The Chicago Injury Law Offices of Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers Represent Grocery Store Workers
Grocery Store Workers perform various duties in the food retail industry that provides the public with household and personal goods. These jobs entail shelf stacker, checkout operator, cashier, delivery person, baker, butcher, deli worker, sales assistant and others.
Supermarket managers, sales workers, stockers, cashiers, baggers, and janitorial staff experience mostly muscle strains and sprains. The butchers, meat cutters, kitchen workers, deli workers, and bakers in the supermarket are highly susceptible to serious lacerations and cuts along with strains and sprains. Those handling knives in the store tend to suffer serious finger injuries, whereas laborers, baggers, and stock handlers tend to deal with back injuries more often.
The Grocery Store Workers stocking shelves in supermarkets are subject to many of the hazards daily. Common risk factors involving grocery workers include being injured by a falling object or boxes stored on high shelves, and the injuries of the Company lifting heavy objects including crates, boxes, and cartons.
Many stockers missed days off from work due to sprains and strains associated with their job. Others suffer injuries from repetitive motion or neck and back injuries that include ruptured discs, herniation, and bulging discs.
Bakers and Butchers
Most of the bakers, butchers, deli managers and assistants who work and specialty departments in the grocery store have their unique risk factors for severe injury and potential death. These workers tend to perform their duties and awkward body positions throughout the day and used forceful movement that could injure their upper limbs, shoulders, neck, hands, and fingers. Most of these jobs are performed without adjustable work surfaces, meaning the employee must complete their tasks using poor working postures.
Also, there are aggravating factors that could exacerbate repetitive movement injuries including the lower temperature in the butcher department, and the temperature of the meat. In many cases, the work surfaces to hire too low to avoid stooping, tiptoeing, or a requiring repetitive bending and stretching beyond a normal comfort range. These abnormal postures and bending movements tend to strain the neck muscles and the tendons and ligaments of the back, upper limbs, and shoulders.
Meat wrappers and deli workers are especially susceptible to repetitive movement injury due to the awkward posture when wrapping, sealing and labeling products for sale. Frequent debilitating manipulative movements can aggravate a wrist injury, as can forceful and frequent movements of the hands, arms, and wrists.
Grocery Store Workers Hazards
Many grocery store workers must take days off from work after being injured or becoming ill on the job. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintain statistics and evaluate and investigate serious problems involving fatal and nonfatal injuries/illnesses in the workplace, including in supermarkets and grocery stores. The most common grocery store worker hazards involve:
- Lifting and Lowering – Many grocery store workers must lift or lower heavy objects or awkward size packages as a part of their daily duties.
- Slips, Trips and Falls – Falling from ladders, or losing balance on a slippery surface are all too common occurrences in supermarket environments.
- Occupational Violence – The new norm for retailers includes dealing with robbers, burglars, and abuse of/route customers.
- Dangerous Machinery – Many grocery store workers are injured every year when using power tools or the bread/meat slicer.
- Exposure to Chemicals – To maintain a clean work environment in the grocery store's bakery, deli department, and meat market, workers must often be exposed to dangerous disinfecting and sanitizing chemicals.
- Bullying – Intimidation and mistreatment are common tactics used by management and coworkers to generate better performance of the employees.
- Cart Injuries – Grocery store workers are susceptible to serious injuries when retrieving shopping carts from the cart corrals out in the parking lot.
- Backroom Injuries – Cardboard crushing machines, freezer and cooler machinery, floor cleaning equipment, and other dangerous appliances and tools require effective safety systems to safeguard the employees.
- Bacterial Hazards – This type of hazard can develop when the grocery store's equipment, including cutting boards, knives and utensils are not maintained properly. The deli and meat department require special disinfectants and sanitizers to ensure harmful bacteria are not spread to other equipment and eventually to the product.
- Obstruction Hazards – Stocking materials, pallets filled with box goods, and precariously stacked groceries can create instant tripping hazards as can lose floor mats.
The potential risks associated with being exposed to dangerous hazards in the workplace are often based on a variety of risk factors, the management style of the owner or operator, and other scenarios including:
- A lack of supervision,
- Working late hours or long days,
- A lack of training on job duties, staying safe, and maintaining a sanitary workplace,
- Performing repetitive tasks,
- Ensuring that every employee is uninformed about their legal rights,
- Any action that attempts to impress the supervisor, manager, boss, or coworker
According to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), some of the risk factors listed above result in serious illnesses and injuries involving musculoskeletal disorders that include tendinitis, back injury, muscle strain, carpal tunnel syndrome, rotator cuff injury, trigger finger injuries, and epicondylitis (problems with the elbow).
Repetitive Stress Injury
Performing the same or similar motion throughout every workday can cause serious life-altering injuries including carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis. Many grocery workers with RSI (repetitive stress injury/repetitive use injury) develop their serious condition slowly over an extended period. Often, these injuries are not the result of a single moment or action that tend to happen in car accidents or falling incidents. Instead, the worker's job performance a slightly hindered by tingling or numbing sensations in the hands, fingers, and wrists. Eventually, the condition debilitates the worker's ability to continue performing their job duties without additional nerve aggravation.
When a correlation between job performance and development of repetitive motion injuries can be identified, the worker usually has the right to file and receive workers compensation benefits. However, RSI injury claims are often denied by insurance carriers that argue the injury was not the result of working as a clerk in a grocery store when the worker is unable to state the exact date their injury occurred. This can be a problem because most clerks continue to work doing the same job despite their pain, not knowing that continuing the repetitive motion will only make the condition worse.
When electronic scanners were first implemented for use in grocery stores in the early nineteen nineties, the invention was thought to make it significantly easier for cashiers who were keying in the price, and stockers who were using tools to mark the price on every item. The productivity-boosting device did not alleviate the problems of repetitive stress injuries. In fact, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, grocery stores and supermarkets still ranked fifth among every industry associated with repetitive stress injuries.
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) released a study in 1995 indicating that "fundamental changes in cashier work may be required to fully eliminate hazards for musculoskeletal disorders from this job." The study came after scanners were added to workstations and used by the store's cashiers. The agency made the statement because many of the jobs inside the store require reaching and stretching, and twisting wrists to stop the shells, moved the items through the scanner and bag the merchandise.
Grocery Store Workers' Wages
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016 statistics concerning the employment stats of the previous year, 105,570 grocery store workers were working in throughout Illinois. On average, grocery store workers in the state earn $27,890 every year (mean wage), which is $13.41 per hour. The wage is slightly higher than the national. See Chart
Supermarket Worker Fatalities and Injuries
Data collected and released by the CFOI (Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries) as a part of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that in 2000, 128 individuals lost their lives in the grocery store industry. These deaths accounted for nearly 1 out of every four fatalities in retail trade. The statistics show that nine out of every ten fatalities occurring in supermarkets were the result of violent acts and assaults, which ended in homicides. Out of all the fatalities, more than three-fourths occurred during robberies. The small sampling below details some serious injuries and fatalities occurring in the supermarket retail industry.
- Case 1: Maywood, Illinois – A shooting at a west suburban Maywood grocery store left one man dead, and a pregnant woman injured in December 2017. The shooting incident occurred in the late morning at the Maywood Grocery on West Madison Street. Witnesses stated that the event started outside the grocery store. When the shooting began, one of the victims ran inside the store. ABC 7 News stated that "the gunman shot the man and a pregnant woman, who witnesses said was in line to buy lottery tickets. One girl was lying on the floor, and the other guy was lying on the other side." There was "a lot of smoke in there," said one witness.
- Case 2: Fort Worth, Texas – A shooting incident occurred at a Fort Worth grocery store that left one dead, and one woman wounded at the local Save-A-Lot on James Avenue. NBCDFW 5 News stated that the "initial report indicated two men were seen driving away from the store after the robbery, leaving two people inside the store with gunshot wounds." One victim, a 26-year-old man was declared deceased inside the grocery store. EMT transported the woman to the local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
- Case 3: Houston, Texas – A shooting occurring outside a grocery store and restaurant in Southwest Houston left one dead. The incident occurred on Windswept Lane at West Greenridge. When first responders arrived on the scene, they treated a man with a gunshot wound. Local law enforcement officers are yet to determine what led up to the shooting."
- Case 4: Humboldt County, California – A sheriff's deputy for Humboldt County and a McKinleyville grocery store clerk suffered injuries when confronting two teenagers attempting to steal beer. After the attack on store clerks, the two juveniles fled the scene. It was then that deputies stopped the pair approximately one-half mile away where one deputy deployed their taser after a suspect became violent.
- Case 5: Anchorage Alaska – A store clerk was injured during a shooting event that occurred inside a grocery store. The employee was shot and wounded during an attempt to keep a group of teenagers from vandalizing the establishment. Law enforcement officers responded to the scene where four teenagers were witnessed fighting, "breaking merchandise and urinating in the aisles." One store clerk approached the teenagers while asking them to leave. It was then that one suspect "pulled out a gun and shot the employee" who was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Accident Injury Claim
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