The number of warehouse jobs is growing in California and across the nation. The catalyst is the increasing number of online retailers who have no need to retail space, but must have a warehouse to store, pack and ship their items to customers. While this has benefits to the business and provides many jobs, there are inherent dangers with warehouse work.
These jobs can be physically, mentally and emotionally demanding with workers suffering injuries due to repetitive movement and because of equipment and vehicle-related accidents. From 2015 to 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were double the number of fatal work accidents in warehouses.
The most recent statistics show that there are more than 5 injuries for every 100 fulltime employees in warehouse jobs. This is the same rate as farm workers. Many of the injuries happen when autonomous vehicles and robots are involved. Employers are entreated to improve safety procedures to account for the dangers. Among the strategies employers are being advised to consider are budgeting for better safety; ensuring that storage and exit areas are free of hazards; making certain workers are not injured due to ergonomic issues; proper training; and pacing the changes to retain experienced workers.
Regarding budgeting, employers should avoid workers having dual roles related to safety and speed. These issues can clash. Digitizing safety management is one idea that could help. The storage and exit dangers stem from repackaging and offloading with fewer backroom workers to save money. If there is clutter, workers are in jeopardy and it could also be a violation of the requirements the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has put in place.
Workers who twist, bend, sort, pack and use their backs, legs, hands and other extremities are vulnerable to repetitive use injury. The priority is to mitigate this factor. Worker training for hazards, communication, forklifts, pallets and more should be obvious, but in fast-paced environment where time is money, this can often be overlooked. For warehouse workers, an unsafe working environment should not be tolerated. Still, many employers who are so intently focused on earning as much as possible will look the other way at safety procedures. Even if all the requirements to avoid an accident on the job are adhered to, there can still be workplace injuries.