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Blitz Results: Racking and Storage

Safe At Work Ontario
  • Issued: February 2012
  • Content last reviewed: February 2012

Hazards involving pallet racks are a significant cause of serious worker injury. Usually made of steel, these racks often support heavy loads which may collapse if improperly installed or used. The racks are common in warehouses, distribution centres, retail operations and manufacturing plants.

From November 1 to 30, 2011, Ministry of Labour (MOL) inspectors conducted a blitz of hazards involving racking and storage systems. Inspectors checked on compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations.

Inspectors checked that:

  • racking was selected and installed in a manner that ensures the safety of workers
  • racking was properly maintained and repaired
  • material was safely loaded onto racks
  • aisles were obstruction-free

The goal was to:

  • raise awareness of racking and storage system hazards
  • check that employers identified and controlled hazards
  • check that employers addressed and remedied non-compliance with the OHSA and its regulations
  • deter non-compliant employers
  • enhance health and safety partnerships
  • promote improved health and safety for workers using racking and storage systems

Report summary

Between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2010, three workers died and 45 others received serious injuries involving racking and storage, according to ministry data.

In November 2011, ministry inspectors conducted 1,167 visits to 977 workplaces and issued 3,063 orders under the OHSA, including 118 stop work orders.

The most commonly issued orders involved an employer's duty to ensure equipment, materials and protective devices were maintained in good condition.

Full report

Workplace inspection blitzes

Inspection blitzes are part of the province's Safe At Work Ontario compliance strategy. They are announced to the sector by the ministry in advance although individual workplaces are not identified in advance. Results are posted on the ministry's website. The blitzes raise awareness of known workplace hazards and promote compliance with the OHSA and its regulations.

Inspectors' findings may impact the frequency and level of future inspections of individual workplaces. Inspectors may also refer employers to health and safety associations for compliance assistance and training.

Blitz focus

Inspectors checked workplaces where racking and storage systems are commonly used. The workplaces were selected based on various risk factors. Included were workplaces:

  • identified as being high-priority due to possible hazards involving racking and storage
  • where complaints have been received
  • where there was a poor compliance history

The top five workplaces visited were in the following sectors:

  • retail
  • wood and metal fabrication
  • wholesalers
  • transportation
  • food and Beverage

Inspectors focused on the following key priorities:

Installation and selection: Inspectors checked that racking and storage systems were selected and installed to ensure the safety of workers.

Condition, maintenance and repair: Inspectors checked that racking and storage systems were properly maintained and repaired.

Use of racks: Inspectors checked that lift trucks were being driven and products were being loaded and unloaded on pallet racks in a safe manner.

Forklift activity: Inspectors checked that appropriate lift trucks were being used for the workplace and tasks required. This included checking that the truck's capacity was sufficient to carry the required loads, and that narrow forklifts were being used for narrow aisles.

Other related issues: Inspectors checked that aisles were kept free of obstructions, lighting was adequate and pallets were in good condition.

Inspectors took enforcement action, as appropriate, in response to any contraventions found under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations.

Inspection activity

During the November 2011 blitz, the rate of stop work orders issued (0.1 per workplace visit) during the blitz was identical to the overall rate during all visits (blitz and other inspections) by inspectors to industrial workplaces that month. Inspectors issued orders at a rate of 3.1 per workplace visit. This was slightly higher than the rate of orders issued (2.8 per workplace visit) during all visits for that month.

Table 1: November 2011 industrial workplace blitz
  Industrial sector
racking and storage blitz inspections November 1 to 30, 2011
Total industrial sector inspections November 1 to 30, 2011
Number of Workplaces visited 977 1,686
Total visits * 1,167 2,026
Orders (all types) 3,063 4,775
Stop work orders 118 195
Orders per visit 3.1 2.8
Stop work orders per visit 0.1 0.1
* Refers to the total number of individual visits MOL inspectors made to all workplaces during this blitz.

Order analysis

Orders were issued under the OHSA, Regulations for Industrial Establishments and Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) Regulations for various violations.

The chart below provides a summary of the most frequently issued orders during the blitz.

Table 2: Orders issued under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA),
Regulations for Industrial Establishments and Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHIMS)
Type of order Number of orders Issued Percentage
of total orders issued during blitz
Employer duty to ensure equipment, materials and protective devices provided by the employer are maintained in good condition [OHSA S. 25(1)(b)] 625 18.3%
Employer duty to ensure materials are stored safely so workers are not endangered  [Industrial Reg. S. 45(b)] 185 5.57%
Employer duty to provide an engineer's report on load limits for structures [OHSA S. 54(1)(m)] 165 4.97%
Employer duty to take reasonable precautions to protect worker [OHSA S. 25(2)(h)] 162 4.88%
Employer duty to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect worker's health and safety [OHSA S. 25(2)(a)] 138 4.16%
Employer duty to ensure a lifting device is examined by a competent person to determine its capacity to handle the maximum rated load [Industrial Reg. S. 51(1)(b)] 123 3.70%
Employer duty to ensure material will not tip and fall (Industrial Reg. S. 46) 105 3.16%
Employer duty to annually prepare and review a health and safety policy and develop and maintain a program to implement it [OHSA S. 25(2)(j)] 99 2.98%
Employer duty to post the OHSA [OHSA S. 25(2)(i)] 81 2.44%
Employer duty to provide any drawings, specifications, document, record or report [OHSA S. 54(1)(c)] 67 2.02%
Employer duty to ensure floors are kept free of obstructions (Industrial Reg. S. 11) 67 2.02%

Conclusion

The high percentage of orders involving an employer's duty to ensure equipment, materials and protective devices are maintained in good condition demonstrates the workplaces selected for the blitz needed enforcement action to ensure the racking systems would not present a hazard to workers. The low percentage of orders for the employer duty to annually prepare and review a health and safety policy and develop and maintain a program to implement it tells us that at the workplaces selected for the blitz, the employers understood the importance of a health and safety policy.

Next steps

During routine workplace inspections, the ministry will continue to focus on key issues and hazards related to racking and storage systems.

A key to workplace health and safety in Ontario is the internal responsibility system (IRS). Employers, supervisors, workers, their health and safety associations, the ministry and Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) all have key roles to play in ensuring health and safety in the workplace and eliminating workplace injuries and deaths.

Racking and storage systems continue to be part of the ministry's inspection focus at industrial and health care workplaces. The ministry will continue to work with its occupational health and safety partners to ensure:

  • racking is selected and installed in a manner that ensures the safety of workers
  • racking is properly maintained and repaired
  • material is safely loaded onto racks
  • aisles are obstruction-free

Workplace parties are encouraged to work together to identify and control racking and storage hazards. Employers must comply with a range of duties to protect worker's healthy and safety.

Compliance help for employers

For more information on identifying, preventing and controlling workplace hazards, please contact our safety partners.