October 17 2014

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Guest blogger: Dale Allen, national service manager, Rankin

Warehouse operations require many safety procedures to keep both workers and materials out of harm’s way. While this type of business does not face as many dangers as most manufacturing or construction operations, there are still regulations in place. Several areas are critical to safe operations and this checklist provides a starting point in addressing safety concerns.


Sufficient lighting must be used to prevent accidents. Warehouses should not be dark, gloomy caves. Lighting is needed for all production and storage areas. Businesses should take a hint from the new regulations for the use of incandescent lighting in households. Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) provide better light for less energy cost.

Strong lighting should be used in all production areas to prevent accidents. Storage shelving and aisles need to be well lit to reduce the chance of employees tripping over materials and equipment from running into the shelving.

Secure shelving

Inadequate storage systems present several safety hazards. The first problem area occurs when insufficient shelving space is available. Materials end up being stacked incorrectly or left on the floor to become trip hazards. In addition to the safety concerns, business owners should look at increased costs that come from crowded storage locations. Employees will spend more time retrieving materials and items may become damaged due to overcrowding.

Shelving must also be durable enough to support the weight of the materials. If one shelf fails under a load, a domino effect will occur. The next shelf in the series will receive more weight than it can hold and will be more likely to fail.

Storage systems must be properly anchored to floors, walls or overhead structures. Accidental contact with material handling equipment will cause unanchored systems to tip. Even slight motion could cause materials on higher shelves to topple onto a worker below.

In addition to securely anchoring shelving, avoid placing the heaviest materials on the top shelves or stacking items too high. The amount of space between shelving units must also be adequate to allow for forklifts or other equipment to be operated safely.

Heating and cooling

Meeting the heating and cooling needs of a warehouse can be difficult. These buildings normally incorporate high ceilings and concrete flooring. However, both employees and the materials being stored require regulated temperatures for comfort and safety.

Large fans are useful to keep air circulating, and help to keep extremely high temperatures under control. Unfortunately, fans do little to add any real cooling. During winter, fans can push the warmer air near the ceiling downwards for some additional warmth. Fans should be run on higher speeds to cool and lower speeds to circulate warm air.

Portable heating and cooling systems are a cost-effective choice in most warehouse applications. Using portable systems allows for more efficient climate control where it is needed. Heating or cooling equipment can be positioned near production lines, workstations and storage locations that require a more controlled environment.


Adequate ventilation is a problem area for many warehouses. OSHA has a set of guidelines that must be followed for general industry. Additional regulations are in place for industries that store or use certain hazardous materials. Business owners must take an inventory of what is used or stored in a warehouse to know exactly what type of ventilation system is required for safe operation.

Ventilation must be used in any areas where gas-powered vehicles are utilized. These fumes can build, creating anything from minor illness to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Hazardous materials handling

When hazardous materials are used or stored in warehouse operations, many safety regulations apply. All materials must have up-to-date Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) information that is accessible to workers. Flammable materials must be stored in approved cabinets.

Procedures must be in place for handling spills. The proper protective equipment should be readily available to employees and the employees must be trained in safe cleaning procedures. Disposal of hazardous materials must be done according to EPA guidelines.

Forklift rules

If forklifts are used in a warehouse, business owners need to address numerous safety issues. Accidents occur when forklifts run into workers or stationary objects, are run off loading docks or tip over due to improper loading — accidents and tip-overs can cause serious injuries.

No employee should operate a forklift without the required training. In addition, adequate lighting and sufficient space between warehouse shelving can increase the safety for operators.

If basic safety guidelines are followed, a warehouse can be a safe and comfortable place for workers. Businesses will see reduced costs in insurance and a reduction in damaged materials.

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