to avoid musculosketal disorders (MSDs).
Hazards Identified
Some of the hazards identified by OSHA
• Employees had to reach elevated and
distant locations in storage shelves to
access materials;
• Adjusting the height of shelves;
• Reducing the depth of shelving;
• Raising loading heights;
• Evaluating the flow and volume of orders
so faster-moving products are placed on
easier-to-reach shelves.
Also, OSHA’s evaluation report detailed a list
of available resources, including on-site
consultation visits, that the company could
use in developing improved ways to prevent
The company adopted 13 of the 19 feasible
controls that OSHA recommended. And the
result, thus far, speaks for itself: a perfect zero
for back injuries, improved productivity and
higher employee morale.
• Workers had to repeatedly bend to reach
low-level locations at floor level to access
• Employees were lifting and placing heavy
boxes onto pallets placed on the floor;
• Employees were performing forceful finger
tasks with their wrists in bent postures
while pricing products at poorly designed
Occupational Safety and
Health Administration
Occupational Safety and
Health Administration
Occupational Safety and
Health Administration
U.S. Department of Labor
OSHA’s role is to assure the safety and health of
America’s workers by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach and education;
establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual improvement in workplace safety and
This informational booklet provides a general
overview of a particular topic related to OSHA
standards. It does not alter or determine compliance responsibilities in OSHA standards or the
Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.
Because interpretations and enforcement policy
may change over time, you should consult current
OSHA administrative interpretations and decisions
by the Occupational Safety and Health Review
Commission and the Courts for additional guidance on OSHA compliance requirements.
This publication is in the public domain and may
be reproduced, fully or partially, without permission. Source credit is requested but not required.
This information is available to sensory impaired
individuals upon request. Voice phone: (202) 6931999; teletypewriter (TTY) number: (877) 889-5627.

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