There are many potential dangers to retail workers in the retail industry and if you are unsure that you have a valid claim for compensation because of negligence by your employer, there are a number of factors to consider.
Common Injuries In The Workplace
The Health and Safety Executive monitors and provides work accident statistics not only on the number of fatal and non-fatal accidents and injuries in the workplace but also the different types. These include:
- Slips, trips or falls on the same level (29% of non-fatal accidents in 2016/17)
Large shops and supermarkets tend to be more susceptible to slips, trips or falls because of the large number of products, often heavy footfall and the fact that it can be difficult to clean up spillages straightaway. It is also worth pointing out that slips, trips and falls, while commonplace on the shop floor, can happen in all areas of the retail industry from the office to the warehouse and everywhere else in between. We will cover the employer’s duty of care to each retail workers but suffice to say that it is a legal obligation for employers to maintain a safe working environment.
- Lifting/handling (22%)
The lifting and handling of goods and equipment is a major problem to retail workers often resulting in back, neck, arms and leg injuries. These injuries may occur with something as seemingly simple as stacking shelves or the lifting of heavy equipment for which an individual may be inexperienced or not of the appropriate build. Where possible, all manual heavy lifting should be avoided by retail staff although there are obviously instances where it is required. If there is no alternative then the appropriate safety equipment should be provided to retail workers after a review of the potential dangers.
- Struck by an object (10%)
Unfortunately injuries caused by items falling from a great height are fairly commonplace in the retail sector both in terms of the shop floor and the warehouse. This could be because of inappropriate stacking systems, faulty equipment or simply too many items have been stacked on a particular piece of equipment.
- Falling from a height (7%)
There is a requirement to give all retail workers the appropriate level of training with regards to health and safety and their particular roles in the company. We often hear of injuries as result of falling from a great height which often involve faulty equipment, a lack of safety equipment or using inappropriately experienced staff for particular tasks. It is worth noting that while every employer is obligated to provide all retail workers with a secure and safe working environment, they also need to ensure that that all tasks carried out are as risk-averse as possible – and carried out by those with the appropriate experience.
- Acts of violence in the workplace (7%)
Unfortunately acts of violence in the workplace, involving other employees and members of the public, are becoming all too common. No employee should be subjected to acts of violence, or even verbal abuse, in the workplace whether from a colleague or a customer. Many acts of violence are reported to the police and the appropriate criminal investigations are undertaken. However, even though these acts of violence, or other types of abuse, may involve other retail workers or customers, it is still the legal duty of your employer to offer a degree of protection.
- Injuries caused by contact with machinery (4%)
Whether using a meat cutting machine in a butchers department, driving a forklift truck in the warehouse or even an electric shock from faulty equipment, an employer may well be exposed to potential retail workers compensation claims if found liable for faulty machinery or lack of training. In reality any injury in the workplace to retail workers can be fatal but those involving cutting equipment attract a higher degree of risk.
- Strike injuries including fixed/stationary equipment (4%)
It is the legal obligation of any employer to maintain a clean and tidy working environment with appropriate signage to warn retail staff of potential dangers. Strike injuries are relatively uncommon when looking at the overall picture of injuries in the workplace but they can be potentially fatal. All of the more common injuries (and risks) in the workplace should be covered in training sessions with updates on a regular basis.
The HSE also reports that the breakdown for self-reported non-fatal injuries was 38% for female workers and 62% for male workers. It is difficult to say why there is such an anomaly but it may involve stereotypical employment roles in the retail sector – although equality legislation is starting to tackle this issue. The issue of equality in the workplace is a whole different subject which has resulted in extremely large compensation payments for many employees.
Legal Duty Of Care To Retail Workers
All employers have a legal duty of care to ensure the safe well-being of all of their retail workers. There is an array of acts Parliament offering guidance to employers and employees with regards to their obligations. Before we look at the specific elements of this legal duty of care it is worth pointing out that retail workers also have a legal duty of care to carry out their work in a safe manner. In the event of an injury where it was proven that the employer had given sufficient training to their retail staff, provided the correct safety equipment and matched the appropriate individual with specific tasks, this may well be enough to avoid liability for injury.
Some of the specific elements of this legal duty of care include:
- Initial training and continuous updates for retail workers with regards to health and safety issues in the workplace.
- Providing the appropriate safety equipment.
- Ensuring that all machinery is well maintained with appropriate safety guards.
- Regular risk assessments and the avoidance of potentially dangerous manual work as much as possible.
- Matching appropriately experienced retail workers with specific roles.
There are other elements of an employer’s duty of care which will perhaps be more relevant to different industries. However, the above list does give you a general idea of the legally binding agreement to which all employers are bound.
Proving Negligence In Retail Workers Injury Claims
Central to any retail worker injury claim is the ability to prove that your employer, individually or with other third parties, was to blame for your injury because of negligence. The more common path towards proving negligence is to address the details of the duty of care and any elements which were ignored or not fulfilled to a sufficient legal standing. Looking at the list above, this could include anything from a lack of training to inappropriate safety wear, ill maintained machinery to delays in cleaning up spillages on the work/shop floor.
Lodging A Claim for Compensation As A Retail Worker
If you do experience an injury in the workplace as a retail worker the first thing to do is obtain the appropriate medical assistance. This ensures that you are fully assessed and any treatment is received in a timely manner. As a consequence of the injury, your medical records will be updated by the paramedics and your doctor – which can prove to be extremely useful as evidence in your retail worker injury claim.
Where possible, additional evidence such as photographs, witness statements and even copies of a company’s accident record book (to see if there have been similar injuries to retail staff in the past) will strengthen your case. It will obviously depend upon the severity of the injury as to whether you are able to collate this information immediately after the accident. In the majority of cases there is a three-year window in which to pursue a claim for retail staff compensation although it is obviously more beneficial to do this sooner rather than later. There have been many instances of claimants delaying legal action upon which specific details of the injury and the whole scenario can become a little blurred.
It is therefore advisable to put together as much information as possible, create a timeline of the events leading up to your accident and use information such as your medical records to further strengthen your retail worker injury claim. Once this information has been collated you should then approach a personal injury law firm at which point they will be able to advise you of your chances of success.
No Win No Fee Arrangement
The vast majority of personal injury law firms will offer a No Win No Fee arrangement where they believe there is a good chance of success. This will ensure that the claimant is not liable for any legal expenses in relation to their case as it proceeds. In the event of a successful retail worker compensation claim, the law firm’s legal expenses will likely be reimbursed by the defendant and a “success fee” pre-agreed with the claimant. This would see the law firm paid an agreed portion of any compensation in exchange for the risk of taking on the case.
In cases where negligence is quite obvious the majority of defendants will look to arrange a settlement out-of-court thereby reducing their legal costs. Where negligence and liability are contested, or there may be some form of shared negligence, the case would almost inevitably go before a judge.
What Compensation Can Injured Retail Workers Claim?
Many retail workers pursuing compensation claims are unaware that there are two different sorts of compensation involved known as general damages and special damages. For clarity general damages are compensation for factors such as:
- The retail workers pain and suffering
- Mental trauma
- Life changing injuries
It is worth noting that these injuries do not necessarily need to be physical as mental issues are also taken into consideration. In theory general damages can be open-ended but the courts and insurance companies tend to refer to past cases where there have been similar injuries involved. No two retail worker compensation claims are ever the same and there is a degree of discretion, therefore any compensation awards will reflect the specific nature of individual cases. The second type of compensation is known as special damages and relates to:
- Loss of earnings
- Loss of future earnings
- Adaptions to the home
- Medical costs
- Future medical costs
- Additional transport expenses
This is certainly not an inclusive list but it does provide a clear idea of the issues covered by special damages compensation. Put simply, this is reimbursement of costs incurred as a consequence of any injury as well as funding for future assistance required.
If you’re a retail worker that has been injured at work through somebody else’s carelessness or negligence contact us for more information and advice on retail workers compensation claims today.