According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 960,000 people work in warehouses or other types of storage facilities in the United States. Unfortunately, warehouse work is also one of the most dangerous occupations.
Approximately 16 fatal warehouse accidents occur each year. Work-related injuries or illnesses happen in 5 out of 100 employees each year. Injuries can be caused by falling items, equipment malfunctions, delivery accidents and other preventable circumstances.
Are warehouse workers covered under Colorado’s workers’ compensation law?
We’ll answer this question below, starting with what to do if you or a loved one are hurt at work.
What to do in the event of an industrial injury or illness
Head, neck, back and limb injuries are fairly common in warehouse environments. In the event of a Colorado warehouse accident that results in injury, the employee is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits in the form of medical care, wage loss, and potentially permanent disability. To be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, the injured worker does not have to establish fault or negligence.
The most important thing to do following an injury, aside from seeking any emergency care necessary, is to report the incident. While the late reporting of an injury doesn’t usually preclude the payment of benefits, it can make the process of establishing a claim much more difficult.
If you’ve been hurt in a warehouse, know that your employer's workers’ compensation insurance provider may attempt to blame you for the accident. They might also attempt to discredit the severity of your injury or illness.
An experienced Colorado workers’ compensation attorney knows how best to defend an injured warehouse workers' rights in such cases.
Warehouse safety & industrial accident prevention tips
There are many precautions that warehouse workers should implement to prevent possible job-related injuries or illnesses. Here are just a few safety tips:
- Forklift safety. Warehouses often use forklifts to move items from one location to another, or to stack items. If an operator uses heavy equipment improperly, serious injuries may occur to the operator or other employees within the immediate vicinity. OSHA reports that forklifts are commonly implicated in warehouse accidents. Ensuring safety involves that operators receive proper training and certification on how to use the equipment. Supervisors should offer certification courses to employees and evaluate worker performance periodically. All equipment should also undergo routine inspections to determine wear or damage that requires correction.
- Hazardous chemical handling and storage. Facilities that handle or store toxic chemicals must have a training program implemented that ensures employees are properly trained and certified to safely handle these materials. Safety data sheets must be maintained for all individual materials, describing how the material should be handled and what to do if a worker is exposed. Warehouse safety includes providing workers with the appropriate equipment to prevent injury or illness should a spill, exposure or other types of contamination occur.
- Loading docks. Forklift operators and truck drivers must ensure that no employees are harmed when loading or unloading items. Potentially fatal warehouse accidents occur when a worker becomes trapped between a forklift or a truck and the loading dock. Warning signs must be clearly posted. Items must not be placed on the docks unless the area is clear and is able to support the load.
- Conveyor systems. Many warehouse facilities use conveyor belts or similar technology to move or transport materials. However, this equipment poses a risk if workers don’t take the proper precautions. Items may fall from the conveyor, or an employee's clothing, body parts or hair can become entangled in the moving mechanisms.
- Manually lifting or handling. Using improper body mechanics when lifting or carrying items commonly causes back and neck injuries. Injuries also occur when employees repeat the same motions for extended lengths of time or by attempting to perform a task while reaching overhead, bending or twisting. Employees should use the equipment provided when possible and be trained on how to safely lift heavy items.
- Equipment charging stations. Warehouses may have designated areas used to refuel or recharge equipment. These stations may store gasoline, liquid petroleum gas, propane or batteries. Employees must ensure that the area remains free of flammable items and open flames. Otherwise, workplace fires or explosions may occur. Most stations must have a working fire extinguisher and a ventilation system to eliminate fumes. Any employees working in the area should also wear protective clothing. Eyewash stations and shower facilities should be within close proximity to alleviate exposure.
- Improper storage. If materials aren’t loaded or stacked correctly, the materials may fall onto warehouse workers, causing serious injury. In addition, aisles, pathways and stairways throughout the facility must be kept clear, clean and dry to prevent slipping, tripping and falling. Heavy items should be stored lower to the ground. Overhead items should be stacked appropriately to prevent toppling. Regular inspections of stacked items help prevent injuries.
- Equipment maintenance. Industrial facilities should have a lockout/tagout program in place to ensure warehouse safety. Any equipment determined that is damaged or malfunctioning should be turned off and properly tagged to prevent potential danger. Tagged items should be documented, repaired and put back into operation as required.
When to contact a Colorado workers’ compensation attorney
Most Colorado workplaces are required to have insurance to provide workers with coverage if they get hurt on the job. If you’re hurt at work, you will need to file a workers’ compensation claim in order to obtain benefits.
However, your company and their insurance provider may make it difficult to recover the benefits you deserve. This is why it’s important to hire a knowledgeable and experienced law firm that can explain your rights and represent your interests. The attorneys at The Babcock Law Firm are highly experienced in handling injuries involving industrial warehouse accidents, and we are ready to go to work on your behalf.
If you’ve been injured at work, contact The Babcock Law Firm. We’re ready to fight for you. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.