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wholesale and retail trade

Program Description

During the past 40 years, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has conducted studies involving worker populations from the wholesale and retail trade sectors. These studies describe the work of cashiers, sales persons, stocking clerks, materials handlers, order pickers, grocery packers, telephone sales representative, gas station clerks, and fork lift drivers, to name a few of the common occupational titles studied by NIOSH that pertain to workers in 146 trade-based businesses. Despite these efforts, due to its size and diversity, the wholesale and retail trade sector remains understudied.

The NIOSH research program for the Wholesale and Retail Trade sector is focused on these 21 million trade workers and on the prevention of occupational diseases, injuries, and fatalities. This is accomplished through a program of research and applied interventions. The program strives to fulfill its mission as follows:

  • High Quality Research: NIOSH will not only maintain its tradition of high quality research and prevention activities, it will also seek to develop new methods and approaches that are recognized as both high quality and effective in reducing occupational injuries and illnesses among workers in the Wholesale and Retail Trade industries. NIOSH ensures high quality research through a process of peer reviews that includes experts from within the federal government who are familiar with the research area and researchers from outside the government who are recognized as experts on the topic.

One measure of the quality of the research is the extent that the studies are cited and identified by other research as valuable contributions to the occupational safety and health literature. Each of these studies has been cited and served as a stimulus to further research on the topics.

Occupational Fatalities, Injuries, Illnesses, and Related Economic Loss in the Wholesale and Retail Trade Sector
American J of Industrial Medicine 2010 Mar:1-13
The wholesale and retail trades sector accounts for a disproportionately high percentage of all work-related injuries and illnesses in private industry. The study explores factors that pose work-related risks, estimates the high costs of these occupational injuries and illnesses, and identifies areas for potential safety and health interventions.

Ergonomics Guidelines for Manual Material Handling
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication 2007-131

Injured at work. What workers' compensation data reveal about work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs)
Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, Sharp Program 2005 Jan;1-16

Risk factors for carpal tunnel syndrome and median neuropathy in a working population
J Occup Environ Med 2008 Dec; 50(12):1355-1364

A Prospective Study of Back Belts for Prevention of Back Pain and Injury
J Am Med Assoc 2000 Dec; 284(21):2727-2732 2000:284(21)

Occupational musculoskeletal disorders among supermarket cashiers
Scand J Work, Environ & Health 18( Suppl 2):127-129

  • Practical Solutions: NIOSH recognizes that causes of many occupational injuries and diseases are often complex and multifactored, yet NIOSH is committed to developing workplace solutions that can be understood, implemented, and maintained at the worksite by employers and employees. Two examples of these types of practical solutions are listed as follows.

Elements of Ergonomics Programs: A Primer Based on Workplace Evaluations of Musculoskeletal Disorders
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 97-117
This document describes the basic elements of a workplace program aimed at preventing work-related musculoskeletal disorders. It includes a "toolbox ," which is a collection of techniques, methods, reference materials, and sources for other information that can help in program development.

Back Belts: Do They Prevent Injury?
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 94-127
This document describes what is known about the effectiveness of back belts and stresses the importance of an overall ergonomics program

  • Partnerships: NIOSH through the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) will seek opportunities to partner with labor, industry, government, and other stakeholders to form a program of research for the Wholesale and Retail Trade sector. Studies have shown that the key to successful outcomes is to establish partnerships and work collaboratively.

NIOSH has held 12 Town Hall meeting for the purpose of soliciting ideas and input for developing a new sector-based research program. The meetings were designed to provide an overview of the NORA 2 process and also to focus on the safety and health issues of a particular sector. A town hall meeting for the Trade Sector was held in Tampa, Florida, on in February 13th, Tampa Florida, where more than 60 persons from business, labor, academia, and government convened to identify work place safety and health issues that concerned the Wholesale and Retail Trade sector.

NIOSH has more than 58 active partnerships that include professional associations, federal programs, the private sector, and academic institutions. These partnership agreements describe a range of collaborative opportunities that benefit both the external partners and NIOSH in their joint goals of preventing occupational injuries and illnesses.

  • Research to Practice (r2p): NIOSH is leading a national effort to promote the translation of occupational research findings into practical solutions. Ultimately, the true value of research on safety and health will be judged by its impact in reducing injuries and illnesses at the worksite, and in this program of research the wholesale and retail trade employees. Examples of research findings that have been put to practice as a result of the following effective communication products.

Alternative Keyboards
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 97-148
This non-technical publication provides basic information about common alternative keyboard designs and their effects on work posture. Both retail and wholesale job activities involve moderate to intense keyboard work.

Violence on the Job.
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2004-100d (DVD)
This video program describes workplace violence factors, and suggests measures for reduction. Both gas stations and convenience stores have high rates of workplace violence.

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  • Page last reviewed: November 14, 2012
  • Page last updated: January 16, 2013 The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
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