An employee died at Lowe’s Home Improvement store in Lubbock, Texas after a stack of lumber fell and killed him. The employee was only identified as a 23-year-old male. Investigations were being conducted internally and by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), reported Fox News (1.3.15).
Retail warehouses can be dangerous for both employees and customers. Thousands of people have been injured, some killed, by falling merchandise in these types of stores. Companies operating a retail warehouse business include Lowe’s, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Costco and Sam’s Club. These stores operate on the premise that it is more efficient and more profitable to keep as much merchandise as possible on the sales floor, rather than in warehouses located off-site or backroom storage areas. As a result, merchandise may be highly stacked.
Characteristics of falling-merchandise accidents may include High stacking.
This is described as the storage of merchandise on the sales floor above eye level. A store employee or customer must stretch, use a step stool or ladder, or climb on shelves to reach the merchandise.
Unsecured merchandise. Stores may choose not to use physical-restraining safety devices such as security bars, fencing, safety ties, and-or shelf extenders on high shelves. Reasons given for unsecured merchandise include expense and the employee time it would take to use them.
Triggering events. Falling merchandise can be triggered in a number of ways. Merchandise can be stacked in an unstable manner and then moved; moving merchandise on one shelf may cause merchandise on another shelf to fall; and heavy merchandise may be improperly stacked on top of lighter merchandise. Problems can also be caused by vibrations in the store, merchandise left hanging over the edge of a shelf, and merchandise too large for a shelf.
No warning of danger. Stores could give warning to customers that merchandise may fall, but many neglect to post warning signs or banners. Stores also may fail to either rope off shopping aisles or use spotters when merchandise is being moved by store employees.
Improper training. Store personnel need to be properly trained in stocking techniques or in recognizing and correcting the hazards of falling merchandise.
The law recognizes that store owners must take reasonable precautions to protect their employees and customers from foreseeable dangers. Store owners have a duty ensure that their premises are kept in a reasonably safe condition and to warn of unsafe or hazardous conditions of which the owner knows or should know about. Employees and customers who have been injured by falling merchandise at a store should contact an experienced injury lawyer.