OSHA's most interesting cases
What happened – and lessons learned
Page 2 of 4
Case #1: Shelving collapse in a cold storage warehouse
A 33-year-old worker died after an extensive set of shelves, or racking, collapsed.
The facility, which stores frozen or prepared meat products, uses turret trucks – a type of powered industrial truck. The trucks operate in an automated fashion while in the aisles through use of a radar-wire system, but need drivers to get them to and from the aisles.
On the evening of Dec. 12, 2020, a turret truck was in the process of being switched from manual mode to automated operation when it struck one of the uprights of a rack. Even though the truck was moving only 5 mph, it damaged the 231-foot racking system enough to trigger a collapse. The ensuing chain reaction sent much of the 1.5 million pounds of inventory off the shelves.
The collapse crushed the victim, who was under the shelves 200 feet away from the impact and in the process of retrieving product. Another employee was injured and hospitalized, according to OSHA’s inspection report.
The racking collapsed so quickly that “the victim had little to no reaction time to get clear,” Elmore said.
OSHA actions: The agency issued one serious violation under its General Duty Clause and a $13,653 fine, which was reduced to $9,600 after an informal settlement.
Resolution: The employer installed bollards and other impact barriers in the facility. The voluntary standard ANSI MH16.1-2012 calls for such protections on warehouse racking.
The company no longer allows employees to go under shelves to retrieve product. Additionally, product retrieval work was moved to aisles where turret trucks aren’t permitted.
Other improvements: A new training system and weekly audits to identify any potentially damaged racking, and enhanced reporting systems.
Protect warehouse structures from impact. “It’s imperative that we understand that racking being hit at any speed could cause warehouse racking to collapse,” Elmore said. “We need to address those potential hazards.”
Hazards associated with powered industrial trucks aren’t always nearby. Although PIT-related hazards usually affect workers in close proximity to the equipment, Elmore said this incident shows that even employees working hundreds of feet away can be in danger.
Look at work practices and hazard identification. After an initial hazard identification is complete, Elmore said employers and workers should continually evaluate for hazards. “Powered industrial truck operators need to be aware of work going on in their area and any potential hazards,” he added.
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