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What are the Hazards of Retail Work?

Hazards Retail Work

Many people might believe that standing for an eight-hour shift is relatively easy, but it can be a difficult task. In fact, standing for long periods of time can cause foot ailments and other issues. Retail employees who stand all day can experience leg swelling and chronic pain. Recorded health problems include Achilles tendonitis, lower back pain, arthritis in the hip and knee, and high blood pressure. Other health problems, such as joint damage, foot problems, varicose veins, heart and circulatory problems, and difficulties with pregnancy, have also been noted.

There are actions employers can take to mitigate retail work hazards. Many solutions include administrative fixes, such as alternating work assignments between sitting and standing and allowing for more rest breaks. Workstation redesign is limited as most retail settings have stationary cash registers. It is possible to add a footrail or footrest to allow workers to shift weight from one leg to another. Another useful fix is to provide comfortable mats for employees to stand on; concrete is the worst surface for jobs that require standing.

If a retail workplace accident does happen, the injured employee should speak to a lawyer. A lawyer can evaluate their case and determine if they are eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits.

Locked Exits can be Dangerous

Emergency exits are required so that there is a safe means of egress in the event of a fire or another type of emergency. Emergency exits must be clearly marked, unblocked, and remain unlocked during work hours.

The need for this safety measures was apparent over 100 years ago. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire is one of the deadliest workplace disasters in U.S. history. In 1911, when a fire broke out in a New York City clothing factory, panicked workers were unable to open doors that were locked by managers to prevent theft or that opened the wrong way. In the accident, 146 garment workers died from smoke inhalation, fire, or from jumping from the windows.

Fire Hazards

Retail storage items can often serve as ample fuel in the event of a fire. In addition to ensuring that emergency exits are available, it is also important to maintain an adequate number and type of fire extinguishers. Access to them must not be blocked, and they must be regularly inspected.

Workplace Violence is on the Rise

Another risk in the retail industry is workplace violence. Retail staff often interact with shoppers. While there has always been the occasional disgruntled customer who lashes out, the frequency of violence is increasing. Retail workers have been hit, bullied, sexually harassed, raped, and even shot. Those most at risk are employees who work in convenience stores and gas stations where cash is often used as payment. Late night work and working alone are also risk factors.

There are steps employers can take to reduce workplace violence. Well-lit work areas and training employees to evaluate and deal with dangerous situations are important. Sometimes, physical barriers are set up to provide protection. Using lock boxes to limit the amount of cash on hand is also a good practice. It is also important to secure doors for safety reasons.

Some employers install a security system with cameras to detect dangers, and it issues alarms to alert police during an altercation. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released information on how employers can combat workplace violence. Employers should review that information.

Material Handling

Product inventory typically needs to be unloaded from trucks, sorted, logged, and moved to the display area. Depending on the workplace, the loading and unloading will involve moving and breaking down stacked pallets. If the pallets are not properly balanced or they are broken, then moving them can be hazardous. They can collapse, injuring those nearby. The OSHA has a requirement that storage of materials shall not cause a hazard. Material stored in tiers are to be stacked, blocked, interlocked, and limited in height so that they are stable and secure against sliding and collapse.

Moving materials may require use of forklift trucks or ladders and will almost always involve some degree of manual lifting. Back strain and fatigue occur frequently in retail work. Improper lifting technique, lifting too much weight, or having to lift materials for protracted periods of time poses a high risk of back injuries.

Workers can sustain a back injury from a single episode, such as lifting an object that is too heavy. More often, back injury occurs after repetitive lifting. The weight of the loads and frequency of the tasks are the most significant risk factors. Poor lifting technique or overexertion can cause injuries, including muscle strain. Less frequent and more severe injuries are also possible, such as tears in tendons or ligaments in the back.

Employers can reduce risk of back injuries by practicing a combination of administrative and engineering controls and by providing training on safe lifting techniques. Warehouse and storage room layouts can be designed to minimize the need for manual lifting.

Often, the area where inventory is stored is crowded and poorly lit. Inventory areas may also block pathways, have debris on the floor, or have lose or missing handrails. These conditions pose a risk of slip and fall accidents. Creating a system of organized storage and inventory of product can streamline operations and reduce the risk of injury. Proper housekeeping, including removing any items from walkways, regularly removing trash, and providing ample light, can help minimize slips, trips, and falls and their associated injuries.

Pittsburgh Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at AlpernSchubert P.C. Assist Injured Retail Workers With Their Claims

If you were injured in a retail work accident, you may have legal recourse. A Pittsburgh Workers’ Compensation lawyer at AlpernSchubert P.C. can help you with any difficulties in the claims process. We assist clients in seeking, applying, and qualifying for Workers’ Compensation benefits to cover necessary expenses. Complete our online form or call us at 412-765-1888 for a free consultation today. Based in Pittsburgh, we serve clients in Allegheny County, Lawrence County, Washington County, and other areas throughout Western Pennsylvania.