How productivity declines when cargo loading and unloading workplace injuries increase
Most modern warehouses are hazardous work environments where the number of fatalities and serious injuries have increased in recent years. Many of the potential dangers involved in working in a warehouse are overlooked because workers tend to become comfortable in the environment. A lack of caution and inattention to detail is often at the root cause of most workplace injuries.
Most warehouse-related accidents happen when workers are working near conveyors, on docks or around forklifts. According to statistics maintained by the U.S. Bureau of Labor thousands of individuals are injured and scores of workers lose their lives every year in warehouse accidents. Some of these statistics include:
- On average in 2012, there were nearly 4 serious warehouse working injuries for every 100 workers nationwide.
- Musculoskeletal injuries have increased significantly in recent years.
- Sprains, strains and muscle tears are some of the leading serious injuries occurring to warehouse workers in the U.S.
The incident rate of serious injuries raises awareness of what steps can be done to avoid debilitating injuries in warehouse environments. Even though employers have a legal responsibility to protect their workers in the dangerous workplace, accidents still occur.
Loading and unloading cargo areas
Many workers are exposed to numerous high risk dangers in both outdoor and indoor shipping areas at the warehouse, including on loading docks. The leading factor in fatalities occurring in these areas have involve:
- Workers becoming pinned between the loading dock and a forklift, trailer or truck
- Employees run over or struck by a truck
- Workers struck by falling cargo that was improperly secured
- Employees hit by falling dock plates
Shipping and receiving area workers tend to be exposed to significant dangers when coming in contact with trucking companies delivering, loading or unloading cargo. This is because truckers are often unfamiliar with the warehouse workplace. The most common issues involving serious hazards include:
- The trucker becomes confused over the workplace access for loading and unloading.
- The yard layout has unique features.
- The truck driver is unfamiliar with the dock locking or leveling systems.
- The driver lacks training to use specialized lifting devices.
- The trucker is unfamiliar with measures and procedures used to secure the vehicle to prevent accidental movement while loading and unloading.
OSHA (Occupational Health & Safety Act) regulations require warehouse workplaces follow specific guidelines to ensure the safety of the workforce. These regulations must be followed by employers, supervisors and workers to prevent potential hazards and dangers that commonly appear in warehouses. These regulations include:
- Employers are required to provide detailed information, instructions and supervision to every warehouse worker to ensure their health and safety. This includes safe work policies that involve measures and procedures of exactly how work is performed.
- Employers are required to take all precautions to ensure the protection of the workforce.
- Employers and supervisors must ensure that materials, equipment and protective devices remain in good condition through routine maintenance.
- Employers must develop, prepare and review Occupational Health & Safety policies and post them in a conspicuous area.
- It is the responsibility of supervisors to ensure that every worker complies to OSHA rules and regulations.
- Supervisors must ensure that all protective devices and equipment are utilized by workers.
- Supervisors must advise the workforce of all known actual and potential safety and health dangers.
- The workforce is required to use and operate warehouse equipment safely
- Workers are required to report any equipment defect
- Employees are required to work in compliance with the rules and regulations set forth by OSHA
- Every worker is to report obvious workplace hazards to their supervisor or employer
Routine workplace safety inspections performed by a competent team can help identify many of the dangers and hazards the workforce faces each day. However, once dangers are identified, it is essential to implement prompt and effective corrective measures to create a safer workplace environment.
Best Practices for Safety and Health
When supervisors, trainers and employers emphasize the need for open communication between the workforce and management, many of the warehouse dangers faced by workers are minimized. However, this requires that supervisors, and others in charge of providing workforce training,fully comprehend the inherent dangers warehouse workers face every day that concern their health and safety directly.