stockroom safety issue
August 19, 2011 8:07 AM   Subscribe

My workplace seems to deal with storage in a way that is unsafe: we have boxes stacked to the ceiling (one box on top of the other, not layered like brick) along several walls and shallow crates and flat boxes stacked to the ceiling in an area at least 6' on each side without any sort of support other than the containers everything is in. Is this normal for stockrooms and warehouses? If not, how can I do something about it?

I'm sure that, at the very least, this is a fire hazard. I'm a bit scared to say anything about it because I'm a new employee; plus if I have to report it to any governmental agencies after saying something, it'd be really obvious it was me that did the reporting. On the other hand, I'm also sort of scared that a box of heavy things is going to fall on me and break my foot, which almost happened to me twice today.

I'm in New Mexico; the business is a small one (~25 employees). Please don't advise me to quit; I like the job and finding another one would be really, really hard given my location and the economy.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (8 answers total)
It's too bad this is anonymous, because it's really unclear whether the situation is unsafe or not. We don't know how high "to the ceiling" is. We don't know how big the boxes are, how heavy, or much else. It's not clear why this is any more a fire hazard than any other room full of (presumably cardboard) boxes. So, it's impossible for us to judge whether you should try to do anything.
posted by jon1270 at 8:14 AM on August 19, 2011

Sounds like every retail stock room I ever worked in. As long as the exits were clear, the fire marshal never cared.
posted by kimdog at 8:17 AM on August 19, 2011

You can look up whether your employer has worker's compensation insurance at this site:

If they do, I'd just do my job and feel safe(ish) in the knowledge that if the boxes did topple on me, I'd be protected by law from losing my job and paying a lot of medical bills.

Once you've been there a while, this is just the kind of project employers like to see young entry-level employees tackle. Get a meeting with your boss, and say, "I've been thinking about ways we can increase efficiency and decrease risk here at the office, and one thing we can do that's low effort and high reward is to rearrange our storage space so it's more stable and accessible. Here's my idea."
posted by juniperesque at 8:30 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'd just do my job and feel safe(ish) in the knowledge that if the boxes did topple on me, I'd be protected by law from losing my job and paying a lot of medical bills.

I completely disagree. If something does fall on you, OK, maybe you break your foot. No big. But maybe it falls on your head and breaks your neck and you become paralyzed. Or maybe you sustain a head injury and spend the rest of your life slurring your speech. Or maybe one of the boxes has something sharp in it and it hits you and you get stabbed in the gut. I realize these are all "worst case scenario" things, but wow, if something like that did happen, I would be a lot more concerned about the "life as I know it is ruined and I have been irreparably damaged by this" angle than the "oh hey, job security!" one.

I had some poorly stored kitchen items (thankfully there wasn't a whole lot of stuff and most of it was lightweight) fall on me once. It was in my house, it was my fault. I was lucky that I didn't get injured worse--I was covered in bruises head to toe for a few weeks thanks to the canned goods. It wasn't fun.

I would absolutely say something to my boss.

You could try, "hey, [bossman], I noticed that the storage room seems a little haphazard. I'm worried that boxes could topple over at any moment. Would it be possible to start looking into shelving options to make things more secure and easy to get to when needed?" If you're motivated you could also do some preliminary research (at home, not on company time) to find suitable shelving options. Something like this or this is what I would use personally--you should look around to find ones with a better price/that would fit your office's specific storage needs.

It's up to you whether this is an issue you would quit over, but you should at least try saying something first. Unless your boss is Hitler incarnate, I can't imagine that simply mentioning your concerns to him would paint you in a negative light. If anything it shows that you are responsible and concerned with everyone's welfare.
posted by phunniemee at 9:11 AM on August 19, 2011

Uline catalog.

Warehouses and stockrooms get like that and juniperesque is right.
posted by pianomover at 9:17 AM on August 19, 2011

Have you talked to your boss and/or coworkers yet about the issue? They probably have ways of taking boxes down that doesn't destabilize the stack. I used to work in a warehouse, and some of the best practices were not always the most common-sense ones. Don't be afraid to ask for help, rather than trying to find ways to anonymously report the company. And don't be afraid to be the person that always asks for help to get the boxes down instead of just doing it yourself. You may get crap from your coworkers more accustomed to just taking on that risk, but that's better than doing something you're not comfortable with.

Without more info or pictures, it sounds like it may be on the messy end of warehouses, but not the death trap you're afraid of. The crates & flattened boxes thing sounds fairly normal. The only thing that jumps out at me is that, in my area, the boxes ought to be 18 inches from the top of the ceiling so the fire sprinklers can work effectively.
posted by lilac girl at 9:29 AM on August 19, 2011

Speak to your supervisor about it. No-one is going to punish you for asking if there is a safer way to do something.
posted by IanMorr at 1:37 PM on August 19, 2011

OP here. The area that I'm talking about is sort of an auxiliary stockroom-- it's an area probably... I dunno, around 20x20 feet? Normal ceilings (I think that's 11 feet). There are definitely things less than 18" from the ceiling; for most of the room that's around the edges but the giant structure of crates in the middle of the room goes almost to the ceiling, so I'm pretty sure that's less than 18" in a pretty big area in the middle of the room.

There doesn't seem to be an easy way to get stuff down; when I was asked by my supervisor to put stuff away I was pretty much told to just find a way to make it work; same with getting stuff down.

If anyone who is used to this sort of work environment (it's basically the "back room" of a retail store) wants to memail me I can get some pictures and send them on Monday.
posted by Harry Potter and the Puppet of Sock at 8:09 PM on August 19, 2011

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