OSHA’s plan to reduce warehouse hazards

OSHA has launched a national emphasis program to address and reduce workplace hazards, specifically in warehouses, distribution centers and processing facilities. (Photo: Genie)

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established a three-year national emphasis program to prevent workplace hazards in warehouses, processing facilities, distribution centers and high-risk retail establishments.

“Our enforcement efforts are designed to do one thing: lead to permanent change in workplace safety,” Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker said. “This emphasis program allows OSHA to direct resources to establishments where evidence shows employers must be more intentional in addressing the root causes of worker injuries and align their business practices with the goal to ensure worker health and safety.”

In the past decade, almost 2 million people have been employes in the warehousing and distribution center industry, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these sites rank higher in injury and illness rates compared to the private industry sector overall – and they more than double the rate of some private industry sectors.

The U.S. Department of Labor said the emphasis program includes comprehensive safety inspections to identify hazards related to powered industrial vehicle operations, material handling and storage, walking and working surfaces, means of egress and fire protection.

OSHA will also inspect retail establishments with high injury rates to focus on storage and loading areas; however, OSHA might expand any inspection’s scope if it finds evidence of violations in other areas of an establishment.

Additionally, the emphasis program will call for heat and ergonomic hazard and health inspections if OSHA determines these hazards are present, the DOL said.

OSHA will select establishments to inspect from two categories: one that lists establishments with industry codes covered under this emphasis program and another consisting of a limited number of retail establishments with the highest rates of injuries and illnesses resulting in days away, restricted duty or job transfer.

State plans are required to adopt this emphasis program or establish a different program at least as effective as the federal model, according to the DOL.

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