Retail and wholesale employees at high risk for injury

In Pennsylvania, wholesale and retail trade companies have prominent positions in the top 50 employers in the state, according to the Center for Workforce Information and Analysis. This type of employment is often considered safe because relatively few fatalities are reported each year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, workers are not necessarily at low risk for workplace injuries.

Overexertion

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, overexertion injuries are one of the most prevalent types of injuries in retail companies. The National Safety Council states that excessive physical effort is what causes overexertion. There is not always a single, traumatic event involved because it does not come after an impact.

Employees are at risk when they frequently perform manual material tasks. Bending, reaching, lifting and carrying place stress on the back, neck, shoulders and arms when handling heavy loads, or when the employee must use awkward postures and repetitive motions for tasks such as stocking shelves.

Musculoskeletal disorders

The National Safety Council's Safety and Health Magazine reported that musculoskeletal disorders are another primary hazard for employees in the wholesale and retail industries. Carpal tunnel syndrome, back pain, sprains and strains are common injuries that may lead to chronic pain, and they are frequently caused by repetitive motions and improper lifting.

A lack of safety training, poorly designed workstations and fast-paced environments can all be factors that lead to injuries. While larger companies may spend more time on training, employees may also be expected to perform more physically demanding jobs. Smaller retailers often have less strenuous labor, but they are less likely to focus on safety. Demographics of retail employees show a diverse workforce that encompasses a wide range of ages and education levels.

Slips, trips and falls

NIOSH lists slips, trips and falls as primary dangers for those who work in retail and wholesale companies. Contributors to these injuries include the following workplace hazards:

  • Rushed pace
  • Employee fatigue
  • Slippery surfaces
  • Uneven or cluttered floors
  • Poor lighting
  • Improper footwear

Older employees, who often work in retail establishments, are at higher risk of falling because of issues such as poor eyesight or balance.

Slips, trips and falls are the third leading source of injuries that cause employees to miss work in retail and wholesale trades. Severe injuries to the head and back, bruises, broken bones, sprains and strains can be the result of a fall.

Reporting injuries at the first sign of a problem is essential for treatment. However, those who work part-time with hourly pay may be reluctant to lose the wages that an injury might cause. Any health problem that occurs at work is covered by the employer's workers' compensation insurance, though, regardless of fault. An employee may want to speak to a workers' compensation attorney who may be able to provide guidance about what to expect after a work injury.