Wholesale, retail trade workers at higher risk of slips, trips, falls
An employee removing cardboard stacks from a pallet tripped over a pallet jack, fell backwards, and fractured his wrist. A sales employee coming in from the rain into a warehouse slipped, resulting in a sprained shoulder. An auto detailer slipped on ice and suffered brain injury.
The case studies highlight the risks faced by more than 21 million employees in the wholesale and retail industries. A new research-based publication outlines the challenges and offers solutions for employers.
"WRT employees most frequently handle and move materials, putting them at higher risk for STF injuries," according to the Workplace Solutions document from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. "Employees in grocery stores and establishments where meat is handled are at particular risk, with a 75 percent greater than average industry rate for all other private industries combined -- 28.3 vs. 16.1 per 10,000 employees."
The employees who prepare, distribute, and sell merchandise in retail operations and services related to those activities can suffer back injuries, sprains, strains, contusions, fractures, severe head injuries, paralysis, and even fatalities as a result of the slips, trips, and falls.
The document identifies these categories of risk factors:
- Workplace factors include slippery surfaces caused by spills; ice, snow, or rain that can be tracked indoors; loose mats or rugs that can cause tripping; carrying boxes and containers that may obstruct vision; poor lighting; walking surfaces that are in disrepair or have protruding nails and boards.
- Work organization factors such as a fast work pace that may cause employees to feel rushed and work too fast; work tasks that involve handling liquids or greasy materials and may cause slippery surfaces.
- Individual factors, including a person's age, fatigue, failing eyesight, or inappropriate footwear.
NIOSH recommends employers first develop a written slips, trips, and falls prevention policy that specifies employer and worker responsibilities and provides examples of such a plan.
Ensuring that aisles and passageways are free of clutter, providing proper lighting, and installing sufficient outlets so electrical cords do not cross walkways are other suggestions.
For grocery stores, the document suggests that employers make sure produce misters are directed onto the produce and do not spray onto the floor and that they provide customers with plastic bags and paper towels to prevent dripping water on the floor.
Flooring material that is a static, coefficient of friction of more than 0.5 for high-risk areas should be used. Water absorbent mats should be used at entrances and other areas where water, ice, or snow may be tracked on the floor.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
December 17, 2012
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