Most common warehouse injuries
Warehouses can be dangerous workplace environments. The heavy loads, dangerous machinery, and slippery surfaces are all factors that combine to make a perfect storm that can strike at any minute. As of November 5, 2020; 54 workers of the transport, postal, and warehousing industry have died in workplace accidents throughout Australia. In this article we take a look at the most common warehouse injuries and how you can avoid them.
Despite the statistics, most warehouse injuries are avoidable, provided your staff understands the dangers and follows proper safety procedures. So, make sure you familiarize yourself with the following warehouse accidents and you’ll be one step closer to having an accident-free workplace and mitigate the legal consequences of a workplace accident.
Carelessness, poor visibility, and not following traffic management plans and procedures make forklift accidents disturbingly common. And with an average weight of 4 tons, forklifts are small trucks that can easily bring down an aisle or maim/kill an employee if the driver or pedestrians are careless.
According to SafeWork, most forklift accidents involve them running over pedestrians, dropping a load over pedestrians, and tipping over — the last two being especially common in loading bays. Forklifts lack all-round visibility, so even the most aware drivers might not see an oncoming pedestrian or a loading dock separation until it’s too late.
To prevent these human errors, warehouses can create separate lanes for forklift traffic and use portable radios to reduce and eliminate forklift operator’s blind spots.
Falls and slips
Warehouses and distribution centres are so big that many rarely get cleaned with enough frequency. Liquid or substance spills create invisible traps that your busy employees might not see until they step on it. Likewise, falls can be caused by carelessness, but the added height makes them much more dangerous than your typical slip. A worker who falls off a stair, truck, or pallet is almost guaranteed to injure himself seriously.
Both falls and slips could result in anything from damaged goods to a sprained ankle or even a bone fracture that could lead to a lawsuit against your company. However, you can minimize the dangers by enforcing round-the-clock cleaning, marking slippery areas with caution tape, protecting workers on ladders from vehicle traffic, and using handrails and guard rails to secure high-risk areas — such as mezzanine floors and loading bays.
Injuries caused by overexertion
Working in a warehouse is physically-demanding. While forklifts and pallet carriers handle the heavy lifting, the stacking and order picking is done by employees — a job that involves bending over or reaching for heavy boxes over and over again. Whether it’s caused by repetitive motions or poor form, warehouse employees can injure or suffer chronic pain in their lower back, shoulders, neck, or arms.
Warehouses that neglect their workers’ ergonomic issues will suffer a loss in productivity along with increasing amounts of paid leaves and injury claims. Assessing the working environment for risks, teaching employees how to lift and carry objects, reducing the distances they have to bend or reach for an object, and prioritizing ergonomics when organizing your aisles will increase your staff’s productivity and health.
Warehouses are vertical by nature. Stacks, pallets, and frames all streamline order fulfillment, but they also create dangers for nearby employees. Injuries from falling objects are one of the most common Warehouse Injuries. Both the USA based OSHA and Australian Work Health Safety (WHS) laws require implementation of standards that protect workers from falling objects. Nevertheless, any object can become a deadly projectile if it’s stacked high enough.
To reduce the risk of injury, supervisors must implement programs to ensure that there is no risk of a falling object injury.
Manager should ensure that employees wear their personal protection equipment — particularly safety boots with steel caps — at all times.
Furthermore, carrying out regular safety inspections will ensure any risk of objects falling in your warehouse is detected and addressed before it leads to an incident.
You might like to read about managing racking safety in warehouses here
Warehouse racks are designed and built to support thousands of kilograms. However, overloading, lack of maintenance, and structural damage are all factors that can sap their structural integrity. The dangers multiply even further when you add a forklift or pallet carrier into the equation, as bumping a weakened rack might send an entire aisle crashing over your employees’ heads.
Rack collapses are extremely dangerous and can cause life-threatening injuries or even death. However, by following national and international racking standards, keeping loads within the manufacturer’s suggested weight limit, widening your lanes so drivers can turn safely, and inspecting your racks regularly you can sharply reduce the risk of having your racks collapse.
Caught-between incidents represent 7% of Australia’s work-related fatalities. However, the nature of the injuries itself is way scarier than the numbers. A warehouse worker who gets caught between a forklift and a hard surface could suffer anything from bruises to muscle tears, bone fractures, organ damage, spinal injuries, paralysis, and even death. Even if only one limb is caught, the weight of a machine is enough to cause irreparable damage and require amputation.
Loading bays, and other areas where people and machines interact, are the most common locations of caught-between incidents. To reduce their frequency, supervisors must keep pedestrian-machinery interaction to a minimum, holding on to the forklift and/or truck’s keys if necessary until the dock personnel is finished with their work.
Warehouses are filled with risk potential: products, people, machines, racks, and a range of other risk contributors. We believe that every single warehouse accident is preventable through effective systems, well trained staff and capturing all the risks in your warehouse or distribution centre.
The most common Warehouse Injuries are preventable.
If you’re after some specialist help to improve your warehouse safety program, you can have a chat with our consultants by calling 1300 087 888 or Chat Live below or read about our specialist warehouse safety services