The Chicago Occupational Accident Attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers Represent Injured Sam's Club Workers
Sam's Club Workers and employees or other warehouse membership retail clubs unload merchandise from trucks and move pallets of items out onto the retail warehouse floor. Their job duties include filling the racks, storing access merchandise on overhead shelves and providing customer service. Some Sam's Club workers perform other duties including cashiering or working in the pharmacy, hearing center, eye center, gas station, tire department and pharmacy.
The discount warehouse retailer provides every full-time employee with extensive benefits and a competitive wage, which often translates into a low turnover rate. Employees are expected to work as a stocker, cashier and merchandise handler to stock shelves, move merchandise, and work various positions throughout the day.
Even so, many injuries occur at Sam's Club and other warehouse retailers every year. The workers are often exposed to dangerous job-related risks that can cause acute and chronic injuries.
Common Sam's Club Worker Hazards
Working at warehouse retailers, like Sam's Club, Costco, BJs and others can be hazardous to the health and well-being of the employee. The worker is required to stack heavy merchandise using a variety of lifting equipment including mechanical and hydraulic lift jacks and forklifts. At some stores, the workers are required to stock overhead shelves during business hours, which can place the well-being of consumers in jeopardy. Statistics released by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) reveal that there are substantial hazards to working in any big-box warehouse store. These hazards include:
- Heavy Machinery Injuries – Sam's Club, Costco, Home Depot, and other warehouse club retailers use forklifts and other heavy machinery to move merchandise around the store. OSHA indicates that nearly 100,000 individuals are injured, and 100 or more die every year in forklift accidents. Many of these incidences involve driving the forklift off the loading dock or hitting coworkers/employees.
- Slipping, Tripping and Falling Accidents – Crowded aisleways, debris on the floor, spilled liquids, and broken glass are all leading factors in many of the slipping, tripping and falling accidents occur to workers in Sam's Club and other warehouse retail stores.
- Falling Objects – Sam's Club employees are required to place overstock merchandise above the items for sale on the sales floor on racks that are six feet and higher. When the merchandise is improperly stored or not tightly wrapped, items can easily fall on customers and employees causing significant injuries.
- Fall Injuries – Workers are required to use safety equipment including straps, gloves, and belts when storing or removing overhead stock. Any misuse of the equipment can cause the employee to fall from a great height onto the hard warehouse concrete floor below.
- Fire Injuries – Pizza ovens in the meat department and food court at Sam's Club and other warehouse retailers can be potentially hazardous to the health of workers and customers. These ovens tend to operate at 600 degrees and higher. The excessive heat can create a dangerous work environment that can lead to serious burns and other injuries.
- Heavy Lifting Injuries – Many Sam's Club employees are required to lift heavy objects and merchandise while unloading trucks, stocking shelves, and placing additional products on overhead racks. Without wearing the proper PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), the worker can develop chronic injuries that last a lifetime.
- A Lack of Ergonomic Gear – Many warehouse workers are required to do repetitive work using the same muscles and nerves that over time can develop into MSDs (musculoskeletal disorders). These problems are often the result of a lack of ergonomic gear including chairs, tools, equipment, and PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) that is designed to reduce stress on body parts including the hands, fingers, wrist, elbows, arms, shoulders, neck, back, knees, legs, and hips.
- Back Injury – The Extensive lifting of heavy objects or overexertion at work can lead to serious muscle sprains and strains of the spinal column that without intervention can exacerbate into lifelong chronic injuries.
It is imperative that every manager and supervisor properly train the staff on how to avoid injuries and recognize hazardous conditions in the workplace.
Sam's Club Workers' Wages
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics for the year 2016, involving employment data of the previous year, there were 68,490 Warehouse Club Workers and Stock Clerks at work in the Chicago, Naperville and Arlington Heights metropolitan area. These statistics reveal that Sam's Club Workers in northeastern Illinois earned $13.29 per hour, or $27,640 annually, on average. These earning wages are significantly higher than the national averages. See Chart
Warehouse Club Fatalities and Injuries
While warehouse clubs, including Sam's Club and Costco, provide low prices, the environment, crowded conditions, and merchandise stacked and left in the aisleway can increase the potential for injuries. Some cases involving fatalities and injuries at warehouse clubs in recent years include:
- Case 1: Colonial Heights, Virginia – A child suffered serious injuries in August 2016 when a pallet full of bottled water fell on him after it toppled from the top shelf. The incident broke the child's arm in two places. The incident occurred when the child's father was pushing him in a stroller. The water jobs fell from above. Emergency responders arrived at the scene and transported the young boy to the South Side Regional Medical Center.
- Case 2: September 2012 – A Warehouse Work or suffered serious injuries after being involved in an equipment accident. A published article in the New York Post revealed that the "workers hand was mangled in horrific slicing machine accident at the Harlem Costco." Additional information stated that the employee's hand "was badly cut up after a freak accident [happening] inside the meat section." Emergency responders arrived at the scene and transported the injured worker to the "Bellevue Hospital in stable condition."
- Case 3: March 2016 – According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, at 3:45 PM on March 29, 2016, an employee "was struck and killed when warehouse storage racks collapsed." The 21-year-old worker "was pulling orders in a warehouse when the storage racks in the warehouse collapsed, striking the employee with cases of frozen food products." The injured employee "sustained blunt force trauma to the head and neck due to the cases of frozen food products falling and striking" the worker. It was determined that his death was a result of his injuries.
- Case 4: March 2017, A warehouse club worker was "backing up into a warehouse rack" when he was "caught between the rack and the floor. The employee suffered trauma to his chest." EMT responders arrived at the scene and transported the injured employee to the hospital.
- Case 5: Los Angeles, California – Back in 1985, a female customer was killed while "shopping for cleaning supplies" in a Tulsa, Oklahoma Sam's Club after boxes filled with fabric softener crushed her after the boxes fell from a shelf.
- Case 6: May 11, 2017 – Before the store opened, the warehouse retail worker "placed a pallet loaded with boxes onto the second tier of the storage racks." While using a lift truck, "the wooden pallet of boxes slipped off the rear of the rack, causing boxes to fall off the pallet." An employee was lifted to the second-tier storage racks to reload the following boxes when "his foot got stuck between the boards on the empty pallet, which caused the employee to fall approximately 10 feet to the concrete floor." The employee sustained "injuries to the head, including a fracture of the skull with bleeding in the brain."
How to Stay Safe at Work
OSHA and state agencies monitor the actions of warehouse clubs to ensure every employee is afforded a safe workplace. However, the potential hazards in working in these environments sometimes result in job-related injuries and death. The injuries involved are often the result of improper stacking of merchandise, bad forklift and mechanical jack lift procedures, and a lack of fire safety provisions.
That said, there are certain things that every employee in a warehouse environment can do to protect their health and well-being. These efforts include using PPE (Personal Protective Equipment, and gear and following safety procedures to minimize repetitive motion injuries. Recommended safety measures include:
- Safe Loading and Unloading Procedures – The warehouse management should ensure that adequate visual warnings are easy to identify on and around the dock. Rules and procedures that prohibit workers from "dock jumping" between the truck and the dock to avoid crushing injuries and death when the truck is backing up or leaving the docking area.
- Effective Forklift Training – Every individual that operates the forklift must be properly trained, certified and evaluated to ensure they understand how to use the equipment in a way that protects themselves and all other workers. Also, all lifting equipment including the forklift must be appropriately maintained and inspected before every use.
- Hazard Training – Each worker should be trained on how to identify safety hazards in the workplace and how to avoid serious injuries by following the best safety practices.
- Effective Lift Procedures – Following the best ergonomic practices and using lifting equipment safely can minimize lifting-related injuries that are known to cause acute and chronic pain. Minimizing back problems require lifting with the legs with the back straight after first determining the weight, size, and bulk of the item to be lifted.
- Workday Resting Breaks – Overexertion in the workplace leads to many serious injuries including RMI (repetitive motion injuries) that can be prevented by taking periodic breaks throughout the day. Routine resting can prevent work-related fatigue that is usually an underlying factor for most severe injuries in the workplace.
Following the above safety measures can minimize most potential dangers in the workplace. Additionally, the removal of cluttered merchandise in the aisleway and the back room can minimize the potential of workers and customers slipping and falling.
Take the Next Step in Obtaining Financial Compensation
Our law firm assists injured Sam's Club Workers get compensation under the IL Worker's Compensation Act and through civil lawsuits. Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers (888-424-5757) provide Free Case Reviews and a No-Win/No Fee guarantee. All information you share with our attorneys remains confidential.
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