The image that comes to mind when one thinks about a hazardous workplace is most often a construction site. Workers are not only exposed to heavy equipment and high-powered tools, but also to heights and the elements, all which can lead to a variety of risks and dangerous scenarios. It might come as a surprise that retail workers can also face many workplace hazards, especially those who have access to stockrooms and warehouses filled with inventory and supplies.
Common Retail Workplace Hazards for Warehouses
The Bureau of Labor Statistics
(BLS) states that in 2017, the retail trade reported 120,040 total injuries or illnesses that resulted in days missed from work. The warehousing and storage industry also reported 17,390 cases of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work. The most commonly reported retail workplace hazards included falls on the same level or overexertion from lifting or lowering.
AmTrust recently reviewed claims involving retail class codes and found four-wall stores incurred $287,679,637 in claims in 2018. Wholesale stores not otherwise classified (NOC) had the most claims with 4,568 reported, while meat, grocery and provision stores came in second with 3,397 claims. The causes of injuries most often reported include strain or injury by (lifting, carrying, repetitive motions) and slips and falls, matching the statistics from BLS.
Why do retail workers injure themselves in such manners so often? Think about a common stockroom or warehouse. They’re often filled with boxes and bulky inventory lining shelving, which can topple over onto employees when not stacked properly. Inventory can often be heavy and awkward to lift, leading to muscle strains and chronic pain.
Another retail stockroom or warehouse hazard is access to chemical materials, which includes cleaning supplies and other flammable liquids that could pose a fire hazard when not placed in the appropriate storage cabinet. Workers could also slip on wet or dirty floors or fall off a ladder. It’s also possible employees haven’t had the proper training for using heavy equipment like forklifts. Loading docks can also be extremely hazardous, with workers at risk of falling off the dock or getting hit by vehicles coming too close.
Reducing Workplace Injuries by Improving Stockroom and Warehouse Safety
Employers have made improvements in safety conditions
in their stockrooms and warehouses over recent years, leading to a reduction in the number of workplace injuries. All retail employers, no matter if their stockroom is the size of a large walk-in closet or a massive warehouse, should keep a few similar safety tips in mind, including:
Implement a workplace safety program
Continually training and retraining employees through a workplace safety program
helps reduce the number of work-related injuries in retail stockrooms and warehouses. These programs ensure companies comply with any state and federal regulatory requirements, as well as decrease the direct and indirect costs of accidents suffered by workers on the job.
Ensure workers understand proper lifting techniques
Picking up and setting down heavy loads incorrectly can lead to muscle strains in multiple areas of the body, like the arms, wrists, shoulders and back. Make sure employees understand how to properly lift boxes and inventory by bending at the knees
, keeping items as close to their bodies as possible when walking, bending the knees again to lower the items to the floor, and always being mindful of fingers and toes. When getting heavy objects down from high shelves, use a ladder. Always utilize tools like handcarts and dollies for larger, heavier and awkward items.
Properly store inventory
Boxes should be stacked evenly and straight on storage shelves, with the largest, heaviest boxes on the bottom and lighter items on higher shelves. Always put new inventory away as soon as possible, keeping boxes out of high traffic areas where employees could potentially trip over it. Remember that shelving units often have a maximum weight capacity, too, so don’t overload them with items.
Clearly mark dangerous areas
Many stockrooms and warehouses have work zones that can be dangerous to those without proper training or authorization. Make sure to indicate areas where employees should take extra precautions, like loading zones, forklift pathways and conveyor belts by using brightly colored flags, signage or by roping them off.
Keep areas clean and organized
As mentioned previously, keep inventory and other clutter out of walkways and high traffic areas. Employees should know what to do with new stock when it is delivered, so everything can go in its proper place immediately. Create a detailed labeling system for storage areas so workers know exactly where they should place products and equipment. If a spill should occur, it should be mopped up right away to avoid a slip and fall accident.
Eliminate fire hazards
Make sure all emergency exits are accessible and clear of clutter. For combustible chemical storage purposes, utilize a specialized, flammable storage cabinet
designed specifically for this purpose. Employers should also schedule fire drills regularly to ensure workers know what to do should a fire occur.
AmTrust Financial’s Retail Risk Report
Amtrust Financial’s review of retail class codes details the top injuries and events at retail operations. For more information, download our report
Loss Control Services from AmTrust Financial
AmTrust’s Loss Control Department
is dedicated to providing meaningful resources
and recommendations to create the most effective loss control program for your retail store’s specific needs. We can help your organization identify hazards and offer solutions that fit your operation. Please contact us
today to learn more. This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors. Coverages may vary by location. Contact your local RSM for more information.