Before consumers get to choose products in the supermarket, workers in warehouses nationwide pack bulk quantities of merchandise onto wooden pallets and load them onto delivery trucks. The nature of this work puts the people who do it at risk for serious sprains, strains and other musculoskeletal injuries. One supermarket chain, Maine-based Hannaford Supermarkets, has chosen to address the issue.
After inspections in 2013 and 2014, OSHA cited Hannaford for failing to keep its Schodack Landing, New York, and South Portland, Maine, distribution centers free from recognized hazards likely to cause musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs. Hannaford initially contested its citations, but has now reached a settlement with the department in which the company agrees to institute ongoing and effective worker protection safeguards at both distribution centers.
Good for the bottom line
"Many jobs in grocery and other warehouses require significant amounts of manual material handling. If employers do not take steps to address musculoskeletal hazards, workers will be hurt," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "Hannaford is investing in preventing worker injuries. We urge other employers to follow its example. This action is good for workers and for a company's bottom line."
Under the settlement, Hannaford will do the following:
- Engage a qualified ergonomist to assess both warehouses and prepare a report with recommendations addressing each of the hazards identified by OSHA.
- Have an employee-manager ergonomics committee at each facility participate in the process and make recommendations to the ergonomist and the company.
- Ensure that employees of contractors who perform similar work in the warehouses have access to the same protective measures as Hannaford employees.
- Request those contractors to implement the ergonomic work practices recommended by the ergonomist.
- Pay $9,750 in fines.
The settlement can be viewed here*.
To assist employers and workers in identifying and preventing MSDs and other injuries in grocery warehouses, OSHA has a free grocery warehousing eTool available on its website. In addition, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has published an additional resource titled "Ergonomic Solutions for Retailers."