Creating a Safe Work Environment for Warehouses

Warehousing is one of the riskier industries due to high-powered machinery and vehicles operating within proximity of each other. Rapid growth in e-commerce is driving an ever-increasing demand for the delivery of products in shorter timeframes. Industrial and commercial warehouses are to keep up with this demand while complying with the current safety expectations. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports thousands of injuries, illnesses, and deaths in the warehousing industry annually. Many of those are caused by workplace accidents such as slips or falls, hazardous materials, and equipment malfunction. Warehouse safety should be the employers’ utmost priority to keep employees safe, ensure efficient operation, maximize productivity, and minimize injury or damage. Below are some factors to consider when planning a safe work environment for warehouse employees.

Building a Safety Culture and Procedures

Establishing comprehensive safety procedures can help prevent workplace accidents in warehouses and promote a safe work environment.  An engaging safety procedure starts from the top-down; management should walk the talk in cultivating such values into the company culture. While employees may have the required certification for the job, this does not always include in-depth safety training. Thus, providing ample opportunities for employees to access safety resources, including signage, safety stickers, regular safety meetings, and safety training, is essential in creating a safe work environment. Consider developing training programs with the help of industry subject matter experts that offer blended and interactive training solutions. Ideally, a comprehensive training program should include a good mix of on-site training, hands-on validation, online learningwebinarstoolbox talks, and virtual reality courses in multiple languages for easy access.

Other good practices include posting signs around the warehouse indicating different safety procedures, regular communication on safety tips, and announcements on new safety procedures. Incentivize workers to take safety courses and recognize their efforts to demonstrate exemplary safety protocol. Consider putting together a safety handbook or manual that includes potential hazards, safety protocols, and rules.

Lockout / Tagout Procedure

Establishing a complete and comprehensive Lockout Tagout program that includes clear and precise lockout procedures for all workers is imperative, especially in heavy machinery warehouses. Routine training on using the equipment, shutting it down correctly, and isolating the power sources by following the proper lockout tagout procedures can prevent accidents and avoid fines, ensuring the highest level of safety in your warehouse.

Key Takeaways

Warehouse workers are more likely to internalize the safety culture and take it seriously when they know the company is responsible, accountable, and invested in their well-being. A safe work environment helps warehouses build a good relationship with their employees and supports businesses in achieving higher recognition.

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Other related resources:

  • Warehouse safety best practices https://blog.sliceproducts.com/warehouse-safety-best-practices
  • Tips for improving warehouse safety https://ohsonline.com/articles/2021/04/01/ten-tips-for-improving-warehouse-safety.aspx
  • Warehouse safety tips https://www.fluxpower.com/blog/warehouse-safety-tips
  • Warehouse safety guidelines https://www.slideshare.net/envirotechint/warehouse-safety-guidelines

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OSHA Seeking Six-figure Penalties for Fall Hazards

Fort Worth, Texas The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently cited two contractors for fall hazards and is seeking six-figure penalties. On Sept. 17, OSHA cited RM Masonry and Stucco Inc. of Fort Worth for exposing workers to fall and silica hazards, a total of nine repeated and six serious violations. The offenses included failing to ensure scaffolding was planked correctly and secured, providing a ladder for safe egress, and inspecting scaffolding. Later, on Sept. 20, the agency cited Neal Weaver, an Ohio-based contractor, with severe eye and fall protection violations. The company has exposed its workers to deadly fall hazards for the sixth time in five years. OSHA is seeking fines totaling $216,265 and $253,556, respectively.

“Fall hazards make roofing work among the most dangerous jobs in construction,” Cleveland Area Director Howard Eberts said in a recent statement. “Employers must ensure that employees working from heights greater than 6 feet are provided with fall protection equipment and are well trained. Too often, OSHA inspectors find employees working on residential roofs without fall protection,” Eberts continued. OSHA’s construction industry fall protection standard (29 CFR §1926.501) is the agency’s most frequently cited standard, a total of 5,424 times in the fiscal year (FY) 2020. At the same time, the scaffolding standard (§1926.451) is the fourth most commonly cited standard with a total of 2,538 violations in FY 2020.

OSHA-cited-a-contractor-for-six-figure-penalties

In fact, for the 11th consecutive fiscal year, Fall Protection – General Requirements is OSHA’s most frequently cited standard. Patrick Kapust, deputy director of OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs, presented this preliminary data from FY 2021 (Oct. 1, 2020, to Sept. 30) on Oct. 12 during the 2021 NSC Safety Congress & Expo. Although several standards swapped positions, the criteria that make up the Top 10 Violations remained unchanged from FY 2020. The complete list is as below:-

  1. Fall Protection – General Requirements (1926.501): 5,295 violations
  2. Respiratory Protection (1910.134): 2,527
  3. Ladders (1926.1053): 2,026
  4. Scaffolding (1926.451): 1,948
  5. Hazard Communication (1910.1200): 1,947
  6. Lockout/Tagout (1910.147): 1,698
  7. Fall Protection – Training Requirements (1926.503): 1,666
  8. Personal Protective and Lifesaving Equipment – Eye and Face Protection (1926.102): 1,452
  9. Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178): 1,420
  10. Machine Guarding (1910.212): 1,113

Martin Technical encourages organizations to develop a robust workplace safety strategy by scheduling regular workplace fall protection training.

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OSHA Fines Vehicle Parts Maker $1.6 Million

Ravenna, OH – Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) imposed a $1.6 million fine for a vehicle parts manufacturer’s 38 safety and health violations. The company was cited with four repeats, 18 willful, and 16 serious safety and health violations, following an investigation into the death of a 43-year-old worker on March 30. The tragedy happened when the barrier door closed on his head when loading a part into a machine.

OSHA alleged that General Aluminum allowed employees to bypass guarding mechanisms designed to prevent the barrier door from closing on them. A malfunction in the door’s optic control also existed before the deadly incident. The OSHA investigators also found a lack of Lockout / Tagout and effective safety management procedures throughout the vehicle parts maker’s facility, in addition to failure to protect employees from burn and explosion hazards.

Vehicle parts maker facing $1.6 million fine

General Aluminum Mfg was placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP) and is subject to mandatory follow-up inspections and increased agency pressure to abate cited hazards. Willful violations will be cited when an employer knowingly disregarded safety and health law and regulation or acted indifferently for employee safety and health. “OSHA will continue to hold bad actors accountable and emphasize the importance of complying with safety and health requirements that can save lives,” Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Jim Frederick said in an agency statement.

Key Takeaways

Risk can be found in any workplace; it’s essential to avoid becoming complacent with health and safety procedures. Workplace health and safety training can positively influence an organization’s efficiency and productivity, reducing costs and saving lives. A robust health and safety policy cultivates a safe company culture. It helps organizations build a good relationship with their employees, supports businesses to achieve high recognition and good standing in their industry.

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Texas Masonry Company Cited for Fall Hazards

DENTON, TX – In March 2021, The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspected a Forth Worth masonry company.  OSHA cited the Texas Masonry Company for fall hazards, as well as silica hazards. OSHA previously cited the company, RRM Masonry and Stucco Inc., for violations in 2018 and 2019.

This inspection took place as part of OSHA’s Regional Emphasis Program for constructionA Texas masonry company was cited for fall hazards, the leading cause of death and serious injury in the construction industry. falls. Falls are the leading cause of death and serious injury in the construction industry.

The Texas Masonry company cited for fall hazards was issued citations for nine repeat and six serious violations. This included the company failing to ensure that scaffolding was properly planked and secured, and provide a ladder for safe egress and inspect scaffolding. The proposed penalties total $216,265.

Area Director Timothy Minor stated in an OSHA press release, “RM Masonry and Stucco has shown repeated disregard for worker safety. Employers should never put profits before the safety of their workers. OSHA will do everything in its power to protect workers and hold serial violators like this accountable.”

According to OSHA’s press release, RM Masonry and Stucco Inc. is a privately-owned construction company with approximately 40 employees.

RM Masonry and Stucco Inc. has 15 business days from receipt of citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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Ohio Steel Mill Placed in Severe Violator Enforcement Program by OSHA

CANTON, OH – The US Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Association (OSHA) responded to a complaint of unsafe working conditions at Republic Steel in Canton Ohio. Inspectors found the automative steel mill failed to install adequate machine guarding, implement lockout/tagout measures, or train workers on safety procedures. These violations exposed workers to amputation hazards. As a result, OSHA has placed the steel mill in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.The violations of the company exposed workers to amputations hazards, leading OSHA to place it in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

Additionally, OSHA has proposed $220,399 in penalties. These penalties are accounted for by one repeat, seven serious, and three other-than-serious safety violations. The company was also cited for similar hazards in 2017.

In their press release, OSHA Area Director Howard Eberts stated, “To avoid amputations and other severe injuries, employers must install safety guards on machines and train workers on how to control hazardous energy and avoid coming in contact with operating machine parts. Republic Steel is well aware of their responsibility to ensure safety procedures are followed, yet once again, they’ve failed to do so.”

According to their website, Republic Steel, the company placed in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program, provides steel bar products for automakers, as well as coils, rods, and wires. They are based in Canton, OHIO, and a subsidiary of Grupo Simec of Guadalajara Mexico.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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OSHA Fines Oregon Winery in Worker Death

Dundee, OR – Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) has investigated the death of a worker at an Oregon winery that occurred on February 1st. OSHA fined the Oregon Winery for the worker’s death. The violations were cited as confined space violations and totaled $11,100 in proposed citations.

The Oregon winery was fined in a worker death in which the worker was found unresponsive in an empty 30,000-gallon wine tank.The worker was found unresponsive on February 1st in an empty 30,000-gallon wine tank. The 39-year-old man was assigned to pump out about 500 gallons of wine remnants into another tank. Low-pressure nitrogen gas was pumped in from the top of the tank to prevent the oxidation of the wine remnants. This resulted in the man’s asphyxiation, according to the investigation.

The investigation cited Corus Estates & Vineyards LLC, a custom crush winery, for nine serious violations. In OSHA Oregon’s press release, Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood stated, “Every workplace death is a tragedy. And confined spaces are unforgiving. Employers must anticipate the risks and ensure that they protect their employees who enter confined spaces. When something goes wrong in such a space, it is already too late to address the problem.”

The specifics of the violations and penalties are laid out below. Oregon OSHA cited Corus Estates & Vineyards for the following serious violations:

  • Not performing initial testing for atmospheric hazards before entry.
  • Not ensuring that a required attendant and entry supervisor was designated for the permit confined space entry.
  • Not developing procedures to ensure employees who are entering permit confined spaces with alternate entry procedures are following those procedures.

Total proposed penalties for the above violations: $7,500

  • Not ensuring that all confined space permits were reviewed after they were canceled. Several of the permits were not filled out and were missing required information.
  • Not making sure all confined space entry permits included information about rescue services and how to contact them.

Total proposed penalties for the above violations: $1,200.

  • Not having permit entry rescue procedures, including the process for contacting rescue services.
  • Not conducting practice entry rescues for presses, tanks, and below-ground permit-required confined spaces.

Total proposed penalties for the above violations: $1,200.

  • Not training employees on recognizing confined spaces or procedures necessary to safely enter a confined space before an employee’s assigned duties changed.
  • Not ensuring that all employees, whose primary language was Spanish, were proficient in their assigned confined space duties.

Total proposed penalties for the above violations: $1,200

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Repeat OSHA Citations For Pueblo Construction Company

PUEBLO, CO – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) performed two follow-up inspections in February 2021 at Key Structures LLC. This led to 13 willful repeat and serious violations. The citations at the Colorado construction company resulted in $222,055 combined penalties.

OSHA identified one willful violation for using damaged scaffolding and one repeat violation for failing to train workers on scaffolding safety. It also identified seven serious violations. The serious violations included: Failure to use fallAn sample image of an apartment building under construction. The citations Colorado construction company resulted in $222,055 combined penalties. protection,unsafe use of ladders and scaffolding, and unsafe storage of compressed gas cylinders.

OSHA issued a press release regarding the citations at the Colorado construction company. OSHA Area Director Chad Vivian in Greenwood Village, Colorado stated “Key Structures’ willful and continued negligence shows an intentional disregard for worker safety. Falls are a leading cause of worker deaths which is why employers must train workers on scaffolding safety and comply with fall prevention standards. Our job [is] to hold them accountable when they don’t.”

Key Structure’s Website states it was formed in 2018 as a subsidiary of the Challenger Group. It focuses on building off-site components for the construction of homes, apartments and townhomes.

Key Structures has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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Grain Facility Exposed Workers to Engulfment Hazards

MONTICELLO, IL – On February 19th, 2021, two workers at Topflight Grain Cooperative Inc. were clearing a bin of debris when the soybeans inside collapsed, engulfing one employee up to their waste. The subsequent investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found the grain facility exposed workers to engulfment hazards. The total proposed penalties amounted to $303,510. A grain facility exposed workers to engulfment hazards within a grain silo.

The agency cited Topflight for four grain-handling violations. This included a willful citation for failing to lockout or de-energize hazardous equipment before allowing workers to enter the bin. OSHA issued another willful violation for failing to post an attendant outside the bin for emergency response. The agency all issued citations for directing employees to work on top of railcars without fall protection and failing to test oxygen levels within before directing employees to work inside the grain bin.

In OSHA’s press release, OSHA Area director Barry Salerno made a statement regarding the grain facility which exposed workers to engulfment hazards. Salerno stated, “Six in ten grain engulfments result in the death of a worker but, like the incident at Topflight Grain Cooperative, they are entirely avoidable. OSHA works diligently with the grain and feed industry to enhance education and safety, but employers must follow industry-recognized standards to protect their workers.”

According to their website, Topflight Grain Cooperative operates 19 grain-producing facilities. These operate across Illinois and process 40 million bushels of grain annually.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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OSHA Finds Bypassed Safety Measures Led to Worker’s Death – Tavares, FL

TAVARES, FL – In Florida, early March 2021, willfully bypassed safety measures led to a worker’s death according to the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA). The worker’s employer, United Signs & Signals Inc. (US&S) was cited with a total of $237,566 in proposed penalties.

On the day of the accident, March 2, 2021, an electrical technician climbed into a trench to splice electrical wires to power streetlights. The worker made contact with live wires and suffered a fatal electrocution.When an electrical technician climbed into a trench to splice electrical wires to power streetlights, bypassed safety measures led to the worker's death.

OSHA determined the company bypassed safety measures that led to the worker’s death. These were failing to de-energize or guard circuits, thus exposing workers to electrical shock hazards. The company was also cited for exposing workers to cave-in hazards, not ensuring a safe means of exiting the excavations, and allowing employees to work in a trench with accumulated water.

OSHA Area Office Director Michelle Gonzalez stated, “A man is dead because of US&S’s willful indifference toward protecting its workers. This terrible loss should remind employers that safety measures are never optional, and the consequences for ignoring them can be fatal.”

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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Multiple Companies Cited by OSHA for Worker’s Fatalities at Food Group Plant– Gainesville, GA

Gainesville, GA– OSHA of the US Department of Labor cited Foundation Food Group Inc. and three other companies for a total of 59 violations and a combined $998,637 in penalties following its investigation of a liquid nitrogen leak that killed six people working in a Prime-Pak Foods processing plant in Gainesville, GA.

The incident occurred January 28th, after a freezer at the plant malfunctioned, releasing colorless, odorless liquid nitrogen into the air, displacing the oxygen in the room. OSHA said in its report that three maintenance workers entered the freezer room without safety precautions. The three maintenance workers and three other workers died immediately.

companies cited by OSHA for worker's fatalities

OSHA investigated the incident and found that Foundation Food Group and Messer LLC of Bridgewater, NJ, “failed to implement any of the safety procedures or necessary to prevent the accident and found that did not do safety training for employees on the safety procedures they can take to protect themselves, and the methods used to detect the presence or release of nitrogen, the hazards of liquid nitrogen, and emergencies.

“This horrible tragedy could have been prevented had the employers taken the time to use – and teach their workers the importance of – safety precautions,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Kurt Petermeyer in Atlanta. “Instead, six workers died because their employers failed to follow necessary procedures and to comply with required safety and health standards. We hope other industry employers learn from this terrible incident and comply with requirements to prevent similar incidents.”

OSHA cited Foundation Food Group Inc. for 26 violations for the uncontrolled release of liquid nitrogen; the Company also failed to develop, document, and use lockout procedures, nor ensure the procedures were shared between the host employer and contractors. The Company faces $595,474 in penalties.

FS Group Inc., which manufactures equipment and provides mechanical servicing, was also cited by OSHA for eight serious violations for failure to train workers on the physical and health hazards and emergency procedures. The Company also failed to ensure the development and use of specific written lockout procedures and ensure that the host employer and contractors shared information on lockout procedures. FS Group faces $42,325 in penalties.

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