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.

creating a safe warehouse environment

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 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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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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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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Fatal Roofing Fall at Amazon Facility in East Norriton, NJ

East Norriton, NJ According to an OSHA investigation, Wilmer Mejía Landaverde, a New Jersey worker building an Amazon warehouse in East Norriton, fell from the structure’s roof. Mejia’s fall was fatal due to his injuries from falling 25 feet.

A Trenton-based construction contractor employed Mejía. Mejía’s brother, Josué, said he and his brother were replacing roofing material before Mejía’s fall; he recalled that his brother removed his safety ties briefly for a water break. Both workers have cablesFall Protection attached while they work. After returning from break, he did not put his cable back on.

According to East Norriton police, the fall occurred at 3:48 p.m. at a construction site on 53 West Germantown Pike. Amazon was not involved in the construction nor are they under investigation.

In a statement, an official from IMC Construction stated: “Despite extensive safety training, inspections, procedures, instructions, safety personnel on-site and mandated safety requirements, the worker was witnessed by his co-workers removing his mandated safety line from his safety harness while on the roof, and within minutes fell.”

Amazon spokesperson Branden Baribeau noted that the East Norriton site is under construction, with no Amazon employees. “We’re saddened by this tragic incident and extend our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones,” he said. “It is our understanding that OSHA is investigating, and we will work with them as needed.”

OSHA stated it has up to six months to complete the investigation. In addition to the Construction Contractors, the agency said it is also investigating the roofing contractor.

“Falls are among the most common causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths,” OSHA experts caution on the agency’s website. “Employers must set up the workplace to prevent employees from falling off of overhead platforms, elevated workstations or into holes in the floor and walls.”

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Bronx Contractor Cited for Scaffolding Accident – Brooklyn, NY

BROOKLYN, NY  A Bronx contractor was cited for a scaffolding accident and a worker’s fall when his arrest harness was not tethered as required by OSHAThe 21-year-old laborer, who was erecting scaffolding, suffered a deadly fall at a Brooklyn building project on November 13th, 2020.

Falls are the leading cause of death and injury when proper safety protocols are not in place. The laborer who was installing a welded frame scaffold fell over 50 feet from the construction site of the seven-story Brooklyn building.

Everest Scaffolding Inc from the Bronx failed to ensure the laborer’s fall arrest harness was attached, as required by the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration

“The Company cited the tragedy could have been prevented if Everest Scaffolding had provided appropriate training on fall hazards and ensured workers were using fall protection correctly,” said OSHA Area Director Kay Gee in Manhattan.

OSHA proposed $300,370 in penalties for the two serious safety violations. The Company did not train their workers on Fall Hazards and did not make sure they were using the protection correctly.

The Company Failed to evaluate the feasibility of using fall protection correctly and did not adequately train employees on fall hazards associated with scaffolding work.

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Grain Facility Cited for Injury and Explosion – Adrian, MO

ADRIAN, MO– A local Missouri grain facility has been cited for an injury and explosion from failing to correct critical safety procedures, including potential dust ignition sources at their Adrian grain loading facility.

Due to its negligence, the company suffered a grave explosion that seriously injured an employee and destroyed the main elevator at an Adrian grain loading facility. OSHA citedA West Central Agri Services Grain Facility was cited by OSHA West Central Agri Services for one willful and six serious safety violations totaling $215,525 in OSHA fines.

The U.S. Department of Labor  Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined the explosion could have been avoided if the company set up bucket elevators with monitoring devices that notify workers when a belt is slipping and potentially causing friction – this can ignite grain dust.

Within grain handling facilities, OSHA standards require a storage capacity of over one million bushels, and the company had not updated its dust collection system since its installation in 1974. MFA Enterprises failed to meet safety standards.

The company also did not repair an overhead trolly system used for connecting fall protection devices. The trolly system was out of service at the time of its investigation and noted violations, including a lack of preventive maintenance and a failure to designate hazardous areas existed. The company workers were exposed to fall hazards when walking atop the railcars to open and close the hatches without fall protection which is inconsistent with fall protection training and safety measures.

MFA Enterprises Inc. is one of the region’s oldest agricultural cooperatives and brings together 45,000 farmers in Missouri and adjacent states. Together with working with OSHA’s Grain-Handling Safety Standard focuses on the grain and feed industry’s six significant hazards: engulfment, falls, auger entanglement, “struck by,” combustible dust explosions, and electrocution hazard.

“West Central Agri Services failed to follow industry standards and create company policies for safe grain handling, and needlessly put their workers in danger,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Kimberly Stille in Kansas City, Missouri. “Grain handling hazards can be avoided by using well-known safety measures that are proven to help prevent workers from being injured or killed.”

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Recycling Plant Cited in Fatal Fall

TOCCOA, GA – A recycling plant has been cited in a fatal fall that occurred on December 2020 in Toccoa, GA. OSHA (The Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has cited Scrap Master Inc. after determining they failed to equip stairs and platforms with guardrails to prevent falls, exposing workers to fall hazards.

The inspection also resulted in citations for failures to mount and mark fire extinguishers, repair powered industrial trucks, provide a training program on powered industrial trucks, develop and utilize specific procedures for employees performing service and maintenance activities on machines, and prevent workers from being exposed to occupational noise levels above the allowable time-weighted average.

In total, OSHA cited Scrap Masters with eight serious and five repeat violations, which resulted in a proposed $164,308 in penalties.

OSHA Acting Area Director Michael Hejazi was quoted as saying, “Implementing required safety procedures can mean the difference between a tragic incident and everyone going home safely to their families.”

The recycling plant cited in the fatal fall, Scrap master Inc. recycles plastic automobile gas tanks, according to OSHA’s press release. 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.

Martin Technical provides fall safety training to prevent accidents such as these.

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Facility Given 22 Serious Citations by OSHA

COLUMBUS, GA – A Facility has been given 22 serious citations by OSHA. HPPE LLC was given a safety and health inspection at its Columbus chemical manufacturing facility. According to ValdostaToday, the inspection was conducted under OSHA’s Regional Emphasis Program for Powered Industrial Trucks. The inspection has resulted in a proposed $136,816 in penalties.A Facility has been given 22 serious citations by OSHA, confined space among them.

Among the 22 serious citations were citations for confined space, fall protection, and lockout tagout. The investigation showed the employer failed to do the following:

  • Provide hazard communication program training to employees working with chemicals.
  • Establish or implement a written confined space program for workers who enter tanks and/or vats.
  • Provide employees working with chemicals with emergency means for flushing eyes and the body.
  • Display labels on containers that store chemicals.
  • Train workers operating powered industrial trucks and repair damaged storage racks with bent and damaged supports.
  • Keep doorways unlocked, marked and illuminated properly as exits, and keep doorways free of obstruction.
  • Provide guarding and other fall protection systems or training for employees working from elevated platforms and near open pits to prevent them from falling.
  • Train workers on procedures for isolating energy sources on machines while performing repair work (lockout/tagout).

Martin Technical offers training in confined space, fall protection, and lockout tagout to prevent fines such as these.

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Six Contractors Cited For Fall Safety Hazards on Luxury Home Construction Site

MARLTON, NJ – Six contractors were cited for fall safety hazards on a luxury home construction site. OSHA listed the six companies in their press release put out on Monday. Combined, there were 4 willful and 35 serious violations. Most the violations were for failing to provide fall protection or fall protection training. Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry. They are also repeatedly the number one most frequently cited violation of the year for OSHA.

The penalties total $244,397. One of the six contractors cited for fall safety, LifetimeThe contractors were cited for fall safety violations on a construction site. Contractor Corp., is responsible for over half of those penalties. OSHA began the inspections as part of its Regional Emphasis Program on Falls in Construction. On October 20th, 2020, a compliance officer observed workers exposed to falls and other hazards. The same was observed during a second inspection the 22nd. This prompted a third inspection on the 31st.

OSHA Area Director Paula Dixon-Roderick was quoted as saying, “A fall can permanently alter or end a worker’s life in a matter of seconds. Contractors and subcontractors in the construction industry have a legal obligation to comply with the law and ensure their workers end their shifts safely. When employers fail to follow requirements, OSHA will hold them responsible to the fullest extent of the law.”

The companies have 15 business days from receipt of their citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings.

Martin Technical, in partnership with PIXO VR, offers Fall Protection Training to help companies avoid fines such as these.

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