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Warehouse Hazards

Safe At Work Ontario

Disclaimer: This resource has been prepared to help the workplace parties understand some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and regulations. It is not legal advice. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE SEE FULL DISCLAIMER

Overview

Warehouses can be hazardous places to work. Workers can be seriously injured or even die as a result of warehouse hazards.

A warehouse is a commercial building used by manufacturers, importers/exporters, retailers/wholesalers, transport companies and other businesses for storage of goods, raw materials and other commodities.

Activities at a warehouse generally include loading and unloading various materials and goods from trucks onto pallets (racks) by hand and using forklifts.

Most injuries and fatalities can be prevented.

Employers are responsible for protecting workers from any hazards in a warehouse.

Some of the hazards workers could be exposed to include:

Storage and racking systems

Pallet racks, usually made of steel, support heavy loads which could collapse and severely injure or kill a worker.

Racking hazards include:

  • partial or total failure/collapse of racking systems
  • lift trucks colliding with racks, causing material to be displaced or causing potential damage to the racking itself
  • material falling through the back of racks
  • high floor vibration at forge shops, causing loads to crawl and fall off racks if improperly secured

Loading and unloading areas

Workers can be exposed to a range of high-risk hazards at indoor and outdoor shipping and receiving areas of workplaces, including loading docks. A review of events over the past 10 years shows workers continue to suffer serious injuries and fatalities as a result of these hazards. These fatalities have included workers being:

  • pinned between forklifts on loading docks
  • pinned between loading dock and truck or trailer
  • pinned between truck and trailer
  • struck by or run over by a truck
  • struck by falling items that were not secured
  • struck by falling dock plate

Workers in shipping and receiving areas can also be exposed to hazards involving external trucking firms contracted to deliver and carry loads. The truck drivers can be at risk if they are not familiar with the workplace. For example, there may be:

  • different measures and procedures for securing vehicles against accidental movement
  • different levels of access to each workplace
  • unique features involving the yard layout
  • specialized dock levelling and dock locking systems
  • lifting devices which drivers may not be trained to use

Slips, trips and falls

Slips, trips and falls are some of the leading causes of injuries resulting in lost time at work in Ontario. Almost 20 per cent of all lost-time injury claims to Ontario's Workplace Safety and Insurance Board involve slips, trips and falls.

Common hazards:

  • slippery surfaces (e.g., oily or greasy)
  • seasonal trip hazards (snow and ice)
  • spills of wet or dry substances
  • changes in walkway levels and slopes
  • unsecured mats
  • poor lighting
  • debris and items stored in pedestrian walkways
  • trailing cables in pedestrian walkways
  • smoke, steam or dust obscuring view

Manual handling

Workers are at risk of back injury and muscular strains from lifting and moving heavy or bulky items of stock.

Some general duties of workplace parties

In all provincially regulated workplaces, employers and other workplace parties must comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations.

Some of the general duties of workplace parties include:

Employers

  • provide information, instruction and supervision to workers to protect their health and safety, including information on safe work policies, measures and procedures specific to the workplace and the work to be performed
  • take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of workers
  • ensure equipment, materials and protective devices are maintained in good condition
  • ensure equipment, materials and protective devices required by the regulations are provided
  • prepare and review, at least annually, a written occupational health and safety policy, and develop and maintain a program to implement that policy
  • post a copy of the OHSA in the workplace

Supervisors

  • ensure workers comply with the OHSA and its regulations
  • ensure any equipment, protective device or clothing required by the employer is used or worn by workers
  • advise workers of any potential or actual health or safety dangers known by the supervisor
  • if prescribed, provide workers with written instructions about measures and procedures to be taken for the workers' protection
  • take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of workers

Workers

  • use or operate equipment in a safe manner
  • report defects in equipment
  • work in compliance with the OHSA and its regulations
  • report any known workplace hazards or contraventions of the OHSA to your supervisor or employer

Workers should also be aware of their rights under the OHSA, including the right to refuse unsafe work and the right-to-know about any potential hazards to which they may be exposed in the workplace.

Health and safety considerations and best practices

Employers, supervisors and trainers should emphasize the need for workers to communicate any questions or concerns that they may have about warehousing hazards. Supervisors or others involved in training workers should be familiar with some of the unique health and safety concerns faced by warehouse workers.

More information

Toll-free number

Call 1-877-202-0008 any time to report critical injuries, fatalities or work refusals. Call 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday for general inquiries about workplace health and safety. Always call 911 in an emergency.