Retail Workers Face Heightened Risk of Injury During Holiday Shopping Season

Retailers across the country recognize the power that big holiday sales have to compel shoppers to come to their stores. This has resulted in increasingly hyped sales and streams of excited – and sometimes frenzied – shoppers. The steady swell has the potential to increase the chances of a work-related injury. You may recall that in 2008 a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death in New York by a mob of shoppers on Black Friday. shopping center

But as recent data shows, the work-related risks may be shifting more to transportation and warehouse workers, as companies become increasingly focused on online sales.

Many companies will seek to mitigate the danger by increasing the number of workers. A recent report by Forbes indicates stores this year are hiring 738,800 seasonal workers nationwide to cope with the influx of in-store shoppers. Target, for example, is hiring 70,000 seasonal workers. But in a sign of the times, it’s also hiring 7,500 seasonal fulfillment and warehouse centers to help keep pace with its booming e-commerce industry. Macy’s has actually lowered its in-store hiring of seasonal workers this year, but it has increased its part-time e-commerce hiring by 20 percent. Amazon, which is exclusively e-commerce, increased its seasonal hiring between 2012 and 2015. 

Still, as Fortune points out, almost 90 percent of holiday shopping sales still take place in stores. So while we are seeing a shift and companies are investing in beefing up their warehouse and transportation staff, they still need to make sure their stores are properly staffed in a way that ensures worker protection.

It should be noted that seasonal and temporary workers are entitled to workers’ compensation if they are injured on-the-job, just as any full-time, non-seasonal worker would be. Usually, there are three basic requirements for eligibility of workers’ compensation benefits. These are:

  • The person/company you are working for carries workers’ compensation insurance coverage – or is legally required to do so;
  • You are an employee of that company, as opposed to an independent contractor;
  • Your injury and/or illness is work-related, arising out of and in the scope of employment.

It should be noted there are some states that do not require companies to carry workers’ compensation insurance for seasonal workers.

The North Carolina Industrial Commission notes that all businesses that employ three or more employees have to either obtain workers’ compensation insurance or qualify as self-insured employers for purposes of paying workers’ compensation benefits to their employees. There are only a handful of exceptions to this, and none of those involve seasonal work by retailers.

Of course, it’s better if these injuries could be prevented in the first place. The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) drafted a letter in 2013 to CEOs of retailers across the country, reminding them of the critical importance of taking safety precautions to protect workers who might be injured during the holiday season’s major sales events where large crowds might gather. The agency’s Crowd Management Safety Guidelines for Retailers outlines precautions retailers can take before, during and after these large sales events in order to prevent workplace injury.

These include hiring additional staff and having trained security on site, contacting local fire and police agencies to determine if the site meets all requirements, and to make officials aware of the event, to designate an emergency contact procedure, use public address systems to communicate information/problems and limit the site to the maximum building occupancy.

Of course, transportation and warehouse workers will need a different set of protective guidelines.

If you are injured at work, we can help you through the process of obtaining compensation for medical expenses and lost wages.

Contact the Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Crowd Management Safety Guidelines for Retailers, 2013, OSHA

More Blog Entries:

Escamilla v. Shiel Sexton Co. – Worker’s Immigration Status at Issue in Injury Case, Nov. 10, 2016, Charlotte Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

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