and Health Administration
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 were:
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 fatalities.
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.
Hazard: Improperly stored materials may fall and injure workers.
Hazard: Back injuries may occur from improper lifting or overexertion.
Hazard: Chemical burns are possible if spills of hazardous materials occur.
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.
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:
Warehouse operations need a lockout/tagout program to prevent equipment from being accidentally energized and injuring employees. Employees required to perform these opera-tions should be trained and all employees should have a working knowledge of the program.
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.
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.
Most resource materials can be found on the OSHA website:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Protecting Young Workers: Prohibition Against Young Workers Operating Forklifts
OSHA Safety and Health Bulletin (2003), 4 pages. Available as a PDF document, 109 KB.
OSHA's website index for resources on hazard communication.
Frequently Asked Questions for Hazard Communication. OSHA, 6 pages.
Hazard Communication Standard.
OSHA Fact Sheet (1993), 3 pages. //Removed link to factsheet that was removed
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.
Safety and Health Topics: Ergonomics
OSHA website index to resources and publications on ergonomics.
Grocery Warehousing - Ergonomics
An e-tool specific for warehousing operations in the grocery industry.
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.
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) 761-1146.
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 sharing safety and health best practices and technical knowledge, including ergonomics in retail warehousing and distribution facilities.
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.
OSHA recommendations result in immediate, high payoff for an East Coast warehouse operation.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Some of the hazards identified by OSHA included:
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:
Also, OSHA's evaluation report detailed a list of available resources, including onsite consultation visits, that the company could use in developing improved ways to prevent injuries.
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.
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 health.
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.
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U.S. Department of Labor
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