Warehouse Safety: 5 Steps to Implement a Warehouse Safety Plan

Learn the 5 basic steps to implement a warehouse safety plan. Plus real-world checklists to help you maintain a safety warehouse system.

Warehouse safety is essential for protecting workers in the workplace and ensuring that all operations run smoothly. In this article, we examine the topic of warehouse safety, some reasons why it’s important, and 5 simple steps to follow if you want to implement your own warehouse safety plan. Additionally, we discover some tips and best practices for improving safety in your warehouse.

A warehouse worker getting injured from a poorly stacked pallet of cartons

Table of Contents

Overview of Warehouse Safety

Warehouse operations require a wide range of activities, from product storage to loading and unloading trucks, which can present many potential hazards to employees. These hazards can include slips, trips, falls, and even long-term disease from physical injury. Safety protocols in a warehouse help reduce the risk of these hazards and protect the integrity of the goods.

A worker who suffered a forklift injury

Why is warehouse safety important?

Warehouse safety is important because first and foremost it ensures that employees’ health is protected. In addition to that, good safety in a warehouse helps maintain customer satisfaction which keeps businesses thriving in today’s competitive market landscape. It also ensures that the goods are stored safely with minimal damage and without causing any additional expense to the business.

By adhering to warehouse safety regulations, businesses can save money on medical costs associated with workplace accidents and insurance premiums. Additionally, workers’ compensation claims for injury or illness resulting from dangerous working conditions can be avoided or minimized by following safety protocols in a warehouse. This helps businesses avoid potential liabilities and costly legal proceedings that could have a long-term negative impact on their reputation. Furthermore, providing an adequate level of safety in a warehouse helps ensure that all employees feel secure while they perform their duties.

5 Steps of the Warehouse Safety Plan

The following outlines the our 5-step process to establish and improve warehouse safety. While your process doesn’t have to be the same as ours, you do need to have a process. We encourage you to follow our process, or use it as a foundation to establish your own.


Identify the Hazards

What could cause an accident or injury?


Develop the Program

Build out an end-to-end safety plan.


Document the Plan

Write your complete safety plan down.


Implement the Plan

Put the warehouse safety plan into play.


Monitor & Update

Continuously evaluate & improve the plan.

  1. Identify Warehouse Hazards: The first step in establishing warehouse safety is to identify potential hazards in the workplace. The most common hazards include slips, trips, falls, and long-term health effects from physical injury. Other potential hazards could include improper storage of hazardous substances, inadequate lighting, insufficient ventilation, or poorly maintained equipment. Safety personnel should assess the risks posed by these hazards to determine what steps need to be taken to reduce them.
  2. Develop a Warehouse Safety Program: After identifying potential hazards, the next step is to develop a comprehensive safety program tailored to those specific risks. This plan should include detailed procedures for reacting to identified hazards as well as prevention measures such as proper maintenance of equipment. It should also include a process to train employees on core safety regulations as well as how warehouse employees should handle emergency procedures.
  3. Document the Plan: Warehouses need to create extensive documentation for their safety protocols so that everyone involved with managing operations within this space can understand what needs to be done when certain situations arise or when new procedures are implemented into daily routines of operation at any given time. Having this information readily available allows not only a quick response but also helps ensure accountability among everyone involved with handling these types of tasks.
  4. Implement Policies & Procedures: Once a safety program has been developed, it must be implemented into daily operations at the warehouse facility. This includes setting up clearly marked pathways and exits, installing adequate lighting and ventilation systems, providing regular maintenance on all machines used in the facility, and educating employees about safe working practices through properly enforced policies and procedures.
  5. Monitor & Evaluate Safety Practices: Once a warehouse safety plan is in place, you can’t just walk away and call it complete. Continual monitoring and evaluation of existing policies are important, especially as changes occur. Qualified personnel should conduct regular inspections to ensure compliance with the plan. They should also look for any new dangers that may have arisen since prior inspections took place.

What is the most common cause of warehouse workplace injuries?

Forklifts are the most common cause of warehouse workplace injuries. According to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), about 100 employees are killed and 95,000 injured every year while operating forklifts. This is across all industries.

Types of Hazards in Warehouses

The reason that warehouses are hazardous workplaces is because they are often filled with heavy loads, complex machinery, and other possible dangers. A comprehensive understanding of the types of hazards present in warehouses helps immensely when working towards an effective safety program. Here’s a list of the main hazards in a warehouse:

  • Docks

    Loading docks can be high-traffic areas where warehouse workers have to maneuver large containers and heavy equipment. Poorly designed docks may lack slip prevention features, such as non-slip surfaces or guardrails, resulting in slips, trips, and falls.

  • Forklifts

    Forklifts can cause serious injuries, especially if operated improperly or by untrained personnel. Collisions between forklifts and pedestrians are a common hazard in warehouses.

  • Conveyors

    Moving conveyor belts can create pinch points where workers can become trapped or crushed. Poorly maintained conveyor systems may also lead to dangerous malfunctions such as jams or belt slips.

  • Manual Lifting

    Heavy boxes can cause serious injuries if not handled properly. Poor lifting techniques, such as using the back instead of the legs, can lead to sprains and strains.

  • Hazardous Materials

    Warehouse workers may be exposed to hazardous materials such as dust, vapors, fumes, and fluids. Without proper safety equipment and training, workers may be at risk of chemical burns, respiratory illnesses, and other health conditions.

  • Storage Methods

    Inadequate storage methods can lead to items falling on workers, tripping hazards, or the creation of blocked exits. Clutter may also create fire hazards if not maintained properly.

  • Fires

    Warehouses (especially unkept ones) are highly susceptible to fires, and can be especially dangerous for the same reason. Fire safety is critical for warehouse safety programs which should not only include prevention measures, but how to respond to an fire with emergency exits and other safety procedures.

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Best Practices for Warehouse Safety

Now that you understand the main areas of risk, here are some basic warehouse safety tips for helping to ensure your warehouse and warehouse workers are as safe as possible. If you follow these best practices for warehouse safety, you can help ensure your workers’ well-being and eliminate costly issues.


A warehouse design should emphasize proper ergonomics. If workers are required to lift heavy boxes or bend at cumbersome angles, it can cause injury. At the same time, the warehouse layout should provide adequate space for forklifts and other machinery so that workers are not cramped or exposed to potential collisions.

Additionally, passageways should be marked with aisle signs and warehouse floor kept clear of any obstructions. Proper lighting is also necessary to ensure worker safety as they move about the warehouse.


Maintenance plays an important role in warehouse safety by ensuring that equipment is functioning properly and is regularly serviced. Any spills or messes should be cleaned up immediately to avoid trip hazards or contamination risks.

Meanwhile, regular deep cleaning should take place to further exposure to harmful environmental issues. All moving parts of machines should also be guarded properly as they can cause laceration or crush injuries if exposed.


Employees must understand the various risks associated with warehouse work to prevent accidents or injuries from occurring. This includes receiving proper training on how best to minimize these risks by utilizing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when necessary and understanding proper lifting techniques etc. Employees should also receive fire safety training on how to respond in the event of an emergency.

A manager reviewing a worker's box lifting technique for his warehouse safety checklist

Warehouse Safety Checklist Examples

According to OSHA, there should be several checklists in warehouse safety. One overall “general” list, and at least 3 other specific checklists. Please visit OSHA for the official guideline. Here is our simplified version of their checklists:

General Warehouse Safety Checklist:

  • Exposed loading dock doors and other areas where employees could fall 4 feet or more should be chained off, roped off, or otherwise blocked.

  • The floors and aisles are clear of things that could cause people to slip, trip or fall. This includes things like clutter, electrical cords, hoses, and spills.

  • Time allotment for tasks is based on proper work practices.

  • Employees are granted regular rest breaks during physical labor to prevent fatigue.

  • New employees receive two types of training: general ergonomics training and task-specific training.

  • The warehouse is well-ventilated.

  • Employees understand how to stay safe in hot weather and avoid heat stress.

  • Employees understand how to work in cold environments.

  • The facility has lockout/tagout procedures.

Materials Handling Safety Checklist:

  • There are safe areas marked off for people to walk in aisles and around areas where machinery is being used.

  • Loose materials are properly stacked, blocked, and interlocked, or the height of the pile is limited to prevent falling hazards.

  • Storage areas are free from clutter.

  • Entrances, doorways, or other traffic areas are free of excessive vegetation or visual blockages to prevent trip or fall hazards.

  • Derail and/or bumper blocks are placed where a rolling car could contact other cars and at entrances to buildings, work, or traffic areas.

  • Covers and/or guardrails protect personnel from fall hazards like stair openings or pits.

  • Personnel use proper lifting techniques.

  • Elevators and hoists for lifting materials are clear from obstructions and used with appropriate signaling.

Hazard Communication Safety Checklist:

  • All containers with hazardous materials have labels with the name of the chemical, the manufacturer's name and address, and warnings about the hazards.

  • There is an up to date list of hazardous chemicals.

  • The facility has a written hazard determination plan which includes MSDS, labeling, and training.

  • There is a system to check that each incoming chemical is accompanied by a MSDS.

  • All employees know the warehouse safety rules about hazardous materials, the dangerous chemicals they might come in contact with, how to read and understand MSDS sheets and chemical labels, and what they can do to prevent being exposed.

  • All employee training is documented.

  • All contractors have a complete list of chemical products, hazards and proper precautions.

  • There are procedures to continually evaluate and maintain the current program.

  • Employees use proper personal protective equipment when handling chemicals.

  • Chemical storage adheres to the manufacturer’s recommendations and local or national fire codes.

Forklift Safety Checklist (Part 1):

  • Powered industrial trucks (forklifts) meet the "American National Standard for Powered Industrial Trucks" requirements.

  • Truck modifications or additions that affect capacity or vehicle operation are approved by the manufacturer.

  • Any modifications are specified with instruction plates, tags, or decals on trucks.

  • Nameplates and markings are legible and visible.

  • Forklifts dedicated to hazardous materials are segregated, marked, and approved for such use.

  • Battery charging is conducted only in designated areas.

  • There are places to put spilled electrolytes.

  • There is a fire extinguisher in case there is a fire, and ventilation to get rid of fumes from the batteries.

  • Appropriate materials handling equipment for batteries is available.

  • Batteries are properly positioned and secured.

  • Carboy tilters or siphons are used for handling electrolytes.

  • Forklifts are immobilized and brakes are applied before maintenance is performed.

  • Vent caps function properly.

  • There are no opportunities for open flames, sparks, electric arcs, or other electrical hazards in battery charging areas and during storage/changing of propane fuel tanks.

  • Tools and other metallic objects are kept away from the top of uncovered batteries.

  • Concentrations of noxious gases and fumes are kept below acceptable levels.

  • Forklift operators understand vehicle safety and complete certified training and evaluation.

  • The training program content includes all truck-related and workplace-related topics and the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.178 for safe truck operation.

Forklift Safety Checklist (Part 2):

  • Re-training occurs when an unsafe operation, accident, or a change in equipment or conditions that could affect safe operation.

  • Evaluations of each operator’s performance are conducted at least once every three years.

  • Unattended forklifts' load engagement is fully lowered, controls neutralized, and power shut off.

  • Safe distances are kept from the edge of ramps, platforms, elevated docks, or freight cars while using forklifts.

  • There is enough space for the forklift and operator to move around under things like overhead lights and pipes.

  • The guards are in good condition and work well to protect forklift operators from things falling objects.

  • Operators observe all traffic regulations, including authorized plant speed limits.

  • Driver requirements include keeping a clear view of the path of travel.

  • Forklift speed limits enable the vehicle to stop in a safe manner.

  • Dock boards (bridge plates) are properly secured when loading or unloading from dock to truck.

  • Stunt driving and horseplay are prohibited.

  • All loads are stable, safe, and fit within the rated capacity of the truck.

  • Operators fill fuel tanks only when the engine is not running.

  • Replacement parts for trucks are as safe as the original parts.

  • Trucks are checked for safety before being used. Trucks that are not safe or have defects are not used.

Benefits of Adhering to Warehouse Safety Regulations

Adhering to warehouse safety regulations can provide numerous benefits for both employers and employees alike. For employers, a safe working environment leads to improved productivity as workers are less likely to suffer from illnesses or injuries caused by hazardous conditions.

For employees, morale tends to benefit greatly from a corporate focus on warehouse safety. The positive response that usually follows a reduction in potential injuries is a performance improvement. Aside from that, employees mostly appreciate the focus on their well-being, thus improving overall morale within the workplace.

In addition, instituting a safety plan demonstrates employers’ commitment to creating a healthy working environment for their staff, which helps attract top talent. New hires, especially highly talented ones, often value a safe workplace where they can reach their maximum potential without placing themselves at risk due to hazardous conditions or stressful situations.

Finally, adhering to warehouse safety regulations is also beneficial for customers too as it helps eliminate risks posed by mishandled goods before they reach end users.

Resources for Further Information about Warehouse Safety

There are several different resources available for employers and employees alike who are interested in learning more about warehouse safety regulations. For employers, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is an excellent source of information as they provide guidelines on how to ensure that warehouse operations are conducted safely and legally in compliance with applicable laws. Additionally, they also provide resources such as online tutorials, videos, and fact sheets which can be used to help educate employers and workers on specific topics related to warehouse safety.

Industry organizations such as the National Safety Council or local business associations often host seminars or workshops focusing on workplace health and safety. Attending these events is a great opportunity for those who want to learn more about how best to protect everyone involved in warehouse operations from potential risks.

In addition, there are also books available that cover all aspects of warehouse safety from hazard identification and risk assessment to ergonomics, equipment maintenance, load lifting techniques, and fire prevention strategies. These books can be invaluable for both employers and employees who seek further knowledge on how best to remain safe while working in a warehouse environment.

Finally, numerous online articles (such as this one) focus on different topics related to warehouse safety regulations such as hazardous materials handling, PPE requirements and proper storage methods.

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