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Your job may require you to be in charge of your own safety

If you earn your income as an employee in one of the many warehousing and distribution centers in Harrisburg, Chambersburg, Bedford or any other cities between Philadelphia and Baltimore, you will likely be aware of the numerous hazards that are typical of these work environments. While your health and safety in the workplace are the responsibility of your employer, it may not be his or her priority.

Just like many other Pennsylvania workers, you might have learned not to rely on your employer's compliance with federal safety regulations to get you home safely every day. While you have to depend on him or her to provide personal protective equipment, you may still need to rely on your own vigilance to avoid workplace injuries.

Lesser known safety hazards

The only dangers that your supervisors may address in your workplace might be the obvious and well-known ones. However, there are some lesser known -- often overlooked -- hazards. You might protect yourself by learning about the hidden dangers that threaten your safety, including the following:

  • Trips, slips and falls -- Falls need not be from heights to result in catastrophic injuries. Slipping on a wet or highly polished floor can be as traumatic, particularly if you were carrying something at the time of the incident and fell backward on a hard surface. This is where good housekeeping comes into play. Cleanliness and organization can eliminate slip hazards along with out-of-place objects that can cause trips. Guard rails on higher levels and slip-protection on steps and other dangerous areas can provide further safety.
  • Ergonomics -- If no attention was paid to ergonomics in the design of your workplace, you might have to be your own judge as to how much bodily strain you can handle before it causes injuries. Working at levels below knee height and above shoulder level while lifting, pulling or pushing continuously can cause serious muscle and ligament strains and sprains. Alert your supervisor if you feel threatened.
  • Dangerous machine parts-- Operating, cleaning or maintaining machines and equipment at which no safe guards are present can pose amputation and other catastrophic injury hazards. Make sure you take note of warning labels on machines and insist on locking and tagging out equipment before doing repairs or cleaning.
  • Storage and racking systems-- Regardless of how sturdy and balanced a stack of pallets or a set of shelves appear, they can topple over. Avoid being too close to these when moving about in between stacked pallets or shelves -- especially when there is forklift activity. Knowing load limits of shelves may help to prevent collapses.
  • Loading docks-- The prevalence of injuries suffered in loading docks is enough to make anyone take particular care in these areas. The biggest danger is the high level of activity involving forklifts and other vehicles comingled with foot traffic often scurrying around.

These are but some of the dangers your employer may overlook. If you are unfortunate enough to be injured in the distribution center or warehouse at which you work, you can file a workers' compensation benefits claim for coverage of doctor’s bills and other medical expenses. If you suffered temporary disability, you might also receive a wage-replacement package.

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