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Prioritizing Warehouse Safety: A Guide for Safety Managers

By Safeopedia Staff
Published: August 4, 2023
Key Takeaways

Warehouses may appear relatively safe, but there are a number of hazards that safety managers need to control.

Caption: Employee locating item on a warehouse shelf Source: dusanpetkovic / iStock

A successfully managed warehouse is one where every item is fully accounted for, easily found, and can be transported from Point A to Point B as efficiently as possible.

But logistics is only one half of the story. Because the only truly well-functioning warehouse is a safe warehouse.

Unfortunately, maintaining a safe warehouse environment is no simple task. Heavy loads, forklifts, and foot traffic are a hazardous mix. Without a robust warehouse safety plan, it’s only a matter of time before accidents and injuries occur. And these incidents are costly, disruptive, and devastating.


As a safety manager, your job is to ensure that warehouse hazards are controlled, risks are managed, and that every employee can work safely in what could otherwise be a very dangerous environment. And the first step to achieving that goal is understanding which hazards you’re dealing with.

Common Warehouse Safety Hazards

A formal hazard assessment will help you uncover the various risks in your warehouse - from obvious ones to those that are easily overlooked. A number of those hazards will fall under the following categories.


Warehouse managers know how to make maximum use of their limited warehouse space. The goal is to be able to store as much product as you can without expanding the square footage, and the only way to achieve that is by going vertical.

Where possible, items will be stacked on top of each other, sorted on shelves, and placed on racks. Having items at heights, however, puts workers at risk of falling when they climb ladders or use mechanical lifts to retrieve the products they need.


Forklifts are essential in many warehouses. However, operating such heavy machinery in close proximity to foot traffic comes with inherent risks. Forklift collisions, tip-overs due to overloading, and even managing exposure to tailpipe emissions are all a concern for safety managers.

(Learn about 4 Common Forklift Accidents - And How to Prevent Them)

Struck by Object

On paper, the workflow is perfect. The item is on a high shelf, but the process for retrieving it is simple. A warehouse employee will climb a ladder, retrieve the product, and safely descend with the item in hand.

In reality, things don’t always go so smoothly. Mistakes happen - the worker loses their grip on the product, an improperly shelved item slips off, or a rack collapses along with everything it was holding. Needless to say, when these objects fall they threaten to injure anyone who has the misfortune of being in their path.

(Learn more in Top 5 Tips for Warehouse and Racking Safety)



Part of a warehouse worker's job is to lift and carry heavy items. They may reach, bend, or twist to retrieve or move products. All of these actions can put a strain on the body if they are not performed correctly. This can result in a number of musculoskeletal disorders, from muscle sprains to permanent back injuries.

Warehouse Safety Solutions

Once the hazards in your warehouse are identified, you will need to implement control measures to protect your employees from them. Here are some solutions that should be part of any warehouse safety program.

Safety Training

All warehouse workers should be trained on the hazards they will encounter on the job and how to work safely in that environment. Training is especially important for ergonomic hazards since there’s no safety gear that can substitute for proper lifting techniques or knowing how to retrieve items without causing lower back pain.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Warehouse workers must be supplied with equipment that will protect them from injuries or limit the severity of those injuries. This PPE will include hard hats, safety glasses, hi-vis clothing, and proper footwear such as steel-toe boots.

(Learn more about Safety Toes: The Materials That Keep Your Feet Safe)

Safety Signage

When workers are focused on completing a task, they can sometimes lose sight of the procedures and protocols required to carry out that task safely. Clear and visible signs provide constant reminders for workers to follow all applicable safety procedures. Similarly, floor markings can be used to demarcate safe pathways for forklift operators.

(Learn about 5 Ways to Use Floor Marking Tape on the Job Site)

Regular Inspections

Without regular inspection and maintenance, it’s only a matter of time before the equipment you rely on in your warehouse fails. Scheduling regular inspections of lift trucks, ladders, racking systems, and other equipment will help you catch potential issues before they put workers at risk.

Make Warehouse Safety a Priority

A warehouse isn't just a place to park products. It's a busy facility full of activity and on any given day, there are numerous points at which things can go wrong. A forklift operator fails to notice a worker walking near their lift, overloaded rack tips over, or a worker winces in pain after trying to lift a heavy load - name your worst-case scenario and it’s only a few steps away from happening.

That’s why you play an essential role as a safety manager. It’s your safety plan, program, and procedures that will ensure that every warehouse worker can end their shift, clock out, and head home without injury.


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Written by Safeopedia Staff

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At Safeopedia, we think safety professionals are unsung superheroes in many workplaces. We aim to support and celebrate these professionals and the work they do by providing easy access to occupational health and safety information, and by reinforcing safe work practices.

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