Workplace falls are one of the most common warehouse hazards, responsible for 23,490 injuries and 46 deaths in 2016 alone, according to data from the National Safety Council (https://bit.ly/2FDEM5Z). In order to ensure the safety of your employees; reduce potential liability; and maintain high levels of warehouse performance, it’s in your best interest to create a comprehensive warehouse safety strategy. Here is a fall prevention checklist to help you get started.
Types of Workplace Falls
There are three basic types of workplace falls: same-level falls, elevated falls and swing falls.
As its name implies, a same-level fall (also known as a same-surface fall) is a fall that occurs at a single elevation. These falls include slips, trips and step-type falls and are most commonly caused by slick or greasy surfaces, poor lighting, cluttered pathways, low tread on footwear, uneven surfaces, unexpected steps down and holes in the floor.
Elevated falls occur when a person falls from one level to another. In a warehouse setting, this type of fall typically occurs when workers fall from elevated forklift platforms, ladders, items stacked on pallets, elevated walkways, loading docks and mezzanines.
Swing falls—the rarest type of fall—occur when a person wearing an improperly anchored Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS) falls from an elevated level; swings like a pendulum; and strikes a nearby object, causing injury.
OSHA and Warehousing
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) (https://www.osha.gov/) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor dedicated to creating and enforcing safe working conditions. Through a combined effort with employers, safety professionals, labor unions and workers advocacy groups, OSHA has been able to reduce the average number of worker deaths from 38 per day in 1970 to 14 per day in 2017 (and the average continues to trend downward).
Most employers, including warehouse owners, are required to observe basic OSHA regulations. OSHA requires all facilities to provide fall protection for elevations of 4ft or higher in general industry workplaces, including warehouses. Failure to comply with OSHA standards and regulations could result in penalties (https://bit.ly/2bnUpkI) ranging from $13,260-132,598 per violation.
Although OSHA doesn’t offer industry-specifics standards and regulations for transportation and warehousing, it does have a recommended set of guidelines to promote warehouse safety. To prevent falls in your warehouse, OSHA recommends the following:
- Exposed or open loading docks and other areas that employees could fall 4ft or more or walk off should be chained off, roped off or otherwise blocked.
- Floors and aisles should be clear of clutter, electrical cords, hoses, spills and other hazards that could cause employees to slip, trip or fall.
- Proper work practices should factor into determining the time requirements for an employee to perform a task.
- Excess vegetation should be removed from building entrances, work or traffic areas to prevent possible trip or fall hazards due to visual obstructions.
Warehouse Fall Prevention Checklist
In addition to observing OSHA standards, regulations and general best practices, there are a number of measures you can take to reduce fall-related accidents within your warehouse:
- Plan ahead. An inexperienced employee or an employee who isn’t given enough time or the right equipment to complete a job is more likely to fall, so you’ll want to consider which tasks you need completed, who will be responsible for them, their requirements for the job and potential risks well in advance.
- Invest in a PFAS. Your PFAS system should consist of an anchorage/anchorage connector, a full-body harness and a connecting device, and should be capable of supporting 5,000lbs of force per worker, according to OSHA standards.
- Properly anchor your PFAS. Anchor your PFAS directly overhead to avoid swing falls.
- Install passive fall protection systems. Passive fall protection systems, such as handrails, guardrails, netting and safety gates, are a great way to reduce risk when used in conjunction with a PFAS.
- Thoroughly train your employees. From basic safety best practices to in-depth equipment training, create a comprehensive fall protection training regimen to reduce hazard risks. Be sure to consistently update your training materials to make sure your employees stay well-informed.
- Keep your warehouse floor clean. This means making sure equipment is put back in its proper place to prevent clutter and cleaning up spills in a timely manner. You might even consider investing in no-slip flooring or mats to further reduce the risk of slipping.
- Ensure that your floors are even. This includes filling in holes, refinishing uneven flooring and stabilizing surfaces for greater security.
- Create a dress code. From hard hats to shoes with a certain tread, make sure that the gear your employees wear is optimized to enhance their safety, rather than detract from it.
- Make workplace safety a community effort. Encourage your employees to speak up if they recognize unsafe practices in their environment.
- Outsource warehousing. One of the easiest ways to prevent falls in the warehouse (as well as address other warehouse safety concerns) is to outsource warehousing altogether to a secure 3PL warehouse (https://bit.ly/2FFzeaW).
And there you have it—all the pieces you need to create a successful warehouse fall prevention strategy. WMHS