‹ Back to Columns

OSHA’s New National Emphasis Program Directed at Warehousing

Stephanie Salmon

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has launched a three-year national emphasis program (NEP) permitting extensive inspections of warehousing and distribution center operations, mail/postal processing and distribution centers, parcel delivery/courier services, and certain high-hazard retail establishments. Foundries and metalcasting industry suppliers are covered under the new Warehouse NEP. “High injury rate retail establishments” include employers with the following North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes: 493110 - General Warehousing and Storage and 493190 - Other Warehousing and Storage.

According to OSHA, as warehousing and distribution centers have experienced tremendous growth within the past 10 years, their occupational injuries and illnesses and average Days Away Restricted or Transferred (DART) rates have also increased at rates significantly higher than private general industry rates.
Under the Warehouse NEP, OSHA will conduct safety inspections focused on some of the most commonly cited hazards in general industry and ones that are easy to identify in plain view during an inspection. Inspections will focus on:

  • Recordkeeping, the recording, and reporting of certain types of injuries and illnesses (29 C.F.R. § 1904).
  • Powered industrial truck operations, such as forklifts and other vehicles meeting the definition of a powered industrial truck (29 C.F.R. § 1910.178).
  • Material handling and storage, such as the safe stacking of pallets and other materials (29 C.F.R. § 1910.176).
  • Walking and working surfaces, which is extremely broad, covering everything from housekeeping to ladders and stairs to fall protection (29 C.F.R. § 1910.22).
  • Exit routes and emergency planning (29 C.F.R. § 1910.37).
  • Fire protection (29 C.F.R. § 1910.150).

OSHA may expand the scope of an inspection when there is evidence of violations of other standards, such as injuries or illnesses recorded on both OSHA Forms 300 and 301, employee statements, or plain view observations. There is overlap between this NEP and the NEP for outdoor and indoor heat-related hazards, and inspections under both programs can take place simultaneously. 

Furthermore, OSHA will assess ergonomic hazards based on a review of the operations and the employer’s injury and illness records. If ergonomic hazards are detected, in addition to a safety inspection, a health inspection will be opened.

OSHA began enforcement of its National Emphasis Program on Warehousing and Distribution Center Operations, CPL 03-00-026 (Warehouse NEP) in October. State OSHA plans must adopt an identical emphasis program, or one at least as effective as the Warehouse NEP, in the next six months, by January 13, 2024.
The national OSHA office will generate lists of establishments the area offices are to inspect, and the area offices can either inspect all of the establishments identified in any order or create a subset of the list provided, so long as they inspect the subset in the order provided. All inspections under this NEP are comprehensive safety inspections.

The NEP is effective for three years and will terminate on July 13, 2026. It will no doubt lead to increased inspections and the possibility of citations and penalties. Foundries and suppliers to the metalcasting industry should revisit their workplace safety policies and procedures to ensure compliance with OSHA’s standards, particularly for the hazards listed here. AFS members are encouraged to participate in the quarterly AFS Safety Committees; the next meeting will be held on December 6 and include discussion of this new NEP and other key federal safety developments.