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Warehouse Worker Injuries Spur New OSHA Initiative

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has launched a regional initiative to protect workers and reduce injuries and illnesses in the warehousing, storage and distribution yards’ industries.

OSHA’s “Regional Emphasis Program for Warehousing Operation” focuses on industry employers in Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia and Washington.

“With the rapid growth of e-commerce, the warehousing industry has significantly expanded,” Michael Rivera, OSHA regional administrator in Philadelphia, said. “This emphasis program will address hazardous conditions these workers continuously face every day. 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 initiative follows a Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) 2020 finding that the warehousing and storage industry’s injury rate of 4.8 per 100 workers is higher than the U.S. average of 2.7 per 100 rate among all private industries. In addition, from 2017 to 2020, BLS reported 93 work-related fatalities nationally in the industry.

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OSHA’s emphasis program began on Aug. 3 with a three-month period of outreach aimed at education and prevention. During this time, agency representatives will share safety and health information with employers, trade associations, workers and other stakeholders. OSHA said it encourages employers to review operations at their warehousing, storage and distribution facilities before the program’s second phase that will be focused on ensuring compliance with federal safety and health standards.

This fall, OSHA will begin targeted enforcement, incorporating on-site inspections to identify safety and health hazards, including those typically found in the warehousing industry. These include those related to the use of powered industrial trucks, such as forklifts, lockout and tagout procedures, machine guarding, means of egress and fire suppression. Inspections will not include marine terminals or shipyards.

OSHA said the emphasis program is set to run through Aug. 3, 2027, unless extended. The program supplements the work of OSHA’s area offices as they continue to open inspections in response to complaints, hospitalizations and fatalities.