The Chicago Occupational Accident Attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers Represent Injured Kroger Workers
Kroger Workers unload trailers with merchandise, stop shelves, build end displays and assist customers and fighting products and checking out with bags of groceries. In recent years, the services provided by Kroger's has changed significantly. Many of the stores now offer prepared and fresh foods that are prepared and sold for consumption at home. These offerings include take-out meals, salads and hot entrées that are offered in the deli department or and hot service trace/bins in the deli aisle.
The number of employees in each Kroger grocery store varies by its size and location where many smaller stores have limited selections and staff members while others employ hundreds of stockers, cashiers and specialty department workers. While many workers stockers and cashiers, others perform their duties and specialty areas including the deli department, meat market, fish market, fruit and vegetable section, health section, sundry department, and bakery.
An article published in 2003 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that workplace illnesses and injuries "have declined in grocery stores, while employment [numbers have] increased." However, "with employment expected to increase further, safety and health training will continue to be a priority and reduce workplace injuries and illnesses in this industry."
Kroger Workers' Wages
The annual employment data maintained by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics for the year 2016 revealed that there were 68,490 Grocery Store Workers employed in the Chicago, Naperville and Arlington Heights metropolitan area. These statistics reveal that Kroger Workers earned on average $13.29 per hour, or $27,640 every year. This job-related income is significantly higher compared to national averages. See Chart
Common Hazards and Injuries
The injuries and safety hazards at Kroger's are similar to those and other local grocery stores. Many of the statistics, gathered by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) have identified dangerous situations and common hazards that injure or have the potential of injuring grocery store workers. Some of these hazards and injuries include:
- Trip Hazards – Slip and trip hazards are common in grocery stores where storerooms, passageways, aisles develop slippery surfaces when mopped or when items fall from the shelves and break open. OSHA regulations mandate that every work area and aisleway be maintained in a clean and dry condition.
- Unsafe Storage Areas – Many storage areas on the retail floor and in the back rooms are filled with merchandise and containers that are not properly secured in place. Employees are often at injured when removing merchandise while standing on the ladder on the aisleway, or in the back room receiving/storage area.
- Unstable Loads – Kroger's, and other grocery stores, take delivery of box filled pallets containing merchandise every day. This cargo are brought in by semi-tractor-trailers and loaded on pallets wrapped with plastic to ensure the load is secured. Unfortunately, many of these loads are unstable or stacked too high in a way that does not prevent collapsing or sliding.
- Unsanitary Restrooms – Exposure to human waste in an unsanitary bathroom can place the employee and others at significant risk of developing serious illnesses or becoming infected by diseases left on unclean surfaces.
- Block Pathways – There must be sufficient, safe clearances between stacked merchandise and equipment in the storage room and on loading docks to avoid serious accidents with injuries. There must be ample room to accommodate mechanical equipment including motorized loading jacks and forklifts in areas with appropriately marked pathways.
- Fire Extinguishers – Portable fire extinguishers should be available to every employee in easily identifiable locations throughout the store to minimize the possible injury to employees, customers, and visitors.
- Locked Exits – The store should be equipped with dedicated exit routes that are locked from the outside, but available for egress from the inside, by pushing on a panic bar or other device that permits exiting through a locked door. Typically, these panic bars trip an alarm.
- Ineffective PPE – Employees must receive appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) when working in specialized areas in the store. This equipment could include appropriate hand protection for stockers, meat cutters, bakery workers, deli workers, and others. The equipment should prevent severe cuts, lacerations, punctures, abrasions, thermal burns, chemical burns, and other injuries caused by harmful temperature extremes.
- Dangerous Electrical Outlets – All electrical outlets, electrical lines, and fixtures in the store must be secured in commercial conduit and in proper working order that prevents short-circuits that could cause fires.
- Fire Hazards – Typically, the back room of the grocery store is filled with waste materials, like loose cardboard waiting to be taken away by third-party companies. However, before the material is taken from the grocery store, it must be stored in a secured manner that does not create a hazard. This means that all bundles, containers, bags, and others will not be interlocked, blocked, or stacked in any way that makes the waste unstable in a way that could collapse or slide. Every storage area must be free from accumulated materials that could produce hazards involving an explosion, fire, slipping, or pest harborage.
- Broken Pallets – Any pallet that is broken or has missing parts should be unloaded immediately to avoid potential hazards including a collapse that could cause injury to workers and others who suffer injuries by falling merchandise.
- Blocked Eyewash Area – Kroger workers and other grocery store clerks are often exposed to dangerous, toxic materials that might require a body wash or eyewash to flush or drench any injured area. When stacked merchandise, waste products or other materials block the eyewash area, it is not available for immediate emergency use by those who might be suffering a burn from exposure to a corrosive material, hazardous liquid or dangerous chemical.
- Falling – Merchandise is often stored or stacked in high areas including on storage shelves or pallets. Many injuries that occurred to grocery store workers are the result of falling while reaching or stretching to lower merchandise to the floor.
There are efforts that the employer can take to minimize potential hazards in the work environment. This includes installing nonslip mats and requiring that every employee where slip-resistant shoes to prevent a slip and fall on wet surfaces in the store.
The grocery store does not need to be a hazardous area for workers, and there are effective steps that the store owner, supervisor or manager can take to ensure the safety of everyone working in shopping at the market. The manager should take steps to encourage communication between the supervisor and staff to reduce safety risks in the work environment.
The employee should understand that their complaints will be heard by management if the deli slicer, forklift, pallet jack, or cardboard bailer is malfunctioning and requires repair. A failure of the management to take effective steps now could cause serious problems, work delays or horrific injuries in the future.
Repetitive Motion and Upper Limb Disorder
Stockers, meat cutters, cashiers and others working in the grocery store are highly susceptible to serious injuries if proper precautions are not taken. These injuries are often the result of repetitive motion tasks that over the years could cause chronic injuries. These injuries, like carpal tunnel syndrome, or often the result of a grocery worker failing to take a break at regular intervals. OSHA advises cashiers to slide the merchandise across the scanner instead of lifting the item. This effort will reduce twisting the hip and the wrist that could cause serious chronic injuries in the future.
An additional problematic risk factor among grocery store cashiers involves upper limb disorder. According to the US Department of Labor and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), cashiering is one of the leading occupations of men and women developing musculoskeletal disorders of the upper limb. This high-risk injury is often the result of performing duties at improper workstations or a lack of educating the cashier on the basics of biomechanical principles.
Cashiers often work in static and awkward postures for hours on end while conducting forceful exertion and repetitive motion that over time could cause significant injuries to the upper limb. ULD (Upper Limb Disorder) usually affects the neck, shoulders to fingers, and arms. The pain is usually the result of stress on the ligaments, tendons, muscles and soft tissue that affect the nerve supply and circulatory system of the limb.
Injuries and Fatalities at Kroger's Grocery Store
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has cited Kroger's grocery stores numerous times for serious violations including one occurred in April 2015. In that incident, investigators found two willful, and two serious safety violations that resulted in $130,000 in fines. The federal agency acted on a complaint and found that "Kroger failed to remove damaged powered industrial trucks from service and to examine forklifts after each shift to report and correct defects. These violations resulted in two willful violations."
A willful violation is one "committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirement, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health." The other two serious safety citations were issued by OSHA "for failing to train forklift operators and not properly repairing a pallet jack charger. An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists."
- Case 1: May 2010 – An Indiana Kroger "employee was crushed under pallets of water which had fallen." The victim died on March 20, five days after the accident occurred.
- Case 2: Lawrenceville, Georgia – A jury in Gwinnett County, Georgia awarded a plaintiff $2.79 million to settle an injury case against Kroger's. The incident involved a slip and fall incident that left the female plaintiff was serious injuries. The woman's attorney claimed that "the store had allowed a puddle of clear liquid to accumulate on its floor, near a refrigerated cooler filled with cut flowers in water. The woman badly injured her right wrist and developed complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)."
Experts testifying on her behalf claimed that there was "at least $1.1 million in lost wages and future medical and home care bills over the course of the plaintiff's remaining lifetime as a result of the fall" need to be compensated. This incident is not the first time that Kroger's has been sued in the county. In January the same year, a Douglasville man was awarded $2.3 million by the local jury after slipping and falling on crushed fruit in 2008 at a Kroger store.
- Case 3: Oakland County, Michigan – In July 2013, a shopper at a Hazel Park, Michigan Kroger grocery store slipped and fell to her knees on a slippery surface by a refrigerated lunch meat area. The woman claimed that the fall led to a pulmonary embolism and bilateral knee injuries. The woman sued the grocery store for her injuries.
Let Us Assist You in Filing Your Claim
Our attorneys assist injured Kroger Workers recover financial compensation under the IL Worker's Compensation Act and through civil lawsuits. Call our office now for a Free Case Review.
Did you suffer an injury at work or become ill because of a related hazard associated with your job? You may be worrying about how you will provide the necessities and pay the bills for your family during your recovery. You may believe that you are too sick or too hurt to ever return to work in fear that you will lose the family home, the car, and your ability to provide for your loved ones in the future.
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