This past November, NIOSH released an illustrated guide aimed at preventing musculoskeletal disorders and injuries in the retail industry. The eighteen page guide is specifically directed to preventing material handling injuries in the grocery sector—illustrating and outlining ways and techniques to practice safe lifting and pulling methods to avoid.
This was in response to a study conducted in March of 2010 which evaluated the number of injuries and illnesses in the retail and wholesale industries. The results surprised even the researchers conducting the investigation, bringing to light a 'disproportionately large' number of both within an industry that likes to claim it has none. Study author, Vern Putz , said the results were not what he initially anticipated. “I was surprised at the number of injuries and illnesses, and even fatalities,” he said, noting the retail workforce is extremely diverse in terms of gender, age, ethnicity, and education level.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, musculoskeletal injuries, also called overexertion injuries, accounted for approximately 30% of occupational injuries, the highest numbers found among laborers and freight, stock, and material movers or handlers. These injuries often involve strains and sprains to the lower back, shoulders, and upper limbs. Why this is particularly important to the retail industry is that these injuries most frequently result in time away from work and industry extremely dependent on an “on-site” work force.
“Data has shown us that not only do musculoskeletal injuries result in time away from work across all industry sectors, but data shows that they affect workers in the wholesale and retail trade at a higher rate,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “This new resource is an invaluable tool for workers in this industry to help decrease injuries and increase productivity.”
While this new publication focuses on the grocery sector, it is a practical tool for any material handling operation. The easy-to-read format can be adapted to other scenarios such as warehouse and storage facilities. As retail moves more and more away from bricks and mortar to internet sales, larger numbers of retail employees are needed at fulfillment centers and are needed to move large quantities of merchandise out for shipping. The seriousness of worker downtime goes right to the bottom line.
Emilcott has worked with our clients for over 25 years to evaluate material handling operations, reduce hazards and implement sound procedures and training programs to keep employees safe and working.