Supermarket employees often have to get creative to break up a sometimes repetitive job. Workers can strike up conversation with shoppers, listen to music while opening boxes, or get competitive with coworkers over sales to make things more interesting. Unfortunately, the repetitive nature of the job is what can cause unsuspecting injuries.
Supermarket employees can suffer slow building injuries that might not show up for years. This type of injury is different from a sudden fall or contact injury. These injuries occurring from repetitive motion over time are called repeated trauma injuries.
The repetitive motion of stocking shelves and ringing items creates stress on specific muscles and joints. Over time those overly exerted areas can become painful. A worker might also start feeling symptoms such as numbness, burning and tingling sensations.
The most common injuries for supermarket workers are from repeated trauma.
The rate of injuries due to repeated trauma is particularly high among supermarket employees. In fact, 73 percent of the total injury cases in the industry are linked to repeated trauma. This number is much higher than in other similar industries, which usually come in at 50 percent. Repeated trauma can cause:
- Muscle strains
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Elbow injuries
- Rotator cuff injuries
- Back injuries
Cumulative injuries are so common in the supermarket industry that employers and employees must work together to prevent them.
Injury prevention requires awareness and practice.
Employers should take all possible measures to help workers avoid injury. Such measures may include:
- Rotating work duties, such as stocking, to relieve repetitive stress.
- Arranging products so that heavy or popular items are within easy reach. This will help prevent having to lift heavy objects too high and often.
- Employ adjustable check stand height to match cashier's height.
- Use bags with handles. These types of bags are much easier to carry.
- Train employees on correct ergonomics.
The California Department of Health Services has released a guide to show supermarket employees how to work with proper ergonomics. The guide highlights the best ways to reach, grasp items, lift and hold bulky items and much more. Once made aware of the best methods, workers can practice techniques to prevent injuries.
While these strategies can prevent future injuries, many workers struggle with damage that has already been done. Employees who are suffering from repetitive trauma injuries due to work can file a workers' compensation claim with the help of an attorney. Workers' comp covers a variety of injury-related costs, including medical expenses and lost wages.