OSHA inspections of warehouse operations likely to increase

Date Posted: 10/17/2022
Man with clipboard inspecting a warehouse

Seven of OSHA’s ten regions currently have local enforcement programs targeting employers with powered industrial trucks or employers in warehousing. Rumor has it that OSHA is considering a National Emphasis Program to target warehousing operations.

In addition, during September 2022, OSHA announced an alliance with Lehigh Career and Technical Institute to protect warehouse workers. The alliance points out that typical hazards include overexertion, contact with objects, and falls from elevation. The alliance further notes that warehousing operations commonly use temporary workers, who may be at greater risk.

And of course, OSHA has a National Emphasis Program on heat illness prevention that targets a number of industries. Many of the listed industries were expected, such as construction and foundries, but warehousing is on the targeted list as well.

Warehouse inspections

According to the emphasis program documents, when OSHA inspects a warehousing operation, compliance officers will review the hazards of storage rack systems including the capacity or structural integrity, along with the safety or stability of stored items. In addition, compliance officers will review hazards associated with means of egress and fire suppression. Of course, OSHA will evaluate forklift operations as well.

Forklift inspections

When OSHA focuses on powered industrial trucks, the inspection includes items such as operations and practices, training, safety rule enforcement, maintenance, proper fueling/charging procedures, and any unique hazards such as the potential for under-ride. Under-ride injuries may occur where an obstruction (like a storage rack shelf) could enter the operator portion of a stand-up forklift, striking and injuring the operator.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, warehousing and shipping operations grew enormously. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of warehousing employees more than doubled from about 750,000 in 2015 to about 1,750,000 in 2022. About half that increase occurred since 2019.

In 2020, the BLS reported that the warehousing and storage industry’s injury rate of 4.8 per 100 workers is higher than the U.S. average of 2.7 per 100 rate among all private industries. In addition, BLS reported 93 work-related fatalities nationally in warehousing from 2017 to 2020.

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Safety Topic Webcasts

Seven of OSHA’s ten regions currently have enforcement programs targeting employers with powered industrial trucks or employers in warehousing (which usually have forklifts). Even OSHA’s emphasis program on heat illness targets warehouses for inspection. To learn about your risk of getting inspected and what OSHA might look for, watch our webcast archive “Warehouse Safety: Is your facility prepared for an OSHA inspection?” from October 20, 2022. Log in or register for a free trial to access the webcast archives.

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