Special Topics in Safety Management

Warehouse Safety: The Right Moves to Make

Your warehouse holds not only your stock but also lots of hazards! Here is a long list of hints on safely storing and moving items in a warehouse, including why warehouse safety is important, basic rules, and common sense good housekeeping.


Materials handling—either by powered equipment or manually—can cause injuries to hands, fingers, feet, and toes. Workers can slip, trip, and fall, or heavy objects can fall on them. Forklifts and other equipment such as heavily laden pallet jacks add to the danger. And let’s not forget box cutters, nails and splinters on wooden pallets, and back injuries caused by improper lifting.

Furthermore, warehouse safety hazards can change from moment to moment, depending on:

  • The task employees are performing
  • The equipment they’re using
  • The substances or materials they’re handling

Because of all the potential hazards, many different OSHA standards regulate warehouse operations. For example:

  • Rules for walking and working surfaces
  • Regulations governing the selection and use of PPE
  • Material handling and storage rules

Common sense can protect workers from many warehouse safety hazards. For example, your warehouse workers should all be familiar with these basic rules:

  • Make safety a priority in everything you do while working in the warehouse.
  • Wear appropriate PPE, such as gloves, safety shoes, eye protection, and hard hats.
  • Keep alert to hazards and correct or report them when you see them.
  • Pay attention to warning signs and signals—and obey them.
  • Watch where you’re going and focus on what you’re doing.
  • Pay attention to what others do as well—especially look out for forklifts and other hazardous equipment.
  • Stack and store materials properly so that they’re stable, secure, and don’t create any hazard—including a fire hazard.

Good housekeeping is essential for warehouse safety, and also allows employees to function more effectively and productively. Follow these good housekeeping rules:

  • Don’t leave items in aisles, on the floor, or perched insecurely on a surface.
  • Clean up all spills immediately.
  • Don’t block sprinklers, fire exits, or fire extinguishers.
  • Put items in their assigned places immediately, rather than moving them from one stopping point to another.
  • Don’t leave box cutters or other sharp tools lying around.
  • Keep cords and wires off the floor.
  • Report loose or damaged flooring or other tripping hazards you can’t fix.
  • Dispose of all trash immediately in proper containers.

Make safe material handling the norm. Whether employees use power equipment or their own bodies to move materials, they should obey these materials handling safety rules:

  • Make preparation the first step in every job—that means checking the load to decide how best to move it; checking the route to make sure there are no obstacles in the way; and checking to see if there’s space for the load at its destination.
  • Always use safe lifting techniques.
  • When carrying objects, be sure you can see over the load.
  • Use material handling equipment carefully and follow proper operating procedures.
  • Never drive a forklift or use other powered equipment unless you’ve been trained and authorized.
  • When using a hand truck or pallet jack, be sure to load heavy objects on the bottom and secure bulky or awkward items.
  • Push, rather than pull, manual material handling equipment whenever possible, and lean in the direction you’re going.
  • Be careful around conveyors, making sure not to get body parts or clothing caught in the machinery’s moving parts.

Why It Matters…

  • Warehouses contain many hazards and opportunities for accidents and injuries.
  • Warehouse hazards can change from moment to moment, depending on the tasks employees are performing, the equipment they’re using, and the materials they’re handling.
  • Since almost every activity in a warehouse is covered by at least one OSHA regulation, employees must understand the hazards and precautions in order for your warehouse to be in compliance with OSHA rules.

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