Special Topics in Safety Management

Does Your Shipping and Receiving Safety Stack Up?

Safety is not always top of mind for workers in shipping and receiving, who are usually busy trying to move items in and out quickly and making sure that paperwork is complete and up to date. But their work environment is rife with risks, and today we’ll look at ways to bolster safety in two of their primary tasks—lifting/material handling and packing/stacking.

There’s no OSHA regulation called “Shipping and Receiving,” but the agency covers safety procedures for those jobs in topics like material handling and storage (29 CFR 1910.176-181) and walking and working surfaces (1910.21-30), which include clear aisles and ladder and dockboard safety.

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OSHA’s personal protective equipment (PPE) regulation (1910.132-138) applies when employees’ jobs expose them to an injury risk that could be prevented or reduced by using gloves or other PPE.

If your workers handle hazardous materials shipments, you’re regulated by OSHA and the federal Department of Transportation (DOT). The DOT regulates how hazardous materials are classified, marked, and labeled for transport. That helps ensure that everyone knows what they’re handling. The DOT also requires training for employees who have any role in hazardous materials transportation. That’s designed to make sure that these materials are documented and handled properly and safely.

Lifting and Material Handling

Shipping and receiving involves moving materials from place to place, which can cause back injuries. A safety training meeting on our sister website, Safety.BLR.com, says that in many cases, the solution is not to lift an item in the first place.

Tell your employees that before they move cartons or materials, they should first decide how to do it safely and most efficiently. Instruct them to test the load by lifting a corner. If it’s too big, heavy, or awkward to be lifted and carried, they shouldn’t even try it. There are various alternatives:

  • Arrange for a forklift to move very large or heavy loads or large quantities of materials.

  • Get a dolly or hand truck.

  • Get one or more people to help with the lifting.

If a forklift is needed, let the trained operator do the job and have other employees stay out of the way. Remind workers to always be alert for moving forklifts, especially at intersections, and to give the forklifts plenty of room to move, turn, load, and unload.

Hand trucks and dollies require some safety precautions, too. Instruct employees to:

  • Inspect the truck before you use it to make sure it’s in good repair, lubricated, etc.

  • Make two trips rather than piling a truck so high you can’t balance or see over the load.

  • Put heavy objects on the bottom, and lighter ones on top. Position the load forward so that the truck axle carries the weight. Test the load before you move to be sure it won’t shift. If necessary, tie it.

Stacking and Packing

Another easily preventable hazard is falling objects. Teach your workers to take a little extra time to place materials and cartons carefully on shelves, tables, and dollies, following such obvious principles as:

  • Place heavy or bulky objects close to the floor, with lighter and smaller ones higher up.

  • Don’t stack materials too high.

  • Position objects securely on shelves or racks, far enough from the edge so that they won’t fall over. That applies to tools as well as cartons and parts. Be especially careful if there’s any vibrating equipment in the area that could work the materials loose.

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Cutting tools and packaging materials also require basic preventive measures. Knives and box cutters are very sharp, so instruct workers to cover their edges when not using them. Keeping sharp tools sharp is also important. Trying to cut with a dull knife requires a lot of extra pressure and effort, which is unnecessary and makes the cutter more likely to slip.

Steel strapping requires special care. Have workers wear gloves and safety goggles, and cut with duck-billed shears or long-handled cutters that keep them at a safe distance from the strapping. Teach them to make square cuts with no sharp edges, and to not leave cut straps lying around.

Tomorrow we’ll focus in on loading docks and walk through seven steps to bolstering safety in those hazardous environments.