According to data compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the various sectors within the warehousing industry have the highest occupational industry incidents rates in the country. It might be an unsettling truth, but you can rest assured that all warehouses operating within the United States are held to very stringent standards.
Each year, governing bodies, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), make the necessary adjustments to ensure that the associates working in the warehousing and manufacturing industries follow the safest-known practices, in the most secure facilities possible. The governing bodies regularly conduct safety audits to confirm that each and every warehouse is, in fact, following the best practices stipulated.
Having said that, general, day-to-day safety also falls on the shoulders of warehouse associates. Here are 8 practical safety tips via OSHA’s Worker Safety Series: Warehousing, that all warehouse workers should follow during their shifts:
- Wear personal protective gear
- Report injuries immediately
- Never perform duties you are not trained/licensed to do
- Follow proper lifting techniques
- Pay attention when crossing aisles
- Get to know all emergency procedures
- Report unsafe behavior
- Report noncompliance to OSHA
Now that you’ve learned a bit about why warehouse safety is such an important issue, let’s look at how you can stay safe at work:
1. Wear personal protective gear
Examples of these items might include safety goggles, hard hats, fire-resistant clothing, steel-toe boots, earplugs, and leather work gloves. Typically, warehouse employees will be allocated safety gear upon hire, but contractors, and those working through temp agencies or on-demand staffing platforms like Wonolo may be expected to supply their own. Always double-check the company policy prior to the beginning of the shift.
2. Report injuries immediately
This includes something as seemingly inconsequential as a minor burn or small cut. If a workhouse associate were following procedures to a “T,” there is no reason to sustain injuries, which means that a piece of equipment or work process might be faulty. To avoid further injury, be sure to report any and all problems to management immediately.
3. Never performed duties you are not trained/licensed to do
This is one of the cardinal rules in OSHA’s handbook, Worker Safety Series: Warehousing. Throughout its pages, the governing body states that, under no circumstance, should a worker attempt to complete a task for which they have not yet been fully trained and/or licensed, especially when it comes to vehicle operation. Simply put, if a colleague or manager instructs you to perform a task that you have not been signed off to do, do NOT attempt to do it.
4. Follow proper lifting techniques
OSHA has a set of standards associated with ergonomics, which features a section on heavy lifting in warehouse environments. The nation’s warehouses are required to follow practices and provide training to their employees on this matter. If you are a contractor or a member of an on-demand staffing platform who might be exempt from this special training, be sure to educate yourself on OSHA’s Ergonomics Standards and Enforcements.
5. Pay attention when crossing aisles
If you’ve spent time working in warehouses, then you know that warehouse aisleways are some of the most hazardous areas in the building. They are the “streets” of the warehouse in which pieces of heavy machinery and vehicles are on the move. Remember to look both ways and pay close attention to all visual indicators, like lights, floor markings, and illuminated signs.
6. Get to know all emergency procedures
All warehouse workers should be thoroughly trained on important safety protocol, such as evacuation procedures, hazard communication, fire safety procedures, and more. Get acquainted with all facility protocol, and if it’s not provided to you, ask your manager.
7. Report unsafe behavior
There’s no room for unsafe behavior in a warehouse environment. If you have witnessed or know someone who has witnessed a colleague failing to follow safety protocol, report this person to your manager. Even the most seemingly insignificant breaches, such as unwillingness to wear protective gear, could lead to major occupational hazards.
8. Report noncompliance to OSHA
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employees and their representatives have “the right to file a complaint and request an OSHA inspection of their workplace if they believe there is a serious hazard or their employer is not following OSHA standards.” Take note, that the worker does not need to be sure that a standard has been violated. If you have reason to believe that a warehouse is not following proper safety procedures, file a complaint online, by fax/mail, or by telephone.
A warehouse is only as safe as the least safe person who works in it. Be sure to keep all protocol in mind during the work day – and do your best to hold those around you to the same standards, too!