A warehouse is a dangerous environment for both workers and visitors. Despite safety improvements in recent years leading to a reduction in workplace accidents, there are still too many, most of which are preventable. In 2016/17, according to the HSE, there were almost 39,000 work related injuries reported and 14 fatalities in the transport and storage industry. It is essential that health and safety guidelines are implemented by the warehouse operators, but they also need to be adhered to by everyone working there.
The main types of injuries sustained by employees in warehouse accidents are caused by slips, trips and falls, lifting and carrying, moving vehicles, incidents involving forklift trucks and falling objects. The effects range from minor short-term pain to life changing injuries or even death. There is a financial cost to the business and the accident victim with many work days lost and a reduction in productivity. Negligent warehouse operators also leave themselves open to compensation claims.
Forklift Truck Accidents
The forklift truck is an essential part of warehouse operations, but it is also an extremely dangerous and heavy piece of equipment, especially for those working near them. The British Safety Council reports that every year in the UK, around 1,300 workers sustain serious injuries from forklift accidents necessitating hospitalisation, 57% of whom are pedestrians working in the vicinity.
There could be a number of reasons why there are so many accidents involving forklifts. Under health and safety legislation, employers are required to ensure that employees are adequately trained on any equipment that they might need to use. However, there is no such thing as a forklift driving licence or a legal requirement to provide a forklift driver with a certificate or for them to undertake refresher training. A driver who has not been properly trained or has become sloppy can be a danger to those around them.
Forklift drivers are sometimes put under pressure to complete tasks quickly, encouraging them to use excess speed. They might also drive while raising or lowering the load which causes the truck to become unstable. The load should always be at its lowest point while the truck is moving. Some drivers undertake these bad practices simply through being reckless.
In many incidents pedestrians come into conflict with forklifts and they will always be likely to suffer serious injury. There should be clearly marked walkways, but it’s not always possible to keep operations separate. It is up to both pedestrians and drivers to be observant and aware of who and what is around them. This especially applies where members of the public are permitted to enter who may not be as conscious of the dangers.
A load falling from the raised forks of the truck can cause serious injury to anyone nearby. If the load is unstable, the forklift driver should put it down and realign it safely on the forks. If the instability is due to a damaged pallet the load should be transferred to another pallet.
Warehouse supervisors should be on the lookout for any habitual reckless or careless behaviour by drivers and recommend that they are given refresher training. In the event of a serious accident, even if the driver is found to be at fault, the employer can also be held liable and prosecuted.
Warehouse Accidents involving a Slip, Trip or Fall
Slips, trips and falls are among the most common incidents causing injury in warehouses. These accidents can result in trauma from bruising to broken limbs or head injuries.
These buildings are a constant hive of activity with vehicles being loaded and unloaded and stock being moved around creating many potential trip hazards. Goods left in walkways, trailing cables, damaged goods causing spillages and poorly lit stairways and passages can all contribute to accidents.
The management are responsible for providing a safe working environment and training staff to keep walkways clear, immediately clear up spills and place warning signs, cover and/or put warning signs for trip hazards like cables, and ensuring all areas have adequate lighting.
Lifting and Handling
Any warehouse employee who is required to perform frequent lifting tasks is at risk of back and strain injuries. Also, carrying a load that is too high can restrict the vision increasing the danger of tripping over obstacles. Workers should be trained in the correct manual handling techniques and as to when lifting equipment should be used.
Racking and Shelving
Racking and shelving is an integral part of most warehouse operations, but they are also responsible for many accidents. Where racking is not assembled correctly there is the danger of it collapsing under the weight of the goods. Workers have been known to climb up on shelves without any safety equipment putting themselves at risk of a fall from height. If our friend, the forklift driver, makes a misjudgement and crashes into a rack it can cause severe damage. Racking and shelving is often not smoothly finished and there is the danger of cuts and abrasions.
Shelving is also where the biggest risk of falling objects comes from. Goods not placed properly can fall or a damaged pallet can give way putting in danger anyone passing by.
Harmful substances such as chemicals are often to be found in warehouses, whether as stored goods or for cleaning and maintenance. In either case, employees should be trained in their correct use, what protective clothing may be necessary when handling them, and spillage emergency procedures.
Warehouse Accident Injury
Any accident causing death or a reportable injury which occurs in the workplace has to be reported to the HSE (Health & Safety Executive) by law and recorded in the company’s accident book.
If you have been injured in a warehouse accident which you believe was caused by the negligence of the warehouse operator you may have grounds to make a claim for compensation. You should gather as much evidence you can and keep records of all your medical treatment and related expenses. Should you be eligible, a legal expert specialising in warehouse accident claims will be able to advise you regarding how to make a warehouse injury claim.