There are certain industries like construction that everyone knows are potentially dangerous. However, what you may not know is that retail work also has inherent risks. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018, retail was the only one of 19 different private industries in which the rates of illnesses and injuries rose.
Now that retail stores are dealing with the fallout from the COVID-19 virus, that construction site may be looking a lot safer to a grocery or hardware store clerk. After all, construction workers do not have to deal with the general public.
At first glance, retail work may seem like it’s all about checking people out and stocking shelves, the truth is there are risks in stores that can injure employees or cause illness. In fact, it has been said that jobs in this industry are so dangerous they should come with a warning label.
One of the reasons conditions are so dangerous for retail employees is the fact that these jobs are often viewed as being temporary. Turnover is high because the pay is low, so people tend to move on to better opportunities the first chance they get. Corporations simply aren’t motivated to improve conditions due to a lack of longterm employees who could hold them accountable.
Retail Injury Statistics
One 2019 report by the Los Angeles Times determined that workers in U.S. retail outlets were more likely to be sick or injured than factory workers during the previous year. The most common retail injuries include:
There are many other less-common types of injuries that can happen in the workplace, including being exposed to toxic chemicals that have been linked to cancer.
Millennials in Retail
Retail is one of the most popular industries for young adults. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that each year approximately 100,000 workers between the ages of 16 and 24 are injured seriously enough that it causes them to miss work and lose wages. Of these, around 23,000 were injured while working in retail.
One study by AmTrust Retail Risk Report determined that the three injuries that resulted in the highest lawsuit payouts include:
These are just average settlements, and it’s important to remember that no two cases are exactly alike. How much an employee stands to gain in a lawsuit will depend on the circumstances of their case, the strength of their evidence, and the skill of their attorney. Click here to see examples of the results world-class lawyers can get in a workplace injury lawsuit.
Physical injuries are just one way retail workers can be harmed on the job. Many retail workers also suffer from mental health issues as a result of their jobs.
In one poll conducted by Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, National Public Radio, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 26% of the poll’s respondents reported that retail work had a negative impact on their overall health. The mind and the body are connected, and many studies have linked stress to poor health and disease.
The stress involved in retail work can be debilitating for many employees. Some of the biggest stressors on retail workers’ mental health include the following.
The Customer Is Always Right
In a society filled with “Karens,” having to please a customer no matter how unreasonable their demands are or else risk being fired is extremely stressful. Retail workers may be subjected to rants and insults many times each day. During each negative interaction, they are forced to suppress their emotions.
Luckily, some corporations have eased up on this rule and will protect their employees from customer abuse. However, many corporations do not offer such protections and will terminate an employee to appease a customer. Never being able to stick up for yourself and having to keep it all inside is definitely not good for your mental wellbeing.
The Agony of Monotony
Retail jobs are generally not based on skill but rather on shifts. You are just there to do the job you do, endlessly. You don’t get to experience the sense of accomplishment that comes from achieving. You can’t change the circumstances of your employment by proving you’re a problem-solver. Instead, you are just there to fill in a time slot.
Human beings need to keep their brains engaged. According to the American Psychological Association, boredom can cause states of aggravated restlessness and attention deficit issues, and it is also linked to depression. Retail workers aren’t given the chance to flex their minds.
Chaotic, Erratic Scheduling
Some corporations leave workers scrambling for hours and trying to pick up more shifts. Often, employees are forced to settle for hectic on-call schedules that leave them in a state of limbo in which they simultaneously are and are not working. These employees can’t make plans because they have to be available, but they also aren’t being paid for giving up their time.
Some other ways scheduling can wreak havoc and cause stress to retail workers is they are often given little notice before they have to work a shift. They also may not receive notice about major changes to their schedules that will cause them to have to rearrange everything in their lives, including childcare.
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of being a retail worker is knowing you are putting yourself at risk of illness and injury yet still, you are utterly replaceable. Even if you’ve been at your job for 20 years and you are the best customer service provider the store has ever seen, one complaint, illness, or off-day can cost you the job you’ve invested so much in.
In order for retail to become safer and healthier for workers, companies need to reevaluate their business models and consider the human toll that is connected to their profits. Until they do, retail workers will remain in a precarious position.
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