Warehouse Safety

Warehouse Safety

There are many types of warehouses, each with their own unique purpose, from distribution centers or dropship facilities to cold storage, customs warehouses, hazardous materials centers, and more.

This also means that warehouse employees can be exposed to many different hazards, and it is important to educate yourself on warehouse safety to protect your employees, yourself, and your facility.

Manual Lifting

Back injuries are one of the most common workplace injuries among all industries. In warehouses, they usually come from improper lifting techniques. Improper lifting or twisting while carrying a heavy load can lead to sprains, strains, torn muscles, torn cartilage, and displaced or compressed vertebrae. The more repetitive lifting your employees do, the more at risk they are for back injury.

Mechanical lifting methods, such as a pallet jack or dolly, should be available wherever possible. However, in case they are not available, you should train your employees on how to reduce the risks of a manual lift.

Safe manual lifting practices include:

Material Handling

Properly storing materials is important in reducing the risk of multiple hazards, including slips, trips, and falls, fire, and dropped objects. To prevent materials from falling, they should be stacked evenly, in a straight line, and according to weight, with the heaviest materials on the bottom. You should train your employees to only remove items from a shelf one by one as carrying multiple objects at a time can cause injuries.

Loose materials should be stored in a way that prevents the pile from falling. This can be done by blocking, interlocking, or limiting the height of the pile. All materials should be stored in a way that helps prevent fire hazards, explosions, or pest infestation.

Loading docks are places with many hazards, including forklifts, trucks, heights, and heavy lifting. Open loading dock doors should be blocked off when not in use and the edges of the dock should have visual warnings. Everyone should always use the dock ladder or stairs; never jump or attempt to climb up a loading dock.

Mechanical Material Handling Equipment

Providing your employees with mechanical equipment to help them lift heavy or bulky objects can speed up the process and reduce the risk of injuries, but mechanical equipment is not without its own risks. Forklifts alone accounted for almost 7,300 injuries in 2020 and 70 deaths in 2021.

“Forklift” is a term commonly used for a group of vehicles that OSHA classifies as powered industrial trucks, or PITs. The most common types of PITs are electric and internal combustion engine rider trucks. Narrow aisle trucks, forklift tractors, motorized pallet jacks, and rough terrain forklifts all classify as powered industrial trucks.

If your employees will be using a forklift or other PIT as part of their job duties, you need to train them on the specific machine they will be using, its controls and hazards, and any specific hazards that exist in your workspace.

Almost all pieces of lifting equipment involve pinch-point hazards, while cranes create overhead, struck-by, and dropped-object hazards. Before allowing employees to use any equipment, you should provide them with training and make sure they always follow manufacturer instructions.


If your warehouse has chemicals or compressed gases present, each chemical should have a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) associated with it. The SDS will tell you how to handle and store that chemical. Even with the help of an SDS, employees should never attempt to use, handle, or clean up a chemical unless they have had additional training.

You should have an emergency plan in place that outlines who should do what in an emergency. Be sure your employees understand the contents of the emergency plan before a situation arises. The plan should include emergency exit locations, evacuation procedures, and the location of fire extinguishers and other emergency equipment. It should also include methods for ensuring the safety of all visitors.

To reduce the risk of fires, flammable and explosive materials must be stored in appropriate storage areas away from other materials and sources of ignition. Chemicals should be stored according to manufacturer recommendations and relevant fire codes. Smoking and open flames should be prohibited in battery charging or compressed-gas storage areas.

HSI Can Help

Warehouses are a necessity in many industries, but they do come with their own risks, including hazardous substances, heavy machinery and potentially dangerous locations within the warehouse itself. Contact HSI today to learn more about how our safety training can help your workers identify common warehouse hazards and understand how to safely handle materials and equipment.

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