Warehouses and the risk to employees

Warehouses are likely not top of the list when considering dangerous workplaces. One might first think of environments including construction, emergency services or fishing.

But the truth is that people working in warehouses can be at greater risk of injury than those in other industries.

Highlighting this is the fact the world’s most well-known online retailer has hit the headlines for workplace safety again. Workers at Amazon in the US have been found to have an 80% higher risk of serious injury than other workers in the warehouse industry.

However, it’s not just our American counterparts who find themselves in a comparatively dangerous profession. In the UK, workers at the company have been found to have suffered more than 600 serious injuries or near misses between 2017 and 2020. This is according to the GMB Union.

So what is it that makes warehouses potentially dangerous for employees?

Risk of injury

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has found that warehousing – which is part of the transport and storage sector – has a 3% rate of ill health among workers. This was a similar rate to that seen across all industries – 3.2%.

However, when it comes to musculoskeletal disorders, these workers have a higher rate – 1.7% compared to 1.2% across all sectors.

Workplace injuries also saw statistically higher levels among people employed in warehouses. The rate was 2.9% in 2019/20 – significantly higher than the 1.9% across all industries. Within transport and storage, only those working in post and courier services saw higher levels, at 3.4%.

The broader transport and storage industry saw 11 fatal workplace injuries in 2019/20. This was a slight fall from the average of 14 seen between 2015 and 2019, but still higher than the average rate for all British industry.

It’s also worth remembering that the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown has likely had an impact on workplace injury levels. Without it, the injury rate across the warehouse sector would likely have been higher.

Warehouse safety hazards

Within the wider transport and storage industry, the HSE has found that slips, trips and falls were the most common form of specified non-fatal injury, accounting for 45%.

The second most common was falling from a height, at 19%, while being struck by a moving or falling object caused 10% of specified injuries.

Manual handling and being struck by a moving vehicle were both responsible for 6% of these non-fatal injuries.

These are common accidents across other industries too – common enough to warrant significant attention to risk mitigation. Employers that don’t take the necessary precautions and spend the time on risk assessments and control measures open themselves up to legal action – something employees are entitled to take.

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