How safety in retail warehouses can be improved

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Young male worker lowering a pallet with boxes. Forklift driver working in a warehouse.

How safety in retail warehouses can be improved

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has pointed out that the number of warehouse fatalities went up from 11 in 2015 to 22 in 2017. The injury rate for warehouse workers is 5.4 per 100 full-time equivalent workers, making the warehouse industry as dangerous as farming. Retail warehouse workers in California should be aware of the risks they encounter on the job.

The modern warehouse industry is fast-paced. Employers may, in fact, be sacrificing workers’ safety for the sake of efficiency and productivity. Workers, for their part, may not be trained on subjects like ergonomics, respiratory protection, machine guarding, lockout/tagout, electrical safety and hazard communication.

Warehouse workers are often packing, labeling and sorting at a fast pace, which can lead to repetitive motion injuries. They may twist their body, overreach themselves or engage in too much heavy lifting. Another danger is that the constant offloading and repackaging of large shipments will lead to clutter around exits and aisles. Having clutter around these areas for even an hour is against OSHA standards.

Warehouses are becoming more automated with autonomous forklifts and other robotic machines replacing manual labor. Workers may interact with these machines in an unsafe manner, though, unless employers put the right safety protocols into place.

Workplace injuries can occur through a lack of such protocols, which would mean the employer is at fault, or through the negligent acts of the victim. While this can either make or break a personal injury claim, it will not necessarily bar a worker from seeking workers’ compensation benefits. Of course, the employer may deny the claim, in which case the victim must file an appeal. The process can still be complicated, so it may be advisable to have the assistance of an attorney.

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