WASHINGTON — On July 13, the US Department of Labor’s (DOL) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a three-year national emphasis program to help avoid workplace hazards for high-risk distribution environments. These environments include warehouses, processing facilities, distribution centers and retail businesses.

According to OSHA, warehousing and distribution establishments employ more than 1.9 million people across the United States, a number that has grown significantly over the last decade. One symptom of this growth is an increased rate of injury and illness for these employees, which is recorded at more than twice the rate of some other private industry sectors, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Our enforcement efforts are designed to do one thing: lead to permanent change in workplace safety,’ said Doug Parker, assistant secretary at OSHA. “This emphasis program allows OSHA to direct resources to establishments where evidence shows employers must be more intentional in addressing the root causes of worker injuries and align their business practices with the goal to ensure worker health and safety.”

Through the program, OSHA will be conducting safety inspections, assessing heat and ergonomic hazards, and leading workforce health inspections when deemed appropriate. According to OSHA, the program will involve postal service processing and distribution centers (NAICS code 491110), couriers and express delivery services (NAICS code 492110), local messengers and local delivery (NAICS code 492210), general warehousing and storage operations (NAICS code 493110), refrigerated warehousing and storage (NAICS code 493120), farm product warehousing and storage (NAICS code 493130), and other warehousing and storage operations (NAICS code 493190).

Additionally, OSHA has a second list of retailers with the highest injury and illness rates that have led to time away from work, restricted duty or job transfer. These include home centers (NAICS code 444110), hardware stores (NAICS code 444130), other building material vendors (NAICS code 444190), supermarkets and grocery stores (NAICS code 445110), and warehouse clubs and supercenters (NAICS code 452311).

Specific operations that will be subject to safety inspections include powered industrial vehicles, material handling and storage, walking and working surfaces, means of egress, and fire protection.

According to OSHA, state regulators are being required to either adopt the national emphasis program or institute a similar program that is at least as effective as the DOL model.

Read more about the National Emphasis Program on Warehousing and Distribution Center Operations.

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