In 2016, 3.3 percent of all full-time retail workers experienced an illness or injury related to the workplace. Noting that 3.3 out of every 100 workers was injured does not sound ominous until you realize that it is the highest injury rate in the corporate world. That 3.3 percent of workers being injured is even more than the construction industry, and many people consider the construction industry to be far more dangerous than working in a retail store.
But the fact is that there are more workplace accidents and more injuries in the retail industry than in the construction industry, and that should be a point of concern for many people. Slip and fall accidents for customers in a retail store may be relatively low, but the number of slip and fall accidents for workers in that same retail store can be frighteningly high.
Lack Of Consideration
One of the reasons for this high rate of workplace accidents in the retail industry is the simple fact that retail store owners often value inventory over employees. There are more safety procedures put into effect to protect the inventory than there are to protect the employees in many of the larger department store chains. Employers in the retail industry need to be more concerned with worker safety if these accident numbers are going to fall.
Retail workers who have jobs in the warehouses and inventory staging areas are constantly facing slip and fall hazards that can be reduced. There is a lot of heavy lifting in the retail world, and many companies prefer to have workers do the heavy lifting than equipment. Carry heavy boxes around in an area with slick concrete floors creates a significant slip and fall hazard.
Companies that focus on utilizing equipment to move inventory see savings in worker’s compensation claims and in their overall insurance rates. It is important for a retail store to be just as concerned with the walking conditions in their warehouses as they are on their sales floors.
Improper warehouse design methods can also contribute to slip and fall accidents. Simple design tactics such as putting slip-resistant materials at warehouse entrances and slip-resistant materials in high traffic areas could help to significantly reduce slip and fall accidents. A regular cleaning schedule to keep warehouse and back areas clean can also help to reduce accidents.
Routine maintenance such as immediately repairing floors and doing snow and ice removal when needed can help cut down on slip and fall accidents. The issue is that many department store chains have incredibly low-profit margins and they often choose to hope that slip and fall accidents do not happen as opposed to taking steps to prevent them. In the world of safety, investing in being proactive has always shown to be profitable.
Lack Of Employee Training
The source of slip and fall accidents in retail locations can also be traced back to a lack of employee training. Employees need to be trained on the proper footwear to use on warehouse floor surfaces and the safest way to navigate through a warehouse. Most warehouses have large mirrors installed in strategic spots, but many employees do not realize that those mirrors are used to prevent warehouse accidents.
Safety training is a regular event in the construction industry, but the retail industry does not have the same strict requirements for safety training that construction does. Employers need to become more proactive in safety training to help prevent a large percentage of slip and fall accidents.
Warehouse Traffic Patterns
Most retail workers are not trained in how to identify and utilize safe warehouse traffic patterns. When the workers have no idea how to safely navigate a warehouse, bad habits turn into slip and fall accidents. It is important for employers to establish safe traffic habits in a warehouse to prevent same-level falls as well as falls from heights.
The Two-Sided Coin That Is Employee Negligence
Retail stores tend to lack the necessary safety training and tools workers need to do their jobs safely, but workers also tend to suffer the consequences when a slip and fall accident occurs with a customer on the sales floor. Most stores have strict policies that employees must follow when it comes to working and cleaning on the sales floor, but those same policies seem to be lacking when it comes to the employee work area.
When a worker or customer is injured in a retail store, there is a good chance that some other worker is going to lose their job over the event. However, retail stores rarely change their policies when they are found to be negligent in an employee’s injury. So what should an employee do if they are injured while working in a retail store?
Employees Have Rights
Employees in the retail world have the same rights to a safe workplace that any other worker does. A retail store employee has the right to expect a clean and safe workplace that has worker safety in mind and shows it through company policies and actions. If the workplace is not safe, then an injured employee has the right to sue for compensation for their trauma, lost wages, and potential long-term injury effects.
It is the company’s responsibility to enforce its own worker safety policies and it is the company’s responsibility to create a safe working environment. When the company shows no interest in enforcing safety policies or taking the necessary steps to make a workplace safe, then that company can be considered negligent for worker injuries.
Innovation in terms of worker safety is slow in the retail industry. In recent years, you may have noticed that many stores are using lazy Susans as bagging devices. After years of research, it was shown that the repetitive action of bagging items causes serious long-term physical damage. But it took a long time for the retail world to respond with this innovation. In the interim, employees who suffer long-term injuries have the right to sue for their pain and suffering.
What Should You Do?
If you are a retail employee who is injured at work, your first step should be to ask your supervisor the process for getting medical attention. If you find that you are not getting much help from your company regarding your injuries, then that is when you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney.
Retail work is more dangerous than most people realize. The problem is that retail worker slip and fall accidents do not get the same media coverage as construction accidents, which means that there is not a lot of pressure on retail employers to change working conditions. Safety does start with each employee. If you do your part to be a safe employee but you still wind up getting injured, then you should seek out legal help immediately. Retail workers work in some of the most difficult conditions in the corporate world, and worker safety should never take a back seat to profit.