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The rise of e-commerce raises warehouse safety questions

Many consumers in North Carolina and around the country avoid retail malls and choose to do most of their shopping online, and the resulting rise of e-commerce and companies like Amazon has led to a noticeable surge in warehouse and fulfillment jobs. This has concerned workplace safety advocates because warehouse workers are more likely to be killed or injured while on the job than workers in other sectors, and e-commerce companies have a reputation for placing great pressure on their employees to work quickly.

Meeting safety standards laid down by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, installing guardrails and pedestrian barriers and putting comprehensive training programs into place could prevent many warehouse accidents and injuries. Slips and falls are especially common in warehouses, but they can often be avoided if workers are made aware of the risks, and spills are cleaned up promptly. Awareness training could also prevent accidents caused by poorly stacked boxes and back injuries caused by improper lifting techniques.

Structural modifications can also make warehouses much safer, and many of the most effective changes are relatively inexpensive for employers to implement. Pedestrian barriers may be used to define traffic patterns and prevent warehouse workers from being struck by forklift trucks or other vehicles, and guard railings could be used to bridge large gaps and reduce the likelihood of falls.

Injured individuals usually file workers' compensation claims after suffering on-the-job injuries, but personal injury attorneys with experience in this area may suggest they file lawsuits instead in some situations. When a person is involved in an accident because he or she was under intense pressure to work fast, and inadequate safety precautions were put into place to protect them, a lawyer could argue that an injury or fatality was a reasonably foreseeable outcome of the employer's gross negligence. An attorney may suggest litigation rather than a workers' compensation claim in these situations because juries could award punitive as well as compensatory damages.

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