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How to avoid workplace injuries in retail outlets

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has released a new publication, "Ergonomic Solutions for Retailers," to help retailers and their employees avoid the sprains and strains that are often suffered in the industry. The publication gives West Virginia employers and workers several protection strategies when employees are moving products and other materials from delivery trucks to storage areas to sales floors.

In 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 34 percent of all work-related injury and illness cases were musculoskeletal injuries. The highest number of injuries occurred among material and stock movers and usually involved arm, shoulder and lower back sprains and strains. The director of NIOSH says that these injuries cause employees to stay home from work in all industries, but it happens more frequently in the retail and wholesale sectors.

The NIOSH publication recommends that retail workers use lift-assist and transport devices to move stock and materials between delivery trucks and sales floors. It also urges employers not to push workers outside of their power zones, or the limits of their strength and abilities. The NIOSH director notes that lift-assist and transport devices may support the growth of Internet sales for retailers who depend on the transfer of large volumes of products with fewer workers.

A retail employee who suffers an overexertion injury while moving boxes of from a storage room to a store's shelves might be entitled to workers' compensation benefits. These benefits might pay for any physician visits and prescriptions that the employee needs to recover. If the doctor instructs the employee to refrain from work until the injury heals, the employee might also receive wage loss benefits. Employees who are refused benefits may file complaints directly with the West Virginia Offices of the Insurance Commissioner or get help from attorneys.

Source: EHS Today, "Working in the ‘Power Zone’ (and Other Safe Material Handling Tips for Retailers)", Josh Cable, December 16, 2014

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