The wholesale and retail trade (WRT) sector employs over 21 million workers, or nearly 19% of the annual average employment in private industry. The perception is that workers in this sector are generally at low risk of occupational injury and death. These workers, however, are engaged in a wide range of demanding job activities and are exposed to a variety of hazards. Prior to this report, a comprehensive appraisal of the occupational fatal and nonfatal burdens affecting the retail and wholesale sectors was lacking. The focus of this review is to assess the overall occupational safety and health burden in WRT and to identify various subsectors that have high rates of burden from occupational causes. Ultimately, these findings should be useful for targeted intervention efforts.
We reviewed Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 2006 fatality, injury, and illness data for the WRT sector and provide comparisons between the WRT sector, its' subsectors, and private industry, which serves as a baseline. The BLS data provide both counts and standardized incidence rates for various exposures, events, and injury types for fatalities, injuries, and illnesses. In an effort to estimate the economic burden of these fatalities, injuries, and illnesses, a focused review of the literature was conducted.
Results and Conclusion
In 2006, WRT workers experienced 820,500 injuries/illnesses and 581 fatalities. The total case injury/illness rate for the retail sector was 4.9/100 FTE and for the wholesale sector 4.1/100 FTE. The WRT sector represents 15.5% of the private sector work population in 2006, yet accounts for 20.1% of nonfatal injuries and illnesses of the private sector. In 2003, the disparity was only 2% but increased to 3% in 2004 and 2005. Three WRT subsectors had injury/illness rates well above the national average: beer/wine/liquor (8.4/100); building materials/supplies (7.6/100); and grocery-related products (7.0/100). Occupational deaths with the highest rates were found in gasoline stations (9.8/100,000), convenience stores (6.1/100,000), and used car dealers (5.5/100,000). In terms of actual numbers, the category of food and beverage stores had 82 fatalities in 2006. Based on 1993 data, costs, both direct and indirect, in the WRT sector for fatal injuries were estimated to exceed $8.6 billion. The full economic loss to society and the family has not been adequately measured. Overexertion and contact with objects/equipment represent the top two events or exposures leading to injury or illness. Together they account for 57% of the events or exposures for nonfatal WRT injuries and illnesses. This sector is important because it is large and pervasive as a result, even a relatively small increase in injury rates and accompanying days away from work will have significant impact on working families and society. Am. J. Ind. Med. 53:673–685, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.