Each day, thousands of Oklahomans spend their day working in warehouses across the state, helping store and distribute everything from food for grocer’s shelves to what consumers order on Amazon. Since the beginning of 2018, the United States has seen an increase of warehouse workers, up about 1 million, in an industry where about 5% of employees suffer injuries each year.
For those new to working in a warehouse, or those who’ve been there for years, being aware of workplace safety hazards is critical. Here are five of the top warehouse workplace hazards and how to avoid an injury from them:
About 95,000 workers are injured using forklifts each year in the United States; 100 are killed. It is imperative that forklift operators receive yearly training, evaluation and certification. Operators should be at least 18 and never drive more than five miles per hour. Forklifts also need proper maintenance and inspections to ensure they are safe to operate.
Workers can suffer injuries from conveyors if they get their arms or hands caught in pinch points or the in-going nip points. They also can receive repetitive stress injuries from having awkward postures or from repetitive motions from conveyor belt-associated work. To avoid workers having a finger, hand or arm caught in a conveyor, conveyors should have pinch point guards installed. Employees also should receive training on how to stop a conveyor in an emergency.
- Dock areas
A warehouse’s dock area is another spot where workers often suffer injuries. Forklifts can run off the docks, products can fall on employees or other equipment can strike employees. That’s why forklift operators need to drive slowly in in dock areas and never back up near the dock’s edge. Warehouse management should install visual warnings near dock edges, prohibit employees from jumping from docks and make sure the dock ladder and stairs meet OSHA standards.
- Manual lifting/handling
Lifting and handling heavy boxes can lead to worker back injuries. Employees should receive proper ergonomic training on how to handle boxes and get another employee’s help if a box is too heavy to lift alone. Wearhouse design should minimize the use of manual lifting to further prevent worker injuries.
- Hazardous chemicals
Warehouse workers may encounter hazardous chemicals on the job. Employees need training on the risks of exposure to these chemicals and should use personal protective equipment when handling them. Employees also should know how to clean up spills of these chemicals and how to dispose them.
Working in a warehouse can be fast-paced. However, workers should take the time to be cautious and minimize the risks of suffering an injury on the job because of common warehouse hazard.