Retail employees generally include people who sell clothing, food, appliances, home goods, cars, and other vehicles. Retail workers include employees who work for department stores, restaurant chains, supermarkets, small boutique stores, stores in shopping malls, and any place where goods are sold.
Many retail workers are on their feet for a good portion of the day – which can place strains on their back, neck and spine. Some of the tasks that retail workers perform that can cause a direct injury include
- Stocking shelves and moving stock in general. Workers need to be able to lift, carry, and remove goods from the shelves. Often, they need the help of small ladders and other devices. The shelves need to be constantly replenished. The goods also need to be checked for expiration dates so that stale products aren’t sold to customers.
- Marketing the products. Retail workers are often required to create and put up signs and office displays to promote their products to customers.
- Customer assistance. This can include helping the customer select the right car or product. It can include showing the customer where the products are in the store. It includes explaining and assisting with the self-service parts of the store.
- Checking out products. The cashiers need to constantly pick up and move the goods and check them for their prices. Baggers and clerks need to place the items sold in bags and boxes so the customer can take the products to the car. Some retail workers also help customers take the items they purchased to their car
Additional retail duties can include price checks, opening and closing the store, cleaning up messes, and removing and replacing items that fell from the shelves.
How retail workers may injure themselves
There are many tasks that retail workers perform that can cause injuries that are severe enough that the worker needs to take significant time off from work to treat. Some of the ways retail workers may injure themselves are:
- Slips, trips, and falls. Workers can easily fall if the surfaces are wet, tiles are broken, carpets are torn, merchandise has fallen, the parking lots aren’t properly maintained, or for other reasons. Retail workers are often focused on helping customers and not on constantly examining the floors and surfaces they walk on.
- Lifting heavy objects. Many commercial products come in heavy boxes which have to be moved to the correct aisle and then lifted into place. Stock workers and other retail employees often need to work with carts and other devices to move the products into place. If the objects are especially heavy such as washing machines and dryers, the workers may even need to use a forklift. It’s easy for a worker to wrench his or her back or pull a muscle while lifting and moving the merchandise.
- Machine and tool related injuries. Retail workers who work with power tools, kitchen cutting products, tools to open and remove merchandise, tools to ensure car engines are in working order, hot stoves, and other equipment can and do suffer injuries while using these machines. The injuries normally correspond to the risks associated with the machines.
- Exposure to chemicals. Retail workers who sell gasoline, cleaning products, gardening products, and other products may suffer injuries due to the exposure to the chemicals in the products. The exposure can cause skin rashes and burning of the skin. Workers who breathe in the chemicals may suffer lung and other respiratory diseases.
- Repetitive stress injuries. Many retail workers perform the same mechanical tasks day in and day out. Waitresses carry trays, often on their arms. Cashiers use the same motions to ring up checks every day. Many retail workers in this day and age enter customer information and product information into a computer on a daily basis. Repetitive motion injuries can cause carpal tunnel syndrome, bursitis, and other disorders that require that the employee take time off from work.
- Forklift and pallet jack injuries. Workers often use these devices to move large boxes and machines. The use of these devices can cause serious injuries when they pin or crush the worker or another employee. If the devices fall or fail to operate properly, they can also cause serious injuries.
- Cuts and bruises. Handling any sharp object such as a box cutter can require stitches and other types of medical care.
- Job-related stress. Daily dealing with irate customers, being forced to meet sales quotas, caustic co-workers and other workplace demands can cause psychological harm to an employee requiring the worker to treat with a psychologist or another mental health professional; however, these kinds of effects are from one’s job are not compensable under workers compensation. That being said, if one is suffering from harassment to such a degree that it constitutes a hostile work environment, depending on the facts of your situation, an employment or labor attorney may be able to assist you.
- Loud noises. Some retail jobs take place in places where machines are used that make a lot of noise or where music and other devices can affect a worker’s hearing; however, gradually incurred hearing loss is not compensable in Virginia. Only traumatic hearing loss from an accident is compensable.
- Being on one’s feet for a long period of time. Employers should generally give their retail workers sufficient rest breaks so they can get off their feet. Standing for too long can cause back, neck, and spinal pain. It can lead to heart attacks and heart disease. It can cause foot pain which can require time off from work.
The important thing for retail workers to understand is that there is no requirement to prove fault in a workers’ compensation case. The main requirements are that the retail worker is an employee and that the workplace accident happened during work or due to work. In a retail environment, there is unlikely to be anything that would be compensable that would be classed as an occupational disease. It would likely have to be the result of an injury by accident.
Once a retail worker proves his/her right to benefits with the help of a skilled workers’ compensation lawyer, the worker can demand:
- Payment of all reasonable and necessary medical expenses
- Payment of lost wages (typically at the rate of 2/3rds of his or her average weekly wage rate) while unable to work for up to 500 weeks;
- Payment of permanent partial impairment loss in a permanently damaged body part once the injured worker reaches maximum medical impairment.
North Carolina and Virginia workers’ compensation Lawyer Joe Miller Esq. has helped thousands of workers get a just recovery. He workers with your doctors to understand your medical condition. He fights the insurance companies when they try to deny your claim or cut off your benefits. To discuss your work injury claim, call attorney Joe Miller at 888-694-1671 or fill out my online contact form