When most people think of dangerous workplaces, they think of construction sites. But warehouses pose just as many dangers. Today we’ll look at real OSHA reports about warehouse accidents, and discuss what might have prevented them.
1) Fall From Scissor Lift
In February 2017, two employees (one of whom was a helper) were working on a scissor lift, while a supervisor watched from the warehouse floor about thirty feet away. The workers were dismantling a 15-foot metal rack beam.
While neither the supervisor nor the other worker were looking, the helper fell from the scissor lift onto the concrete warehouse floor. Emergency services transported the injured man to the hospital, but sadly he died later that day.
What might have prevented it. Surprisingly, OSHA doesn’t mandate harnesses or other fall protection for laborers working in scissor lifts. In fact, using fall protection in this type of lift is so uncommon that many manufacturers don’t provide an anchor point in the vehicle for a worker to attach a harness to.
The reason? Some safety experts contend that scissor lifts aren’t heavy enough to remain upright if a tethered worker falls from the basket. The worry is that the amount of force exerted on the vehicle when a worker falls and the tether “snaps” taut will topple the unit.
In the case of the worker who fell from the lift, increased supervision and proper training might have prevented the tragic accident. Either the supervisor or the helper’s workmate should have watched the helper at all times. Also, accident investigators later determined that the man had not been instructed on how to work safely from a scissor lift platform.
2) “Caught Between” Injury
In June 2017, a warehouse dock worker tried to lift a foldable dock leveler so he could move products from a delivery truck to the warehouse with a forklift.
Unfortunately, the employee used his hands to lift the leveler rather than the prybars that were located both on the forklift and on the supervisor’s desk. The dock leveler fell, crushing one of the worker’s fingers. Doctors later had to amputate his fingertip.
What might have prevented it. There are many types of dock levelers. Some, like the one involved in this accident, are manually operated. Others are powered by hydraulics.
As a hard-and-fast rule, workers should never place their hands or feet under a manual dock-leveling plate.
3) Fall From Walkway
In May 2016, a worker fell from a warehouse mezzanine and was transported to the hospital. Four days later, he died from injuries sustained in the fall.
What might have prevented it. Slips and trips cause around 25% of workplace injuries each year. And 15% of all workplace fatalities are the result of falls. But the good news is that most of these can be prevented.
Warehouse supervisors should make sure that any uneven or sloped walking surfaces are repaired. This includes filling cracks or pits in the floor. Supervisors should also “walk” the warehouse floor to ensure it’s free of trip hazards like stray cords, wet floors, or packing material. A non-skid floor coating should be used on stairways and catwalks. And finally, workers must be trained on how to recognize and correct any trip hazards they spot in the warehouse.
4) “Struck-by” Injury (Forklift)
In October 2015, a worker walking down an aisle in a warehouse was struck by a forklift traveling in reverse. He died two hours later as a result of his injuries.
What might have prevented it. Between racking, pallets, and products, work spaces within a warehouse can be extremely cramped. That’s why forklift safety starts outside the vehicle: operators must check to ensure clear visibility before they get into the forklift.
Once they’re in the vehicle, operators should use both rear-view mirrors and spotters to check visibility whenever possible. They should also look behind them when traveling in reverse.
Like many industrial vehicles, forklifts beep when they’re moving in reverse. Workers should always be alert and stay aware of their surroundings. That means listening as well as looking for signs of danger.
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