Wet or cluttered floors and poorly positioned merchandise teetering on high shelves threaten the safety of customers and employees in all types of retail stores. Accidents in retail settings are all too common. Store fronts, backrooms, and loading docks are all sites of retail-industry accidents. With work to be done in all these areas, retail workers are at particular risk for injuries. Some on-the-job injuries frequently seen in the retail sector are listed below. Retail employees, like other workers, are covered under the employer’s Workers’ Compensation program.
Slip and Fall Accidents
Surfaces. Slippery floors or uneven walking surfaces create hazards for people. Slipping on a slick surface can cause serious injuries. Such a fall may be life threatening if the fall involves the person hitting their head. Walkways should be kept dry and with stable and safe walking surfaces.
Heights. Some retail workers must access merchandise located on a high shelf. These workers are at risk of falls from ladders and other equipment used to reach items stored out of reach.
Obstructions. Workers are in danger of tripping over objects such as boxes or other items left in walkways. Pathways, aisles, loading docks, and other areas must be kept clear of obstructions and trip hazards.
Overexertion. Workers accessing or maneuvering heavy objects are at risk of an overexertion injury. Lifting, pushing, or pulling heavy items can cause strains and sprains. Workers should be taught how to safely lift and move such objects without causing injury.
Being struck by falling objects. Storage boxes and other containers or materials should not be stacked in such a way as to create a hazard. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard 1910.176(b) calls for objects to be stacked, blocked, interlocked, and limited in height so that they are stable and secure against sliding or collapse. This applies to objects stored on retail shelves, in a storeroom, or while being transported. Concerns about these dangers also necessitate the inspection of the condition of industrial pallets that are used to transport and display merchandise.
Dangerous Tools, Machinery, and Materials
Cuts and lacerations. When unpacking merchandise to display for sale, retail workers must unload boxes and other containers. For this work, they use knives, box cutters, and other sharp tools that can cause injury if proper precautions are not taken. Workers should take care to employ safe procedures while using such tools, which may include using safety gloves.
Mechanical hazards. Getting merchandise off the delivery truck and onto the sales floor often involves using heavy machinery such as forklifts and pallet jacks. These machines can be very dangerous if the operator is not properly trained. Worker injuries from these kinds of heavy machinery include people being run over or crushed by them.
Pressure or chemical dangers. Compressed air or flammable chemicals in gas cylinders are serious hazards. Tanks should be stored upright in such a way that prevents them from tipping over, such as in an enclosed frame or designated storage area. These canisters cannot be stored in public areas such as hallways. They must be protected from being accidentally knocked over or otherwise disturbed.
Stress. Like many other jobs, retail jobs can be stressful. Working with customers can be especially demanding. However, some retail jobs subject employees to such a high level of stress that it becomes too much for the employee to bear. Having a too-demanding supervisor with unrealistic expectations might cause such a situation.
Workplace bullying. Bullying in the workplace can cause harm to retail workers exposed to incessant intimidation tactics from a supervisor or coworker. Bullying is intended to humiliate, undermine, or degrade someone. This kind of subtle mistreatment is unfair and damaging to the target of the constant assaults. The abuse may come in the form of verbal or non-verbal psychological intimidation. Physical abuse may also be involved.
Workplace violence. It is a sad reality, but many workers in client-facing jobs such as those in retail can be unfairly exposed to threats of violence from shoppers or even coworkers. Harassment, intimidation, and other types of abuse are not uncommon in retail settings. Severe acts or even threats of violence can have a devastating impact on a vulnerable retail worker.
Fire hazards. Clutter and locked doors can be extremely dangerous in the event of a fire. Workers who cannot exit a building that is on fire are at risk of burns as well as smoke inhalation and other injuries. Employers must ensure that their workers are not at risk of fire-related injuries from a blocked or locked exit.
Clutter and other housekeeping issues. Doors, hallways, and walkways should be free of clutter or trip hazards. Housekeeping must remove hazardous waste materials that threaten to cause fire or explosion dangers or attract pests.
Emergency equipment. Employers must make emergency equipment readily available for use by their employees to ensure that they are able to quickly respond to dangerous situations or accidents. Fire alarms, fire extinguishers, and eye wash stations should be available. They should be kept in visible and easily accessible locations.
Additional Employer Obligations
Training. Retail employers must provide their employees with ways to perform their work safely, including training them in the best ways to prevent accidents and report safety violations.
Emergency protocols. Employee training must involve instructions on what to do in the event of an emergency, such as a fire or a work accident.
Personal protective equipment. Additionally, retail employers should provide personal protective equipment to keep their employees safe when they are using dangerous tools or performing hazardous job tasks.
Mount Holly Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Kotlar, Hernandez & Cohen, LLC Represent Retail Workers Hurt on the Job
If you were injured at work, you should be able to recover the costs associated with your injuries from your employer’s Workers’ Compensation program. Any medical bills related to your work accident should be covered, as well as any lost wages you incurred while recovering. The Mount Holly Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Kotlar, Hernandez & Cohen, LLC can help you understand your rights. Call us at 856-751-7676 or contact us online for a free consultation. Our offices are in Mount Laurel, Cherry Hill, Trenton, and Vineland, New Jersey; and Trevose, Pennsylvania. We serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania.