Warehouses in the Mid-Atlantic states are the target of a new OSHA regional emphasis program (REP) to come under increased scrutiny for possible safety rules violations through onsite inspections.
“With the rapid growth of e-commerce, the warehousing industry has significantly expanded. This emphasis program will address hazardous conditions these workers continuously face every day,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Michael Rivera.
“Through coordinated outreach, education efforts and on-site inspections, OSHA is determined to identify hazardous workplace conditions and hold industry employers accountable for providing a safe and healthful workplace.”
The inspections will cover warehousing, storage and distribution yard operations located in OSHA’s Region 3, which includes the states of Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, DC.
The NAICS industry groups that specifically attracted the agency’s attention are general and refrigerated warehousing and storage, retail and wholesale groceries, wholesale meat products, beer and ale, and the manufacturing fluid milk and bottled and canned soft drinks and water.
“Establishments where powered industrial trucks are used in other warehousing, storage, and distribution yard operations not in a targeted NAICS code will also be included in this scheduling system,” OSHA said.
“This REP is intended to reduce injury/illness rates in the warehousing industry by conducting comprehensive inspections to address hazards that may include those associated with powered industrial trucks, lockout tagout, life safety, means of egress, and fire suppression.”
OSHA emphasized that the inspections will not be applied to marine terminals or shipyards. In addition, the REP will expire no later than five years from August 2022, unless it is renewed.
The REP began in August with a three-month outreach program aimed at education and prevention. During this time, it will share information with employers, trade associations, workers and other stakeholders.
OSHA encouraged employers to review operations at their warehousing, storage and distribution facilities before the program’s second phase begins, focused on compliance with federal standards.
OSHA explained it is imposing the REP because injuries for the targeted industries are higher than the general employer average.
For 2020, the rate of total recordable case rate for all private industry was 2.7 cases per 100 full-time workers. The rates for the industries included in this REP were 4.8 for warehousing and storage; 4.0 for food and beverage stores; 3.5 for beverage manufacturing; 4.3 for grocery wholesalers; and 5.5 for beer, wine, and alcoholic beverage wholesalers.
The operation of powered industrial trucks can lead to serious workplace injuries and/or death, OSHA stressed. “Each year, tens of thousands of forklift-related injuries occur in U.S. workplaces.”.
It said common injuries involve employees struck by lift trucks and falling while standing or working from elevated pallets and tines.
Employees also have been injured when lift trucks are driven off loading docks or when the lift falls between a dock and an un-chocked trailer.
OSHA noted fatalities occurred as a result of an under-ride hazard when a horizontal rack beam (crossbar) or similar obstruction enters the operator’s compartment. Deaths and injuries also happened when performing maintenance activities on powered industrial trucks and conveyor equipment without using lockout/tagout procedures.
“Many employee injuries and deaths can be attributed to lack of procedures, lack of or inadequate training, and lack of safety-rule enforcement,” OSHA pointed out.