The latest statistics showing an increase in illnesses and injuries among retail workers is a sobering reminder to retailers to protect their workers during the busy holiday shopping season.
For the first time since 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is reporting that in its latest estimates, nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses show no decline year-over-year and retail incidents involving injuries or illnesses increased for the first time since 2003. The retail trade accounted for 14 percent of all injuries and illnesses in the private sector in 2018 and is the only sector where the total number of recordable cases increased. In fact, the retail sector had more total recordable cases (TRC) than the mining, construction or manufacturing sectors.
BLS reported on Nov. 7 that there were 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported by private industry employers in 2018, unchanged from 2017. These data are estimates from the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII). The incidence rate for total recordable cases (TRC) in private industry also remained unchanged from a year ago. This is the first year since 2012 that the TRC rate did not decline. The incidence rates for days away from work (DAFW) cases and for days of job transfer and restriction only (DJTR) cases did not change from 2017.
- “Stagnant injury rates are unacceptable and a clear call to employers nationwide to take a harder look at their approach to workplace safety and health,” said ASSP President Diana Stegall, CSP, CFPS, ARM, SMS, CPCU. “Incidents that harm workers are occurring far too often in every industry. Most occupational injuries and illnesses are preventable given today’s technologies and proven safety and health strategies.”
- Retail trade was the only private industry sector where the TRC rate increased in 2018, rising from 3.3 cases to 3.5 cases per 100 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers. This was the first increase in the TRC rate in retail trade since the series began in 2003. Retail trade accounted for 14 percent of all injuries and illnesses in private industry in 2018.
Both the number and rate of nonfatal cases in the private retail trade sector increased in 2018. The number increased 4 percent to 409,900 cases, and the incidence rate increased from 3.3 cases to 3.5 cases per 100 FTE workers. Within the retail trade sector, general merchandise stores reported 96,000 injury or illness cases; food and beverage stores reported 92,600 cases; motor vehicle and parts dealers reported 61,500 cases; and building material and garden supply stores reported 53,800 cases.
Of the 126,850 cases involving days away from work in retail trade in 2018, those resulting from falls, slips or trips increased to 34,190 cases, an increase of 11 percent from 2017. Cases resulting from contact with objects and equipment increased 10 percent in 2018 to 38,940 cases. These events had a higher rate for workers in the retail trade sector than for workers in private industry in 2018.
Injuries and illnesses in retail trade most often resulted from sprains, strains and tears, which accounted for 45,340 (36 percent) of the DAFW cases in 2018. The DAFW incidence rate for sprains, strains and tears was 38.4 cases per 10,000 FTE workers, essentially the same as in 2017. (See tables 3 and 4.) Seventeen percent – 21,320 – of DAFW cases reported in retail trade were the result of injuries to the back.
Within retail trade, 15 occupations had at least 1,000 DAFW cases in 2018. Injuries and illnesses to retail salespersons accounted for 20 percent of the DAFW cases in retail trade, increasing from 23,240 in 2017 to 25,600 in 2018. First-line supervisors of retail sales workers accounted for another 13 percent (15,940) of DAFW cases in retail trade in 2018, an increase of 25 percent from 2017.
With the resources currently available to employers, such as engineering controls, personal protective equipment, technology and software to track trends and leading indicators and multiple training options, the unchanged injury and illness rate is particularly troublesome.
“Employers are responsible for ensuring the safety of all of their workers,” said NSC. “This includes having policies and training in place to address the major causes of injuries and fatalities. Leadership should set the tone from the top and engage all workers in safety, continually looking to identify and mitigate workplace safety hazards and measuring safety performance to ensure continuous improvement.”
What can employers in the retail sector do to protect their employees?
A new Insight Report from Intelex provides an in-depth overview of Safety Management Software (SMS) and the impact it can have for workers in the retail industry. The paper, titled, “Smart Spending for Safety in Retail,” covers:
- Impact of an SMS on OSHA recordables, LTIs and DART rates
- Benefits of SMS software
- Intangible and tangible ROI
- How key safety KPIs can affect insurance premiums
- How much your organization can ultimately save with a robust SMS solution.