If you work in a warehouse, distribution center or fulfillment center, occupational hazards will make your job incredibly risky. Although workplace safety standards continue to improve, warehouse work remain near the top of the list of dangerous occupations.
Hazards range from handling heavy loads to harmful substances. A significant number of warehouse workers suffer on-the-job injuries each year -- many of which are fatal.
Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has safety standards and guidelines in place for this industry, many employers are more focused on profits than employee wellness. Learning about the most common hazards can keep you safe.
Tips for use of equipment
Here are ways to safely use warehouse equipment:
- Use equipment designed to carry loads of various sizes and weights
- Use forklifts, pallet jacks and conveyor belt systems wherever possible
- Use allocated storage like racks, shelves and pallets from the outset to avoid double handling
- Store bulk materials in designated storage containers
- Never operate equipment without the necessary certification and authorization
By utilizing appropriate equipment, you can reduce risks.
Personal protective equipment
Depending on the types of materials you handle, make sure you never go without the following protective equipment:
- Wear a helmet or hard hat to protect your head from falling or flying objects
- Wear safety glasses or goggles to protect your eyes
- Wear safety gloves
- Wear steel-toed boots, and having plastic or metal fiber metatarsal guards in the boots can provide support to the instep areas of your feet.
Your job will have you on your feet for hours on end, and wearing properly fitted shoes is vital.
Ergonomic hazards are those that cause excessive physical fatigue. Here's how you can limit ergonomic hazards:
- Avoid stressful body postures like bending and twisting your body to handle materials
- Avoid forceful exertion like carrying heavy loads
- Avoid repetitive motions like stretching, reaching or lifting
- When you have to lift objects, use the muscles in your legs rather than your back muscles.
Take frequent breaks from any repetitive motion tasks to limit ergonomic stress.
Vibration and noise
Noise and vibration can cause hearing loss and fatigue. Wheeled equipment with rubberized wheels or castors can minimize both vibration and noise. However, warehouses are typically noisy places, and wearing ear protection might be wise.
The demands of your job can cause cumulative fatigue as the toll of material handling builds up. When you are fatigued, tell your supervisor.
You might find comfort in knowing there is a state-regulated workers' compensation insurance system for injured workers in Georgia. If you have questions, contact an experienced workers' compensation attorney.