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Make Warehouse Distribution Center Safety a Priority

If your company owns or manages warehouse distribution centers, you know about warehouse health and safety risks that can result in accidents and losses. Supply & Demand Chain Executive calls rising warehouse injury rates a “workplace epidemic.”

Increased demand for online orders and labor shortages have led to warehouse employees working longer hours and processing larger volumes of orders — often leaving less time for training.

Managing warehouse risks

Risk management is often crucial to helping establish a safer work environment, ensure efficient fulfillment and a dependable supply chain, and avoid warehouse safety violations, insurance claims and expensive lawsuits.

Modern warehouses and distribution centers have complex systems that require optimum performance and integration to remain productive, from inventory tracking to picking and packing. Make warehouse risk assessment a regular part of your operation.

Evaluate each part of your operation to determine specific hazards and safety concerns, including storage height, fire protection, housekeeping and other unique hazards such as type of product stored (hazardous materials, flammables, awkwardly shaped items, etc.).

The way your storage is arranged can impact the effectiveness of your fire sprinkler protection — consult NFPA 13 to help ensure that your storage arrangement conforms to National Fire Protection Association guidelines. Storage height and aisle width play a major part in property protection. Be sure you know the dimensions and protections for your operations. Provide appropriate supervision and training for all shifts. Eliminate exposures from slips on greasy floors, falls from heights, or hazards from improperly stacked pallets. Remember that, where a facility is open to the public, such exposures may cause injury to customers as well as employees. Good housekeeping is often key. 

Frequent and sometimes severe losses involve warehouse forklift accidents - business guests who are in unauthorized areas, or truck drivers entering the loading docks. Visitors should be restricted from your warehouse even if escorted by an employee. They should also wear hard hats and ear and eye protection. Don’t ever assume the safety of your guests.

Reviewing safety procedures

You’ll also want to periodically review your warehouse safety procedures and employee training. Be sure to include the following:

  • Written safety rules that conform to Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements, including proper signage, fire prevention plans, personal protective equipment, and proper handling and storage of hazardous materials
  • Safety training requirements, including operation of machinery, working with hazardous materials, and proper ergonomics
  • Inspections and recordkeeping, including for forklifts, racks, equipment, and tools
  • Discipline and incentive procedures to deal with violations of your safety rules and to encourage a culture of safety
  • Reporting requirements in the event of an accident

Warehouse self-inspection checklist

To help you evaluate your workspace, here is a brief list of items to add to your self-inspection process:


  • Are all aisle widths maintained and not blocked?
  • Are holes and/or openings in floors protected?
  • Are mats used in drainage or entry areas to prevent slips and falls?
  • Do you maintain housekeeping, including alignment of piled items?

Stairs and Mezzanines

  • For all stairs of four or more risers, are there handrails present?
  • Are railings provided on the open side of exposed stairs?
  • Are railings and toe boards present on all mezzanines over adjacent lower areas?


  • Do any fixed ladders in use require fall-prevention cages?
  • Are all step ladders in use under 20’ high?
  • Are all step ladders inspected quarterly?

Exits and Pathways to Exits

  • Are all exits properly marked and illuminated?
  • Are emergency exit doors equipped with panic-bar hardware?

Fire Protection

  • Are all fire extinguishers tagged and inspected monthly?
  • Are fire alarm systems inspected bimonthly?
  • Is there clearance of at least 36” from all major electrical panels and equipment? 

Material Handling

  • Are trucks and trailers secured from movement during loading and unloading operations?
  • Have safety aisles been designated, permanently marked, and kept clear to allow unobstructed passage? 

Warehouse distribution centers can experience serious interruption from poor safety, injuring workers, harming revenue and creating substantial potential warehouse company liabilities. Be sure you understand your warehouse risks and have procedures in place to protect your workers, visitors and product.

Insurance picks up when accidents happen

Westfield offers commercial insurance products that help warehouse and other logistics and cargo businesses recover from accidents and losses, including business property, workers’ compensation and general liability. We can even help you with equipment breakdown, cargo insurance, and coverage for your employment management liabilities. Meet with a Westfield agent to review a full menu of protections to keep your warehouse business in top shape.