Every day, our economy becomes more reliant on warehouse-based businesses. Amazon and other online retailers are replacing local stores at a surprising rate. These online retailers rely on large warehouse operations and distribution centers. Also popular are warehouse-based retailers like Home Depot, Walmart, and Lowe’s where employees and customers are both exposed to warehouse safety risks. Employees who work at warehouses and distribution centers are an essential part of making sure food and products are available to all Americans. Yet, hundreds of thousands of preventable injuries occur at warehouses every year.
This page explains the duties that employers have to warehouse workers, highlights the most common safety violations in warehouses, discusses the protections all warehouse workers have under Texas law, and answers frequently asked questions.
Employers Owe Duties to Warehouse Employees
Texas law provides significant protection for injured warehouse employees. Employers must keep their facility reasonably safe for workers. This means the building and premises must be free of unreasonably dangerous conditions or the employer must adequately warn of those dangers. It also means the employer must adequately train its employees. Adequate training requires both preparing the employees to do their job safely and also training employees to avoid injuring their coworkers. Employers must also provide employees with the necessary equipment to do their jobs safely.
Required safety equipment can include spill protection devices, adequate floor covering, respiratory protection, fire extinguishers, lifting and hauling equipment to assist in lifting heavy objects, and personal protective equipment.
If an employee is injured because an employer fails to provide this equipment or a safe workplace, the warehouse worker may have rights against the employer. This is especially true if the employer does not provide Texas Workers Compensation coverage. Employers who do not provide Workers’ Compensation coverage are considered “nonsubscribers” under the law. Cases against nonsubscribers are unique in Texas. Our law firm has devoted substantial time and resources to handle cases for employees injured while working for a nonsubscriber.
Here to help injured workers determine if their employer is a subscriber to Texas Workers’ Compensation
Anyone who has been injured while working at a warehouse should call our firm to learn whether their employer maintains proper Workers’ Compensation coverage. We can quickly check whether your employer has Workers’ Compensation or if you are entitled to recover for your injuries.
We help with a broad range of warehouse injuries, including lifting accidents, forklift and pallet jack accidents, falling objects, and slip and falls. To find out how we can help, call us at (832) 709-1124 or send us a message using the form below.
All consultations for warehouse accidents are free.
The Common Warehouse and Distribution Center Safety Violations
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or “OSHA,” more than 145,000 people work in warehouses. And the fatal injury rate for warehouse workers is higher than the national average for other industries. So warehouse workers are at increased risk of injury and even death. OSHA frequently inspects warehouses for compliance with safety rules. Here are the most common warehouse safety violations noted by OSHA.
- Unsafe forklifts
- Improper hazard communication
- Unsafe electrical and wiring methods
- Unsafe electrical and wiring system design
- Improper guarding of floor and wall openings
- Unsafe exits
- Improper mechanical power transmission
- Lack of respiratory protection
- Failing to lockout & tagout
- Lack of portable fire extinguishers
Each of these common safety violations pose serious risks to warehouse workers. A good employer prevents all of these risks.
The Most Common Warehouse Injuries Are Caused by Forklifts, Fires, Falling Objects and Heavy Lifting
Forklifts cause at least 100 deaths and 90,000 injuries nationwide each year. Many of those fatalities come from forklift turnover. Still others result from bystanders being hit by a forklift—either while empty or while carrying a load.
Some common and practical steps to increase forklift safety are:
- Train, evaluate and certify all forklift operators to ensure they can operate forklifts safety.
- Never allow anyone under the age of 18 to operate a forklift.
- Maintain all forklifts including their tires.
- Always examine a forklift for hazardous conditions or possible malfunctions before use.
- Never overload a forklift. Always follow both weight and size restrictions.
- Drive safely, never exceeding five miles per hour.
- Be extra cautious in slippery or congested areas.
Our firm has handled many forklift accidents, including cases for warehouse workers injured by dangerous forklift driving. If a warehouse worker is injured because the employer failed to maintain a forklift or allowed an untrained driver to operate a forklift, the injured worker may have rights against the employer.
Sometimes a forklift injury is not caused by the employer or forklift operator but rather by the forklift itself. If forklift malfunction caused your injury, you may have a product liability claim against the manufacturer. You can get more information about those claims on our product liability page.
The enclosed nature of warehouse work increases the risk of fires. Several of the top ten OSHA violations for warehouses are related to fire protection and prevention. With so many employees and flammable products together in an enclosed building, it is imperative that warehouse exits are clearly marked. Otherwise, a small fire can lead to dangerous smoke inhalation or worse. In fact, one of the worst industrial accidents in American history was a factory fire that killed 146 workers.
In addition to clearly marked exits and other fire escape measures, warehouse operators must work to prevent fires in the first place. Common sources of warehouse fires are poorly designed or outdated electrical wiring.
Every warehouse employee should be trained on the fire escape plan as well as the location of fire extinguishers that can be used to stop a blaze.
Warehouse workers are frequently injured by falling objects. Many if not most warehouses stack product on tall storage racks. If that product is not properly stacked or is otherwise unstable it can fall on top of a worker or workers causing serious injury. Our experienced warehouse injury lawyers have handled many cases for workers who were injured by falling objects.
To prevent falling objects, warehouse owners should always require safe, secure storage practices. Rushed work or short-staffed warehouses also contribute to falling-object injuries. So employers should be certain that employees have plenty of time and resources to complete their work.
Heavy lifting can cause sprains, strains, spine problems, and even broken bones. Employers should never require employees to lift or move objects that are too heavy to be lifted safely. Instead, an employer should always assign plenty of people to the job and provide the necessary equipment to move the load safely. If an employer does not provide adequate staff, supervision, or equipment, workers can be badly hurt.
More Information About Specific Injuries
For more information about a specific type of injury, please visit one of these pages:
Steps to Take if You Have Been Injured at a Warehouse
There are several steps that every injured worker should take:
- Get the medical attention that you need. Remember that the most important thing you have is your health. If you have been injured and need medical attention, insist that you get to a doctor right away. If your employer will not assist with this, you may need to take matters into your own hands.
- Determine if your employer has Workers’ Compensation coverage. If so, your medical care should be paid immediately. If not, you will need to file a claim with your employer and will probably need legal representation. Our firm can quickly let you know whether your employer has coverage or not at no cost to you. Call us at (832) 709-1124.
- Get a second opinion if your injury is serious. Sometimes a doctor chosen by your employer will not specialize in treating injuries like the one you have. If you have a broken bone or need surgery, you should probably see a specialist. Our firm can connect you with a doctor who specializes in treating warehouse injuries.
- Complete your care and talk to a lawyer before accepting any money or signing any documents related to your injury. If you accept money or sign a release before you have completely recovered, you may not be able to get more compensation if your condition worsens. So never accept money or sign a release related to your injury until your lawyer—not the company’s lawyer—has reviewed the case and explained your rights.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What can I recover for my injuries if I get hurt at a warehouse?
Answer: Texas law allows an injured worker to recover for medical expenses, lost wages, pain, suffering, mental anguish, and other types of damages. If your injury is serious, it could require a lot of money to adequately compensate you for each of these. The only way to know for sure how much you can recover is to speak with an experienced workplace injury lawyer.
Q: How can I find out if my employer has Workers’ Compensation coverage?
Answer: The state of Texas maintains a database of all employers who provide Workers’ Compensation coverage for their employees. The attorneys at Armstrong & Lee can access this database during your initial phone call to find out whether your employer provides coverage or not. If so, you are entitled to certain benefits for your workplace injury. But if not, you may need an attorney to help you get compensation for your injuries.
Q: Does my employer have to pay for my injuries at work?
Answer: Many times, yes. Texas has laws to protect injured workers. If you were injured because of your employer’s negligence or carelessness, an attorney may be able to help you recover for your injuries.
Q: Can I get compensation from others for my at-work injury?
Answer: Probably so. Many job sites in Texas have multiple companies operating such as contractors or delivery workers. If you were injured by the negligence or carelessness of a company other than your employer, an attorney may be able to help you recover for that injury.
Q: Do I have to pay Armstrong & Lee LLP to review my case?
Answer: No. All initial consults—including to determine whether your employer has Workers’ Compensation insurance are free.
Q: How much does it cost to hire a workplace injury lawyer?
Answer: In personal injury and wrongful death cases, injured parties usually pay a “contingent” legal fee. Under a contingent fee arrangement, the client does not pay the attorney an hourly rate. Instead, the attorney’s fee is a defined percentage of the amount of money that is recovered in a lawsuit. That percentage can vary depending on the circumstances of the case. Additionally, the law firm handling the case will usually pay all necessary out-of-pocket expenses subject to a right of reimbursement without interest at the conclusion of the case. In a contingent fee arrangement with Armstrong & Lee LLP, if there is no financial recovery in a lawsuit, there is no fee paid to the attorneys.
Q: How long do I have to file a claim for a workplace injury?
Answer: Claims for injuries generally must be brought within two years of the date of the injury. But don’t wait if you’ve been seriously injured. Some employers attempt to shorten the time to bring a claim through employment agreements with their employees. An experienced workplace injury attorney can help you get the care and treatment you need and can force the defendants to preserve evidence that might otherwise be deleted.