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This profile summarizes the common issues and duties for those working in shipping and receiving. These activities are often done in a warehouse where a wide variety of health and safety concerns can be present because of the work that is done as well as the materials stored in the warehouse. Because each workplace is unique, there is no way to predict all of the possible hazards you may encounter.
This summary focuses on the major duties of shippers and receivers.
Shippers and receivers send, accept and record the movement of parts, supplies, materials, equipment and stock to and from an establishment. They are employed by retail and wholesale establishments, manufacturing companies, and other commercial or industrial establishments.
Shippers and receivers perform some or all of the following duties:
Hazards typically fall into one of six general categories as listed below. For more information on that issue, prevention, or how to work safely with a hazardous product, click on the links where provided throughout this document.
Depending on the materials stored, biological hazards may or may not be present.
There is the potential for infection caused by birds or rodents when working in polluted or old structures. Infections include histoplasmosis (from bird droppings) or hantavirus (from mice droppings).
There is a possibility of exposure to moulds, fungi and bacteria from areas and materials that have had contact with water (e.g., water leak that leads to mould in wood or drywall).
Workers may be exposed to a variety of chemicals and materials - some exposure will be as a result of the items stored in the warehouse, other exposures will be from the activities done or equipment used. Examples include:
Please note: In many cases, the risk of health effects from a chemical is related to the amount of time (duration) and to the amount of the substance (dose) that the individual is exposed to. For more information, please see the OSH Answers document What makes chemicals poisonous?. Also see the Chemical and Materials section in OSH Answers for storage and handling information on various "families" of chemicals and materials.
Be sure to read the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for each hazardous product for more information. For general information on SDSs, please refer to our OSH Answers document WHMIS 2015- Safety Data Sheet (SDS).
Some hazardous products may have properties that can cause harm such as being flammable. Be sure to read instructions and labels carefully.
There are many situations where physical demands involve force, repetition, awkward postures and prolonged activities. These include:
Some organizations and individuals may inquire about using back belts. Generally speaking, they are not recommended. Please see the OSH Answers on this topic document for more information. A back injury prevention program is recommended instead.
If working at a conveyor or belt, repetitive motions, reaching, and lifting may be a concern especially when movements are done quickly and for a long period of time. The following case studies are available as examples and the information can be applied to a variety of situations:
Where the temperature in the building cannot be controlled adequately, work may be done in hot environments (especially during summer months). Alternatively, workers assigned to work in cold or frozen storage areas may experience cold stress.
Noise may also be a concern depending on the types of activities carried out.
Remember to work safely around equipment such as carts, hand trucks, trolleys, trucks, manual forklifts, conveyors, etc. Each will have its own safe work procedures and precautions. For example:
Appropriate personal protective equipment for the job is essential. For example, eye protection is needed for prevention of injury from flying particles, UV radiation, etc. Different gloves may be needed for different tasks (cutting vs. handling chemicals).
There are many situations where equipment and materials are in various places, or floors are slippery from liquids, etc. The main hazards from these situations are slips, trips, falls. Equipment and materials overhead can also be a hazard (falling material, etc.).
The tools used for the work can also present hazards including:
Quick turn-arounds, "multi-tasking", or deadlines may lead to stress felt by individuals.
According to the International Labour Office (ILO), health effects can include:
Source: Lund, J. Warehousing. In Encyclopaedia of Occupational Health and Safety. 4th edition. Geneva: International Labour Office, 1998. Pages 102.61 to 102.67
Shippers and receivers will need to know:
All workers should:
Because of the wide variety of tasks and materials a shipper/receiver may do or work with, all situations cannot be covered in this document.
NOTE: If you have health concerns, ask your doctor or medical professional for advice.
If you have any questions or concerns about your specific workplace, you can ask one or more of the following for help:
General information is available in OSH Answers or through the CCOHS person-to-person Inquiries Service.