OSHA Guidelines for Warehouse Pedestrian Safety

OSHA Guidelines for Warehouse Pedestrian Safety

Workers in a warehouse are exposed to hazards like falls, falling objects and forklifts. There are some measures you can take to keep pedestrians safe.

Warehouse pedestrian safety is a major concern for anyone who works in a warehouse setting. Equipment operators want to be able to focus on the task at hand without hurting anybody else. And pedestrians want to feel seen and safe when walking through these areas. 

Warehouse pedestrian safety should be one of the top concerns for safety managers in the warehouse and logistics industries.

Warehouses Can Be A Danger Zone

You might be surprised to learn that according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), warehouses are one of the most hazardous places of employment.

That’s because the fatal injury rate for the warehouse industry is higher than the national average for any other industry. Which means that when injuries happen in the warehouse… they are usually either very severe…or fatal. 

But why is that? What is it about warehouses that can make them such a dangerous place to work?

Risks and Hazards for Warehouse Pedestrians

One of the reasons why the fatal injury rate in warehouses is so high is because of the risks and hazards that workers are exposed to on a daily basis. Based on recent data from OSHA and the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, some of the top hazards for warehouse pedestrians include: 

  • Exposure to forklift traffic
  • Falls from upper levels
  • Falling material hazards

Understanding how to overcome these risks and hazards will help you improve warehouse pedestrian safety.

Safety Tips for Forklift Operators

  • Always yield right of way to pedestrians.
  • Stop and honk the horn at intersections and corners
  • When provided, use flashing warning lights or backup alarms
  • Use a spotter for blind spots
  • Always look in the direction of travel
  • When a person walks across your path, stop and wait for them to pass, then proceed cautiously

Safety Tips for Pedestrians

  • Stand clear of forklifts in operation
  • Be aware of the wide rear swing radius
  • Use pedestrian walkways, or stay to one side of the equipment aisle
  • Never walk underneath an elevated load
  • Always enter the warehouse using a man door instead of an overhead door

Anytime pedestrians and equipment operators share the same workspace there will be potential for injuries. Forklift operators always need to be aware of their surroundings. And pedestrians need to always be on the lookout for forklift traffic, too.

Fall Hazards for Warehouse Pedestrians

Falls from a warehouse environment are common on stairways, mezzanines, loading docks and ladders. These falls often result in serious or fatal injuries. 

To help prevent these incidents, OSHA requires employers to ensure workers on a walking-working surface with an unprotected side or edge that is 4 feet or more above a lower level is protected from falling by one or more of the following:

  • Guardrail systems;
  • Safety net systems; or
  • Personal fall protection systems, such as personal fall arrest, travel restraint, or positioning systems

You may also want to consider using loading dock safety gates or other self closing gates to control access to these areas.

Falling Material Hazards for Warehouse Pedestrians

Falling objects accounted for 20 percent of the major injuries and deaths reported in 2013. The data has been fairly consistent in recent years as well. Materials should always be handled and stored safely within the warehouse. 

In order to help prevent falling material hazards, warehouse employees should:

  • Ensure loads of materials are stacked evenly, with heavier loads placed on lower or middle shelves.
  • Ensure bags, containers and bundles are stored in tiers that are limited in height to prevent falling hazards.
  • Keep aisles and passageways clear and maintain good housekeeping procedures.

OSHA Requirements for Warehouse Pedestrian Safety

OSHA recognizes the high risk environment that warehouse workers are exposed to each day. There are several regulations that have been put into place to help protect these workers from the risks and hazards mentioned above.

“Where mechanical handling equipment is used, sufficient safe clearances shall be allowed for aisles, at loading docks, through doorways and wherever turns or passage must be made.” OSHA Standard 1910.176(a)

Separating and defining work areas and walkways has always been a challenge in warehouse settings. Providing adequate drop-off protection for interior loading docks has also been difficult. However, these are some of the main contributors to warehouse safety incidents.

One way that warehouse and safety managers can overcome these challenges is by installing impact barriers or guard rails to create separate walkways for pedestrians. 

Barriers such as the Traffic Shield are designed to absorb the impact from forklifts and other mobile equipment. They offer a safe and effective way to reduce the accidents and injuries associated with forklifts and pedestrians in a warehouse setting.

“Aisles and passageways shall be kept clear and in good repair, with no obstruction across or in aisles that could create a hazard.” OSHA Standard 1910.176(a)

Housekeeping is another challenge that most industrial workplaces face. However, it is especially important to ensure compliance with good housekeeping practices in a warehouse environment. 

The OSHA standard goes on to state that “storage areas shall be kept free from accumulation of materials that constitute hazards from tripping, fire, explosion, or pest harborage.”

Traffic Shield can also be used to designate storage space and help keep your aisles and passageways clear. 

“Permanent aisles and passageways shall be appropriately marked.” OSHA Standard 1910.176(a)

Painted markings and floor tape can both fade over time. Especially if they are constantly being driven over by forklifts and other equipment. Make sure the markings for your warehouse aisles and passageways are clearly visible.

Warehouse managers are also encouraged to separate pedestrians from forklift traffic whenever possible. This can be done by providing:

  • Pedestrian walkways
  • Permanent railings or other protective barriers
  • Pedestrian walkway striping on the floor, if barriers cannot be used

A Final Note for Safety Managers: How You Can Help Improve Warehouse Pedestrian Safety at Your Workplace

In a busy warehouse setting, with heavy forklift traffic and the constant loading and unloading of materials…It can be easy for operators and pedestrians alike to get complacent and not pay attention to all the safety protocols. 

Make sure you are offering regular training to your employees. That you are conducting workplace audits and pedestrian safety assessments as part of your routine. And be sure to implement best practices for warehouse pedestrian safety.

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