How can the Most Common Warehouse Accidents be Prevented?

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Warehouse Accidents

The United States had more than 827,000 workers operating more than 400,000 warehouses in 2018. Those workers and warehouses enable commerce to occur and are essential to the nation’s economy. Without warehouses and the people who make them work efficiently, the national economy would slow to a crawl.

A busy warehouse is one in which workers are under constant pressure to move freight in and out as quickly and efficiently as possible. As with all things that involve humans, errors occur. When errors happen, workers wind up injured.

The following suggestions help to prevent warehouse accidents and injuries.

High Injury Rates Afflict Warehouse Workers

Although the nation’s economy depends on warehouses to enable effective distribution at the local level, workplace injuries are impacting warehouse workers at fairly high rates. The U.S. Department of Labor says that slip and fall incidents account for the majority of general accidents at warehouses and other work locations.

The U.S. Department of Labor says the top five accident locations or causes within warehousing systems are:

  • Docks
  • Forklifts
  • Conveyors
  • Materials storage
  • Lifting and handling items

A combination of worker errors, faulty equipment, and ignoring safety procedures are especially problematic and cause many of the worker injuries that are reported in warehouses across the United States. Fortunately, those causes have some effective solutions to prevent them from injuring more warehouse workers.

Recommended Solutions for Common Warehousing Injuries

Identifying common causes of warehouse injuries and training workers to prevent accidents could help to greatly reduce injuries and lost time. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says the following warehouse areas and commonly occurring injuries are preventable and offers tips for reducing their occurrences.

Docks. OSHA says warehouse dock injuries usually happen when workers drive forklifts off the docks, items fall on workers, or they get hit by moving equipment. The solutions for preventing warehouse dock accidents include slowing down while using forklifts on warehouse docks and the docking plates that lead into trailers.

Dock plates must be secure and fully capable of handling the loads that you intend to take across them. Visual warnings that highlight dock edges help to stop forklifts from going over the side. You never should jump from one loading dock to the next, and you should clean up any spills or debris right away to prevent slip and fall accidents.

Forklift accidents. Forklift accidents kill about 100 workers and injure 95,000 others each year across all industries in the United States. You never should back up the forklift to the dock edges. It is far too easy to misjudge distance while backing up, and forklifts weigh a lot, especially when handling a load.

OSHA advises workplaces to train and certify all forklift operators and give them regular safety and equipment updates. Regular equipment maintenance helps to ensure forklifts are capable of doing the work safely. You also must make sure the loads are stacked properly with weight evenly distributed to prevent tip-overs and drops that could cause injuries or death.

When all forklift drivers are certified and recertified annually, they are continually trained. The training includes giving forklift drivers safety reminders and updates on equipment and usage procedures. Recertification also enables forklift drivers to prove they have the knowledge needed to safely operate a forklift.

OSHA also advises forklift drivers to never drive toward another worker who has a wall or merchandise located behind him or her. Forklifts weigh a great deal so that they can counterbalance heavy loads lifted from high up in pallet racks. When a forklift heads toward another worker, it might not stop. A malfunction might cause it to keep rolling. The driver also could make an error and not stop.

When a forklift continues rolling toward a worker who has a wall or other immovable object behind him or her, a crushing injury could occur. That includes the potential for death as well as permanently disabling injuries. Consistent supervision and training could help to prevent such warehouse accidents with forklifts.

Conveyors. Conveyors help to move products within warehouses and onto and off delivery vehicles. Conveyors can move a large about of product in a short time. They often require workers to use their hands to place or remove items. Whenever the hands are in use with items on a conveyor, crushing injuries might occur. A badly broken hand or other body part could be costly to treat and put a worker out of action for a long time. Some basic safety precautions can help to prevent that from happening.

Pinch points, nip points, and falling objects could cause immediate injuries or death. Improper lifting, repetitively doing the same motions, and working in odd positions all contribute to injuries that could occur while working with conveyors. Some workers also can develop skeletal disorders that are especially painful and difficult to treat.

Among recommended solutions for reducing injuries caused by conveyors is to inspect the conveyors regularly to ensure they are in good operating condition. Pinch points must be guarded to make it virtually impossible to get a hand or other body part caught in a pinch point.

Good lighting makes it easier to identify potential danger areas, and suitable flooring helps to prevent slip and fall injuries. OSHA says workers should be trained in lockout procedures for conveyors and given regular training updates to make sure they remember important safety protocols.

Materials storage and manual lifting/handling. Improperly stored goods are a danger to warehouse workers. Something as simple as stacking a pallet properly makes a big difference in how that load acts when moved. Some materials are too heavy to store high in pallet racks, and others need special handling to prevent spills, drops, or other mishaps.

OSHA says back injuries commonly occur in warehouses when workers improperly lift and move heavy items. Overexertion also can cause muscle injuries and other soft tissue damage. Back pain never is pleasant, and pulled or strained muscles can be very painful. Fortunately, most injuries arising from lifting and handling warehouse merchandise heal relatively quickly, but a slipped disk or similar back injury could be more problematic.

The solution is to ensure workers are properly trained in correct lifting procedures and have safety equipment available to help. A back or kidney brace can help to prevent commonly occurring back injuries. Handcarts and gloves help to reduce load sizes and protect hands against crushing injuries and are among many easily obtained items that could reduce lifting and materials handling injuries.

Hazard Communication

Chemical spills can cause burns and serious injuries that might permanently disable a worker. Chemical spills might involve liquid products or dry products that contain chemicals or other active agents that might injure or otherwise harm a warehouse worker if an accident were to occur. A chemical burn might cause topical injuries, such as a chemical burn, or could have more lasting effects, especially if chemicals get into the eyes or affect other body parts that are especially prone to injury.

Preventing chemical spills often means ensuring workers and managers clearly communicate to make the hazards known. How to handle the loads, proper storage, and ways to treat potential chemical burns all can help to reduce the instances and costs of chemical spills and other workplace hazards by using simple hazard communication.

Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Help Injured Workers Recover

Warehouse workers across the nation continually face similar safety challenges that cause many to suffer injuries and lose time from work. Many workers even are killed or permanently disabled by commonly occurring warehousing injuries that could be prevented. If you or someone you know is injured on the job, the skilled Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton can help you file and obtain full recovery for warehousing injuries. Call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to learn more and schedule a free consultation.

Located in Baltimore, we serve clients throughout Maryland.