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Jonathan Rosenfeld

March 2, 2023

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Workers are not always aware of their rights and protections while on the job. As a result, you could suffer an injury while on the job, even if you follow all safety protocols.

Costco workers’ comp insurance provides workers with coverage for any type of work-related injury, regardless of who is at fault. However, filing for benefits is not automatic.

Were you injured at Costco and need help understanding your legal rights? The Chicago, Illinois law offices of Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC have helped many injured Costco workers maximize their benefits by submitting their workers’ compensation claims.

Costco Worker Moving Shopping Carts Toward Store Entrance

Contact our workers’ compensation attorneys at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form today for immediate legal advice and schedule a free consultation. All confidential or sensitive information you share with our law firm remains private through an attorney-client relationship.

Since 1983, Costco [1] has remained one of the largest employers in Washington State. Costco employees and other warehouse membership club employees move merchandise onto the warehouse floor, build end displays, unload semi-truck trailers, and fill racks, shelves, and customer orders.

Some employees perform cashier duties or work in specialty departments, including the food court, pharmacy, tire center, hearing center, gas station, and eye center.

Many workers enjoy working at Costco because of their benefits program. Costco boasts one of the lowest turnover rates at far below 6% for employees and less than 1% for executives.

A considerable number of injuries occur at Costco or other warehouse club retailers. The list below details many of the warehouse store hazards, warehouse fatalities, and what workers can do to minimize the dangerous risks of working in a big-box store.

If you or a family member were injured while working at Costco, you are likely entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Contact the personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC for more information and a free evaluation of your legal rights and options.

Warehouse Store Hazards

Working at a Costco, superstore, or another warehouse retailer like Walmart, Home Depot, and Lowe’s can be hazardous to employees’ health. Nearly all the stores stack heavy merchandise high up on storage racks lifted and stored using forklifts.

According to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), there are significant dangers to working in a warehouse environment.

In some cases, the merchandise is loaded and unloaded on the racks during store hours, making it extremely dangerous to shoppers. According to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), there are significant dangers to working in a warehouse environment. Some hazards include:

  • Heavy Equipment– Costco and other warehouse club employers move merchandise using forklifts. However, according to OSHA, forklifts cause 95,000 injuries and 100 work-related deaths every year. Many injuries occur when the forklift is driven off the dock or strikes workers.
  • Slip and Trip Incidents– Retail employers can prevent nearly every slip and trip in a warehouse environment, avoiding back and knee injuries requiring medical care. Spilled liquids, broken bottles, materials on the floor, and poorly lit aisleways are often the major factors involving many slip-and-trip incidents occurring in a warehouse retail store.
  • Falls– Employees working in high areas when loading and unloading merchandise on storage racks can fall onto the heart concrete floor. Management is required to provide safety equipment, including belts, straps, and gloves, to minimize the potential risk of falling.
  • Fires– Costco and other warehouse clubs often sell flammable merchandise that went spilled and can be potentially dangerous. Additionally, the pizza ovens in the food court are heated with natural gas up to 600° temperatures. These high temperatures increase the potential risk of a serious burn.
  • Heavy Materials and Objects– OSHA published a report on warehouse employees working in the store and on the loading dock. The report claims that two people die each month in job-related accidents, including being crushed by heavy materials.
  • Falling Objects– When the material is stacked up on storage racks, the potential of falling objects is significantly increased, especially if the items are stored improperly where workers and customers suffer broken bones.
  • Ineffective Ergonomics– Poorly designed operations, repetitive motion, and improperly lifting heavy objects are considered poor ergonomics causing significant musculoskeletal disorders requiring medical treatment to ensure well-being.
  • Back Injuries– Muscle strains and sprains occur from overexertion or lifting heavy objects improperly, often leading to extensive medical care.
  • Minimal Training– Many accidents requiring medical treatment result from an employer’s lack of sufficient training on safety hazards in the work environment

Serious musculoskeletal disorders result from repetitive motion when working in awkward postures every business day.

Costco Employee’s Wages

Annual Wages Costco Workers

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016 data concerning the employment statistics of the previous year, 68,490 stock clerks and warehouse club workers were working in the Chicago, Naperville, and Arlington Heights metropolitan areas.

On average, Warehouse Membership Club workers in northeastern Illinois earn $27,640 every year (mean wage), which is $13.29 per hour. The wage is slightly higher than the national average. See Chart

Warehouse Club Fatalities

In recent years, there has been a significant rise in the number of accidents occurring in Costco and other warehouse clubs, resulting in severe injuries and fatalities. Below is just a small sampling of the dangers of working or shopping in a warehouse.

  • Case 1: May 2013 – A subcontractor working inside a Loudon County, Virginia Costco handing out pizza samples was shot and killed inside the store by sheriff’s deputies after the woman acted strangely and charged at the deputies with a knife and scissors. One witness said that she watched three deputies run into the Costco while they were in the food court.
  • Case 2: September 2012 – A Costco employee was injured in a machine accident. While the employee’s hand remained intact, it was “badly cut up after a freak accident inside the meat section shortly before 2:00 PM.” First responders arrived at Costco and transported the individual with a work injury to the local “Bellevue Hospital in stable condition.” The New York Post published an article in September 2012 describing how a Costco “worker’s hand was mangled in a horrific slicing machine accident at the Harlem Costco.”
  • Case 3: A San Jose Costco employee was shot and wounded in the parking lot. The shooter, identified as the employee’s ex-wife, was waiting for her husband outside in the Costco parking lot. The victim lost lots of blood while being dragged to safety by other workers. The ex-wife remained at the scene and was arrested after the police arrived. The injured Costco worker was expected to survive.

Staying Safe

Federal agencies, including OSHA maintaining statistics on safety in the workplace, state that the fatality injury rate is significantly higher for warehousing than any other industry on a national average.

The potential hazards for most job-related deaths in warehouse clubs include unsafe use of heavy equipment, including forklifts, improper product stacking, and insufficient fire safety provisions.

Most non-lethal incidents concerning serious injuries in warehouse jobs involved repetitive motion and a lack of proper PPE (personal protective equipment). There are certain safety measures to follow, including:

  • Working Around Docks– Always drive the forklift slowly when on the dock plate or the dock and stay clear of dock edges. Ensure visual warnings are available that identify the edge of the dock.
  • Proper Forklift Training– Ensure that every forklift operator has been trained, evaluated, and certified to drive the equipment safely. In addition, ensure that the equipment is properly maintained and examined before each use.
  • Employee Hazardous Equipment Training– Every employee should be trained on the dangers of working around forklifts and the hazards of the equipment’s operational byproduct – carbon monoxide emissions.
  • Follow Lifting Procedures– Workers should be trained on proper ergonomics involving lifting methods and using the assistance of coworkers to lift extremely heavy objects.
  • Rest Periods– Intense physical work requires sufficient periodic rest breaks. Taking a break can prevent fatigue levels from escalating, which increases the potential risk of serious accidents with severe injuries.
  • Proper Stacking Methods– Workers should never pile, stack, unbox or lose materials at elevated locations, including on storage racks, to prevent serious falling hazards that could injure workers and shoppers.

Injured Workers Filing Their Workers’ Compensation Claim

Under federal and state laws, injured Costco workers can file workers’ compensation claims seeking financial compensation when injured on the job.

The Costco Wholesale Group must participate in the workers’ compensation system that guarantees workers’ comp benefits to injured workers harmed in a workplace accident.

However, a workers’ comp claim is not automatic, and the injured employee must report what occurred to their immediate supervisor and detail their work injury in an incident report.

In some cases, injured employees will receive a claim denial notice which could compromise their financial stability when they cannot receive benefits through their employer for their workplace injury to ensure their family’s well-being.

Fortunately, our workers’ compensation lawyers can file a workers’ comp claim, speak directly to the claims adjuster, and negotiate for fair compensation entitled under the law.

Common Benefits in Resolved Workers’ Compensation Claims

The workers’ compensation benefits system is a no-fault program that provides weekly or biweekly payments to injured workers.

Costco’s workers’ compensation should provide funds for:

  • Ongoing medical treatment and past medical care
  • Existing and future medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Future lost earnings
  • Temporary total disability
  • Permanent disability

A workers’ compensation attorney working on behalf of the injured worker might identify third parties responsible for the workplace injury.

Other third parties that could provide compensation over and above workers’ comp benefits might include:

  • A co-worker responsible for causing the injured party’s damages
  • The employer’s egregious behavior
  • Equipment and tool manufacturers selling defective products (product liability)
  • The property owner (premises liability)
  • The treating hospital or doctor (medical malpractice)

Filing a third-party lawsuit is different from a workers’ comp claim and often requires the skills of an experienced legal team. A workers’ compensation attorney can help the injured party file the appropriate paperwork before the statute of limitations expires.

Do You Need Assistance to File Your Accident Injury Claim?

Our lawyers help injured workers recover the compensation they are entitled to receive under the IL Workers’ Compensation Act and through civil lawsuits. Call a personal injury lawyer now for a free case evaluation.

If you have been injured in a job-related accident, never gamble with your family’s future and financial security. An experienced lawyer for our law office can ensure you receive all available benefits through Workers’ Compensation from your employer and possibly through other third parties that might also be responsible for your damages.

Our law firm working on your behalf can handle your entire compensation claim, including filing a case, gathering evidence, negotiating a settlement, or presenting the lawsuit in front of a judge and jury.

Contact a Chicago Costco Workers’ Comp & Injury Law Firm

Our personal injury law firm will provide immediate legal representation without any upfront payment or fee. This agreement means all payments for your legal fees are made only after the lawyers have successfully resolved your case in a jury trial or through an out-of-court settlement negotiated on your behalf.

Contact our Chicago, Illinois law firm today to help you file a workers’ compensation claim or civil lawsuit at (888) 424-5757 to schedule a free case evaluation.

If you are looking for information on Costco falls, lost wages, and workers’ compensation, look here.

Resources: [1] Costco

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