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The Changing Risks of Work-Related Accidents in Retail

Officials from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have recently suggested that the evolving nature of the retail environment may lead to a change in the risk of work-related accidents. Although retail is generally considered a low-injury hazard sector, new processes (such as curbside pickup) and changes in worker demographics are expected to pose new challenges to retailers in the near future.

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Contributing Writer Garett Seivold evaluates some of these new challenges in an article in the most recent issue of LPM Online. From the article:

In an industry sector bulletin released in August, the safety agency described some of the changes that could impact the number of injuries and claims affecting retailers. They include:

  • New processes such as curbside pickup are increasing the number of manual‐handling jobs, transforming checkout clerks into product handlers for onsite packing, bagging, and curbside delivery to customers.
  • Cardboard slats covered in plastic are replacing cardboard boxes, which can lead to more unstable loads that changes lifting dynamics and requires stockers to take more corrective actions to avoid dropping contents. The change increases the risk of back and shoulder injuries.
  • Rapid growth in non‐store retailers is increasing demand for new workers that must perform manual lifting on a near‐continuous basis throughout their shifts. “These workers need specialized training in manual lifting techniques and use of appropriate work‐rest intervals,” warns the agency.

Compounding these emerging risks are safety challenges posed by worker demographics, NIOSH cautions. Among these are an increase in older workers, the fact that retail stores now “often employ workers from three to four generations” that vary substantially in their physical capabilities, and the increasing use of temporary workers who are not typically as extensively trained. Finally, organizational pressures, such as fear of job loss and more demanding customers, are expected to exacerbate stress‐related injuries in the near future, according to the agency.

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Check out the full article, “Is Retail at Risk of Giving Back Safety Gains?,” to read case studies and practical suggestions of ways in which leaders are rising to the challenge.

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This post was originally published in 2017 and was updated December 14, 2017.

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