Safety in the warehouse – the best way to prevent the biggest dangers

Safety at work – for employees in warehouses and logistics buildings, the issue is a matter of life and death. After all, there is hardly any other sector where so many accidents at work are recorded. But companies can protect their workers.

| Reading time: 6min.

The 40-year-old warehouse worker was just able to take cover before shelves, fully loaded with alcohol, collapsed on top of him. He was finally freed by rescue workers and taken to hospital with broken bones. The warehouse in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, is now being investigated for potential safety problems.The video, published by the Daily Mail, goes viral.Again and again, spectacular accidents in warehouses become known. But not all of them turn out like this one.

Shelves, warehouse goods, forklifts, industrial trucks – there is a huge number of potential hazards in warehouses and logistics buildings. This can have devastating consequences for the employees. Spectacular accidents always attract attention, but even minor and moderate injuries may have long-lasting consequences.

  • Warehouse roles are among the professions with the most days of incapacity for work due to occupational accidents.
  • Only the construction and agricultural sectors recorded more accidents last year.

The background conditions are not easy: work processes are becoming more and more complex, work demands are increasing, pressure is rising – and so is the risk of accidents. However, companies that care about the health of their employees have effective means of prevention in their hands.

Human factors: encountering risk safely

The human factor plays a crucial role in most accidents in warehouses and logistics buildings. This was found by the BGHW (German Trade Association for Trade and Logistics). The main causes are either incorrect work organisation or human error.

  • 41% of occupational accidents are due to organisational issues such as an inadequate or missed operational briefing, missing risk assessment or missed inspections.
  • 37% of the causes can be attributed to human error. Individual physical or mental health problems can play just as much a role as employees not following instructions. Improper use of work equipment also falls in this category.
  • 12% of the accidents were caused by natural events, third parties or forceful impacts, while 10% were due to missing or unsuitable protective devices and work equipment.

The main causes of warehouse accidents

Injury from a vehicle – the risks

Whether forklift trucks or manually operated equipment: the risk of accidents with industrial trucks should not be underestimated. But the risk of injury varies considerably depending on the vehicle.

Special caution is required when driving with a forklift truck, because their risk of accidents is particularly high. According to the DGUV (German Social Accident Insurance), forklift trucks were involved in around 70% of serious accidents with industrial trucks last year – more frequently than any other industrial truck.

However, whether or not the driver is injured depends dramatically on whether the vehicle is a forklift truck or a manually operated industrial truck.


In accidents involving a forklift truck, the driver has a 25% chance of being injured. Almost half of the injured, however, are people who were engaged in other activities in front of, next to or behind the forklift and were hit by the vehicle. The severity of the injury is also crucially related to the type of vehicle: according to the DGUV, 100% of fatal accidents involving industrial trucks last year involved forklift trucks.


The situation is completely reversed when manually operated industrial trucks are involved. In this case, the driver of the vehicle has the highest probability (67%) of injuring themselves in the accident. For people who were engaged in another activity in front of, next to or behind the vehicle, the probability of an accident is only 17%.


Incorrect storage: danger to life and limb

Improper storage of goods considerably increases the risk of accidents in the warehouse. Items placed on an improper or unstable surface can start to sway or fall down at the slightest vibration. If the shelves are loaded with more weight than is permitted, they will be at risk of toppling over or collapsing.

Slipping or stumbling – it all happens so fast

Tripping over a cable on the floor, slipping on liquid – accidents of this kind are not associated with the typical working conditions in warehouses and logistics buildings. However, they are one of the main causes of occupational accidents across all industries – and therefore also take place to a large extent in the warehouse and logistics sector.

You can solve this problem

1. Train your staff correctly

Informed employees are safe employees: they keep their wits about them and are aware of potential risks in warehouses and logistics buildings. This means they not only react appropriately in extreme situations following an accident, but can also minimise sources of danger in advance and put safer work processes in place.

The extent to which workers are at risk depends first and foremost on their workplace. An important basis for any briefing is therefore the risk assessment. In addition, issues such as first aid or how to behave in the event of a fire are important for all employees in the company.

The best times for a briefing:

  • When employees are hired – or transfer to a new area of work
  • Changes in the work process
  • Significant events, for example after an accident

However, the briefing will only work if it is set out in a comprehensible way and also takes the workforce’s safety needs seriously. In addition, it must be repeated regularly (at least once a year, and even every six months for adolescent workers).

2. Plan warehouses and logistics buildings well

Give thought to an appealing layout of the warehouse environment from the design stage. Sufficient space (measured by the largest vehicle used) and optimal work routes contribute to your employees’ safety just as much as adequate lighting and proper escape route signage. If your storage needs increase, don't lower your standards, but ensure space and therefore safety with innovative building solutions.

3. Check shelves regularly for damage

A small jostle from a forklift truck can be a big problem for a static shelving unit. Implement proactive fault management and inspect shelving for damage. Place the shelves in a stable position, protect them against tipping over and do not load them with more weight than permitted. Check the shelves again and again, even if no accidents have occurred. Have the shelves inspected by a professional at regular intervals. Racking protection provides additional safety.

4. Make sure you have the right protective equipment

Employees who enter warehouses and logistics buildings without suitable protective equipment must face disciplinary action – and rightly so. Employers must not only provide protective clothing, but also ensure that it is worn.

The following garments are mainly used in warehouses and logistics buildings:

  • High-visibility jackets
  • Head protection
  • Safety footwear
  • Face protection
  • Hearing protection

Gloves, overalls and weather protection such as jackets and hats also protect the health and safety of employees. Special rules apply when working with dangerous goods but also near increased noise emissions. Keeping all equipment in a convenient location ensures that it is quickly to hand and staff do not miss out on protective items due to lack of time because they are stored elsewhere.

5. Invest in the health of your employees

There are now a number of resources that make work in warehouses and logistics buildings easier. Nevertheless, the employees there are exposed to particular physical stresses. Loads acting on the spine in particular, as well as overloading the arms and torso, can lead to long-term damage. Reduce the physical exertion required from your employees as much as possible and provide suitable equipment. Remind them of the optimal working posture regularly. Offer adequate recovery time and support employees who want to do something to improve their physical fitness.

6. Keep yourself up-to-date on current guidance

Comply with legal requirements – following the law is the surest way of adequately protecting employees. However, time and again there are companies that do not implement the requirements correctly. So keep yourself up-to-date on which regulations apply for your size company. This keeps you, as well as your employees, on the safe side in the event of an accident at work.

7. If it comes to it – the right first aid

Even with the greatest caution, accidents can never be completely ruled out. The more intensively employers and their workforce prepare what to do if an employee is injured in advance, the more certain it is that the right treatment will be available, even in an panic situation. One thing above all is important here: the first thing is to take care of the injured person.

  • First aiders in the company must be properly trained, identified as such to their colleagues, and accessible.
  • Up-to-date first-aid equipment must be easily available.
  • Emergency numbers must be displayed in easily accessible places together with the names of the contact persons, so no time is wasted searching for them.

Who will be informed and when? Here, too, a clear arrangement in advance is crucial to save valuable time. Even in this extreme situation, a checklist ensures everything has been thought of and that the accident has been reported accordingly. This means that it can also be recognised later as an occupational accident.


Working in warehouses and logistics buildings is dangerous. The risk of injury depends very much on the area of the company where work is being done. Employers are legally obliged to ensure the safety of their employees, but they can go above and beyond that. Through careful planning in advance, appropriate equipment and optimal training, you can significantly reduce the risk of injury in your company. And employees who are aware of the dangers in their environment can significantly contribute to accident prevention by protecting themselves and their colleagues.


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