Warehouse workers face a higher-than-average rate of nonfatal workplace injuries. In fact, in 2015, 38,400 warehouse workers were injured on the job. It’s important to keep yourself safe at work by learning about some of the most common hazards faced along with how to prevent them.
Warehouse workers can receive chemical burns if hazardous materials are spilled or not properly labeled. Employers are required keep a list of all hazardous chemicals used in the workplace and label all containers of hazardous substances with the product identity and hazard warning. Check the workplace list regularly for updates and make sure you understand the hazards of all substances listed. Store chemicals away from forklift traffic to avoid a spill. If you do see a chemical spill, clean it up as soon as possible while wearing correct personal protective equipment such as safety shoes, gloves and glasses.
Improper Vehicle Operation
Forklift accidents kill approximately 85 workers per year and seriously injure 30,000. Avoid a workplace accident by always wearing your seatbelt while operating a forklift. Before loading a forklift, check its maximum load weight and don’t exceed it. Spread the forks as wide as the load allows for added stability. While carrying the load, keep the load low and tilted back. Keep your entire body inside the forklift and never reach outside to adjust the load.
Musculoskeletal and Back Injuries
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are a huge problem for warehouse workers. They experience 80 MSDs per 10,000 full-time workers, twice the average rate for private industries. Many aspects of warehouse work can increase a worker’s chances of developing an MSD: repetitive or prolonged actions, lifting, pushing and pulling heavy objects, and extreme temperatures.
Warehouse workers can take these steps to prevent MSDs:
- Maintain neutral posture as often possible. Neutral posture means standing so that a straight line can be drawn from your ear to your shoulder, hip, knee and ankle. While sitting, keep your back straight, knees bent at a 90-degree angle and feet flat on the floor.
- Avoid unnecessary repetition. Using the same muscles in the same way over and over can lead to stress and injury. Avoid repetition in your workday by breaking up your more repetitive tasks. Spend 20 to 30 minutes on one job, then take a break or switch to another job that requires a different set of movements.
- Avoid reaching. Repetitive reaching or outstretching your arms can be especially harmful, so arrange your workspace to minimize the need for reaching. Put heavy objects and objects that you use most often closer to you to avoid unnecessary reaching and lifting.
- Lift properly. Back injuries are the top reason for warehouse worker’s compensation claims. Before lifting an object, think about how much it weighs, where you need to carry it and any potential hazards in your way. Then, position yourself with your feet straddling the object with one foot slightly in front of the other. Bend your knees, not your back, and grab the load. Lift by straightening your knees while bringing the object as close to your body as possible. Do not twist your body while lifting or carrying a heavy load.