Prioritizing Warehouse Safety in the Supply Chain

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With more than 145,000 people working in an estimated 7,000 warehouses, keeping employees safe is a priority in the distribution industry and companies want to create a safe environment for all employees [1]. Distribution center injuries can result in putting employees in harm’s way, the slowing of business, and can cause costly interruptions in the supply chain. Identifying where possible hazards are and what areas to train employees can help prevent or minimize injury-related expenses and their impact on employees and business. A distribution services provider that focuses on customer goals and understands the importance of safety can be a valuable partner for shippers.

Understanding the Hazards

Knowing common areas that extra attention to safety should be given can help better train operators to preemptively address hazards. According to Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), the following are the top hazards warehouses receive citations for1


  1. Forklifts
  2. Hazard communications
  3. Electrical, wiring methods
  4. Electrical, system design
  5. Guarding floor and wall openings
  6. Exits
  7. Mechanical power transmissions
  8. Respiratory Protection
  9. Lockout/tagout
  10. Portable fire extinguishers

OSHA identifies forklift operation as the greatest hazard and estimates 855,900 forklifts being operated, 11 percent of those will be involved in an accident[2]. Utilizing forklifts that meet proper standards and construction requirements as well as ensuring each aspect of the forklift is operating properly are keys to safety. Additionally, providing proper training for operators and ongoing refresher training can keep operations moving safely.

Proper Training Keeps the Supply Chain Moving

Providing employees proper training on potential hazardous areas can help prevent accidents before they happen. Utilizing self-inspection checklists can identify potential risks before shifts begin. OSHA recommends that employees ask the following questions before beginning a shift:

  1. Are exposed or open loading dock doors chained off, roped off, or otherwise blocked?
  2. Are any other areas where employees could fall four feet or more chained off, roped off, or otherwise blocked?
  3. Are floors and aisles clear of clutter, electrical cords, hoses, spills, and any other hazards that could cause employees to slip, trip, or fall?
  4. Do the established job task time expectations allow time for safe work practices?
  5. Is the warehouse well ventilated?
  6. Have employees been trained on how to avoid heat stress in hot, humid environments?
  7. Does all equipment meet proper working standards?

During pre-shift inspections, employees should check all equipment and address anything that is incorrect. Management should empower employees to take equipment out of use and send it for repair. Creating a safety culture where operators feel confident in the company’s willingness to proactively fix problems can lead to a safer environment and operations without disruption[3]. Shippers should partner with a supply chain solutions provider that includes, encourages, and practices safety as part of its culture and keeps employees safe and products moving without delay.


  1. https://www.osha.gov/Publications/3220_Warehouse.pdf
  2. https://www.oshasafetymanagement.com/blog/forklift-safety-infographic/
  3. http://www.inboundlogistics.com/cms/article/how-to-create-a-forklift-safety-culture/