The Chicago Occupational Accident Attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers Represent Injured Home Depot Workers
Home Depot Workers where a variety of different hats while working as a sales associate in the home improvement Center. These jobs include stocking shelves, maintaining the sales floor, and assisting customers. Typically, workers are assigned to a specialty department including gardening, carpeting, paint, electric and, plumbing, hardware, lumber, outdoor furniture, appliances, and other departments. Depending on the store's location, many associates will perform duties outside the realm of sales associate by performing warehouse work or cashiering.
Interpersonal skills, hands-on construction experience and years of sales knowledge are some of the major attributes of successful Home Depot Workers who are familiar with typical construction projects and necessary tools, equipment and materials to get the job done. While knowledge and proven quality customer service are essential to maintaining the job, so too is physical strength and stamina, which is important for lifting heavy building materials, lumber and equipment.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, sales associates at home-improvement centers are paid on average slightly higher than other retailers in the sales industry. Entry-level workers working with garden equipment and building materials can expect an hourly wage of $12 or more, which is significantly higher than other retail professions. Managers and supervisors can expect to earn $20 or more per hour.
Most positions require manual labor by loading and unloading merchandise and moving heavy items. Employees are often expected to inventory inbound shipments, stock the items on the sales floor, and build impressive endcaps to promote merchandise during special sales.
Home Depot Worker Hazards
In recent years, home-improvement centers to become while the popular due to low prices, easy accessibility and the ability to purchase nearly every item needed for the home under one roof. However, working in a warehouse setting disguised as a retail establishment can be dangerous to employees. This is because heavy merchandise is typically stacked on one or more shelves above the products for sale requiring forklifts and other tools to load and unload merchandise. Serious injuries and fatalities happening in home-improvement big-box stores are not uncommon occurrences.
While it is the duty of the store owner, managers and supervisors to maintain safety in the workplace, everyone must identify hazards that had the potential of causing significant harm to customers, visitors and employees. Most accidents occur at Home Depot, Lowes, and other home-improvement centers because of inattention or inconsistent work practices that had the potential to lead to illness or injury.
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) provides retailers a long list of safety recommendations to ensure that the workplace remained safe. Some of these recommendations include:
- Warehouse Ergonomics – Because Home Depot Workers are required to lift heavy building materials as a part of their general duties, the store should make available forklifts, motorized lifting jacks, and tools to assist lifting heavy boxes that do not require working in prolonged awkward positions.
- Personal Ergonomics – Hardware store workers are subjected to repetitive motion injuries that are the result of reaching, lifting, pushing, and pulling through forceful exertion. The store should also provide every worker PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) that when worn can protect the employee from crushing hazards, impact injuries, and respiratory problems. Many Home Depot and Lowes locations are cited with a common OSHA violation of failing to use proper respiratory protection.
- Clean and Dry Floors – Supervisors and Managers should ensure that the sales floor and warehouse/storage areas remain clean and dry at all times to avoid slipping and falling, which represents approximately 12% of all major injuries occurring in big-box home-improvement centers.
- Safe Stacking Practices – Nearly 20% of all reported injuries and deaths occurring in Home Depot, Lowes and other home-improvement centers or caused by falling objects. Developing and enforcing safe stacking practices when loading and unloading merchandise can prevent these tragic accidents from occurring.
- Better Security Measures – Shoplifting and other similar crimes occur in every retail establishment, including home-improvement centers. Using active surveillance cameras and security alarm systems, along with positioning a security guard in a conspicuous location can minimize the potential dangers associated with criminal activity.
- Better Lighting – Areas with low light might create an ideal ambiance, but poor lighting is known to increase crime accidents. Low lit areas tend to make it easier to steal goods and makes it difficult for employees and customers to see debris and other materials on the floor that could lead to a slip and fall accident. The store should install the best lighting possible up and down every aisle, at the entrance, along with the front end, and back in the stock rooms.
- Employee Training – When employees received adequate training on how to handle emergencies using first-aid and quickly calling for emergency medical services when necessary can minimize injuries and save lives. The employee should be trained on how to apply first-aid in an emergency and make a quick decision to call 911 for help.
- Continuous Visual Monitoring – When the employees are trained to visually inspect the premises continuously, they can quickly identify spilled items, uneven flooring, debris in the aisleway, and other hazards that could cause a slip and fall injury. This includes misplaced boxes, improperly stored merchandise stacked high up on storage racks and other precarious situations that could cause severe injuries and death.
Home Depot Workers' Wages
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics for the year 2016, involving employment data of the previous year, there were 4660 Home Improvement Store Workers on the job in the Chicago, Naperville and Arlington Heights metropolitan area. These statistics reveal that Home Depot Workers in northeastern Illinois earned $16.36 per hour, or $34,030 annually, on average. These earning wages are slightly higher than the national averages. See Chart
Home Depot Fatalities and Severe Injuries
Every year, many Home Depot workers and patrons suffer serious injuries or are killed in the store due to the negligence and violent attacks. The cases listed below are just a small sample of the serious problems that occur in large home-improvement centers.
- Case 1: Lubbock Texas – A 23-year-old Lowes Home-improvement Center supervisor died of serious injuries after approximately 800 pieces of heavy lumber crushed him when a cantilever rack fell. The decedent had been employed at the Lubbock Texas Lowes Center for approximately one year and seven months before the accident occurred. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) investigated the incident and found documentation that "the employer had very specific procedures for changing the bases on a cantilever Star rack system, but the supervisor did not follow the procedures." It was noted that the bases "were changed out at other stores at ‘store level'" that were "performed by professional rack crews and not Lowes employees."
- Case 2: Twin Falls, Idaho – A family stopped at their local Home Depot store to purchase items for their new home. Just minutes after entering the store, a kitchen countertop weighing more than a ton fell approximately 10 feet from the tongs of a forklift and crushed the 3-year-old daughter who died later that day at the hospital.
- Case 3: Danbury, Connecticut – A forty-one-year-old patron at the local Home Depot store along with his brother were injured when approximately one ton of landscaping timber fell and struck the victims. One customer died, and his brother was seriously injured.
- Case 4: Santa Monica, California – A 79-year-old female patron shopping at the local Home Depot Home-Improvement Center became the fatal victim of a serious accident when a 75-pound boxes wood fell off the 20-foot-high shelf and hit the shopper, causing a fatal head wound.
- Case 5: Chicago, Illinois – In an OSHA news release, it was revealed that "Home Depot USA's Chicago store cited by OSHA for serious hazards." The document reveals that the involved a lack of training and maintenance for powered industrial vehicles. Proposed penalties totaled $110,700." During the time of the citation, the Campbell Avenue store employed 210 workers. The federal agency issued "one willful violation for failing to remove from service a powered industrial truck in need of repair. A willful violation is one committed with the intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health."
The store also faced a repeated violation for "failing to evaluate forklift operators' performance at least once every three years. The Home Depot was previously cited for this violation" at a Douglasville, Georgia store back in 2012. "This violation was previously cited in 2010 at Home Depot stores in Tampa, Florida, and Chicago. The repeated violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or similar violation of the standard, regulation, rule, or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years."
The most egregious violation cited by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) involved "exposing workers to chemical burns from sulfuric acid by failing to require the use of eye, face and hand protection when adding water or checking water levels in powered industrial vehicle batteries. Home Depot also failed to provide an eyewash station for immediate emergency use for employees exposed to injurious corrosive materials while working with industrial batteries. A serious violation occurs when there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known."
- Case 6: Reynoldsburg, Ohio – OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) cited an Ohio Home Depot store for eight safety violations that carried penalties of $150,700. The citation involved seven repeated violations that were identified after an inspection that occurred at the Reynoldsburg store. The inspection was conducted as a part of OSHA's "site-specific targeting program" that focuses on workplaces known to have the highest rate of illnesses and injuries.
The company was cited for seven repeated violations that included a failure to inspect flexible cords before using the electrical cords that had damaged insulation and missing grounding pins, blocking access routes, failing to install plates on electrical receptacles, and using flexible wiring where fixed wiring was required. There was also another serious violation involving the company's failure to ground and bond flammable liquid storage containers to avoid an accidental electrical discharge.
How Workers Can Protect Themselves
It is the duty of Home Depot management and the corporate office to ensure that every employee remains safe while at work. When accidents occur in workers are injured or killed, it is not their responsibility to cover the cost of medical care, funeral expenses, or lost wages. All injured Home Depot workers are entitled to receive workers compensation to cover their medical bills and time away from work. However, some employees have sought legal assistance to extend their monetary recovery by proving serious negligence of others caused their injuries.
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