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 learning, webinars, toolbox 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Prince William, VA – An extended power lift hit an electrical transmission line causing the death of a construction worker from injuries. The incident also resulted in a power outage that affected schools and more than 46,000 residents in Woodbridge and Lake Ridge, according to Dominion Energy spokeswoman Sharonda Shepard.
The accident was first reported to Prince William County fire and rescue units at about 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 24, according to Assistant Fire Chief Matt Smolsky. Prince William Fire & Rescue teams worked with Dominion Energy to rescue the two construction workers trapped in the power lift. It came in contact with power lines near a Shorehaven apartment complex located in the 1600 block of Porters Inn Drive near Walmart. The Dominion Energy crews delayed the rescue effort until they could ensure it was safe. The worker’s death has been categorized as unattended and is under investigation by the Prince William County Police Department.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded a total of 5,333 fatal work injuries in the 2019 report. It represents the most significant annual number since 2007 in the United States, with a 2 percent increase from the 5,250 in 2018. Everyone would agree that we want to continue to decrease the number of workplace accidents across Canada, the United States, and the rest of the world.
To break the increasing trend and the number of fatal accidents, Martin Technical strongly encourages organizations to develop a caring and motivating culture towards employees by scheduling regular workplace health and safety training.
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 construction 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.
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.
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.
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 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
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 fall 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.
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.
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.
SAN MARCOS, Texas – A Tortilla Factory was Cited in a LOTO violation. The lockout/tagout violation, or failure to control hazardous energy, was cited by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
OSHA investigated El Milagro of Texas, a tortilla factory in San Marcos, and found the failure to comply, as reported by KVUE ABC News on June 15th, 2021.
The company, El Milagro, failed to comply with LOTO procedures that would prevent the sudden start-up or movement of machines during maintenance and servicing. This citation has resulted in a fine of more than $218,000.
According to KVUE’s article, the tortilla factory that was cited in the LOTO violation by OSHA has also been cited for these violations in 2015 and 2018.
OSHA Area Director Casey Perkins was quoted as saying, “…Energy control and lockout/tagout procedures are vital to protecting workers in manufacturing facilities. OSHA will hold employers accountable when they fail to comply with requirements to prevent worker exposure to dangerous hazards.”
El Milagro of Texas will have 15 business days from the receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings.
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.