The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently launched a new five-year regional initiative to address workplace injuries occurring in warehouses and other storage facilities in Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The warehousing industry has significantly expanded with the continued increase in online shopping, and its injury rate of 4.8 per 100 workers is significantly higher in that industry than the national average. The new initiative is designed to reduce this high ongoing rate of injury.
The program is set to run through August 3, 2027. It will begin with a short period focused on education. During this brief introductory phase, OSHA will seek to alert employers to the frequent problems encountered in these areas of operation, as well as proposed solutions for reduction of injuries. OSHA has also previously prepared publications addressing hazards in the warehousing industry (please see https://www.osha.gov/sites/default/files/publications/3220_Warehouse.pdf).
The program will then transition to its second phase, anticipated to begin later this Fall. This phase will consist of targeted enforcement. OSHA notes that many of the injuries sustained in this industry can be attributed to “lack of procedures, lack of or inadequate training, and lack of safety-rule enforcement.” It will seek to ensure that employers are in full compliance with federal safety and health standards through conducting programmed random inspections.
Employers in these industries should use this time to review their operations and seek to identify potential areas of non-compliance. Specifically, OSHA cited the use of powered industrial trucks and forklifts, logout/tagout procedures, machine guarding, blocked or impeded exits, and fire suppression systems as items of concern. Employers may wish to consider performing their own proactive inspection/audits of these areas of their business in order to best prepare for OSHA’s heightened review, and to correct all identified deficiencies. Actions taken now, such as fixing broken machinery, ensuring proper maintenance of vehicles, or clearing cluttered aisles, may result in avoiding a citation and hefty fine later.
Employers should also consider updated educational and training programs to heighten awareness of these potential hazards and further efforts to establish and enhance a safe working culture. This process should include open communication with their employees. Employees often have the first-hand knowledge of potential defects long before these are identified by management. In addition, often OSHA is alerted to possible violations by employee complaints. Proactively working with employees will not only prevent future injuries, but also reduce the risk of future complaints and/or inspections.
Failure to address potential noncompliance will be costly. Typical violations can result in fines of up to $14,502 per item. Repeated or willful violations can result in fines up to $145,027 per violation.
We are available to review and develop policy/training to help employers navigate this initiative. If you have any questions regarding the new regional initiative or ways to prepare for the targeted enforcement, please contact our Employment Law Group at 1-888-488-2638 or email at EmploymentLaw@c-wlaw.com.
The information in this article is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. By reading this article, you understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and Cipriani & Werner, P.C. or any of our attorneys. No information contained in this article should be construed as legal advice from Cipriani & Werner, P.C. or the individual authors.