Wholesale and Retail Trade

Participating core and specialty programs: Exposure Assessment, Occupational Health Equity, Small Business Assistance, Surveillance and Translation Research.

Employers utilize NIOSH information in decision-making about managing and structuring work to reduce musculoskeletal disorders among wholesale and retail trade workers.

NOTE: Goals in bold in the table below are priorities for extramural research.

  Health Outcome Issue Worker population* Research needed
A Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) Work organization Food and beverage, building and gardening materials, and general merchandise subsectors; workers with non-standard work arrangements & other vulnerable worker groups Intervention
B MSDs Develop communication and training products Food and beverage, and general merchandise subsectors Translation
C MSDs Employer behavioral economics and organizational culture Small businesses, workers with non-standard work arrangements, vulnerable workers Surveillance research

*See definitions of worker populations

Activity Goal 7.9.1 (Intervention Research): Conduct intervention studies to develop and assess best practices for managing and structuring work to reduce musculoskeletal disorders among wholesale and retail trade workers.

Activity Goal 7.9.2 (Translation Research): Conduct studies on the barriers and facilitators to implementing effective musculoskeletal disorders interventions in wholesale and retail trade.

Activity Goal 7.9.3 (Surveillance Research): Develop/enhance surveillance methods to better characterize employer behavioral economics and organizational culture characteristics that are risk factors for musculoskeletal disorders and for preclinical musculoskeletal pain symptoms among wholesale and retail trade workers.

Burden

Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are all too common in the wholesale and retail trade (WRT) sector and have significant costs. The Institute of Medicine estimates the economic burden of work-related MSDs as measured by compensation costs, lost wages, and lost productivity, to be between $45 and $54 billion annually. The economic burden to employers is $13.4 billion annually [IOM 2001]. BLS [2015] estimates approximately 10 million WRT employees are at risk, especially those who work in building materials and gardening stores; general merchandise (department) stores; and food and beverage stores. In addition to the workplace hazards that lead to MSDs, multiple organizational and cultural (social) factors are known to affect employee health and well-being, including: high job demands, hostile work environment, low job control, low supervisory support, poor safety climate, work-life interference, a workplace that is perceived as unsafe, and worry about losing one’s job [Luckhaupt et al. 2017]. Of all of the musculoskeletal problems, low back pain is the most common and accounts for the greatest number of lost work days in the WRT high risk subsectors. The adjusted prevalence of low back pain among WRT workers, 2004-2012 was 25.6 [NIOSH 2015].

Need

NIOSH has the expertise and experience to develop messages, recognizing the factors that influence decision makers, to take action in reducing MSDs. Research is needed to examine and consider how workplace organization of work influences the onset and reports of low back pain. Multidimensional programs that address the personal (demographics) and organizational factors as well as ergonomic factors are most successful for reducing the burden of low back pain in WRT small businesses. Interventions designed to reduce the burden of workplace MSDs, will require new surveillance methods (surveys) that can account for the changing workplace environment, which frequently confounds research designs aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of workplace interventions.

Finally, translation research is needed to develop messages based on behavioral and economics concepts that will move employers/owners to make decisions that demonstrate social responsibility in safety matters that will protect their employees. This intermediate goal calls for a revitalized effort on the part of NIOSH to develop and deliver informational products that will be more effective in demonstrating to employers the value added by ensuring a healthy and safe workforce.

Employers, researchers, nongovernmental organizations, workers, and policy makers will use NIOSH information to improve safety, and health among workers in non-standard work arrangements; young workers and other vulnerable workers in the Wholesale and Retail Trade sector.

NOTE: Goals in bold in the table below are priorities for extramural research

Health Outcome Issue Worker population* Research needed
A Acute and chronic disease, Fatal and non-fatal injuries Inadequate occupational safety and health training, and lack of OSH programs Workers in non-standard work arrangements; young workers and other vulnerable workers   Intervention
Translation
B Acute and chronic disease, Fatal and non-fatal injuries Characterizing workers in non-standard work arrangements, young workers and  other vulnerable worker populations, as well as risk factors Workers in non-standard work arrangements; young workers and other vulnerable workers Surveillance research

*See definitions of worker populations

Activity Goal 7.10.1  (Intervention Research): Conduct studies to develop and assess the effectiveness of training and other OSH interventions for workers in non-standard arrangements; young workers and other vulnerable workers in the WRT sector.

Activity Goal 7.10.2 (Translation Research): Conduct translation research to understand barriers and aids to implementing effective safety and health interventions for workers in non-standard arrangements and other vulnerable workers in the WRT sector.

Activity Goal 7.10.3 (Surveillance Research): Conduct surveillance research to better characterize the risk factors for workers in non-standard arrangements; young workers and other vulnerable workers in the WRT sector.

Burden

Younger workers (ages 15-24) and contingent workers, meaning those with a job they do not expect to last, are at elevated risk for workplace injuries [CDC 2010, Katz and Krueger 2016]. In 2011, 23% of working youth aged 16–17 worked in WRT, making it the 2nd largest group [Castillo and Lewko 2013]. Retail is consistently ranked in the top three most dangerous industries for young workers [Rauscher and Runyan 2013]. Between the years 2003 and 2007, 10% of all fatal injuries among younger wokers occurred in the WRT sector [CDC 2010]. The proportions of workers 18 and younger injured both fatally and nonfatally in a retail trade job are greater than those for adults [Castillo and Lewko 2013].Young workers face a number of stressors in the WRT sector—including having to interact with customers, handle cash, and work at night and without proper supervision—that elevate their risk of being injured or even killed on the job [Rauscher and Runyan 2013].Similarly, temporary workers of any age are at increased risk for occupational injury. Research demonstrates that temporary workers bear a higher burden (than permanent employees) of work-related injuries and illnesses [Benavides et al. 2006, Cummings and Kreiss 2008].

Need

Given the disproportionate number of workplace injuries suffered by young workers and new hires, occupational safety and health (OSH) education for these vulnerable populations is imperative. NIOSH developed 8 core competencies using widely-used health behavior models that are general, transferable, and portable across all jobs and industries. The competencies complement job-specific knowledge and skill curricula already taught through apprenticeship and other vocational and career technical training programs in WRT and other sectors. The Youth@Work-Talking Safety curriculum is the primary means through which NIOSH promotes the competencies in workplace safety and health. The pathway that potentially has the largest reach is the integration of OSH into middle school and high school programs (including in career technical education programs that focus on trades, including in the WRT sector).

Research is needed to understand how the competencies could be applied to other school and training settings (such as in career technical education pathways and in community colleges), and what barriers and incentives increase buy-in, adoption, and implementation with fidelity. Research is also needed to understand how other vulnerable workers can be reached with the foundational OSH knowledge and skills. There is also a need to explore the use/integration of the NIOSH 8 Core Competencies internationally to assess their utility for promoting workplace safety and health knowledge and skills in a broad range of school, community, and work-based settings.

Surveillance research is needed to develop survey questions and other methods to better characterize workers in non-standard work arrangements, young workers and other vulnerable worker populations. This includes collection of updated and refined burden data on the prevalence of potentially harmful work arrangements (e.g. precarious employment), work schedules, workload, and workplace psychosocial characteristics among these worker populations.

Benavides FG, Benach J, Muntaner C, Delclos GL, Catot N, Amable M [2006]. Associations between temporary employment and occupational injury: what are the mechanisms? Occup Environ Med 63(6):416-21.

BLS [2015]. Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII) – Industry Illness and Injury Data. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshsum.htmexternal icon, http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/osh/os/ostb4343.pdf, http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/osh/os/ostb4351.pdfpdf iconexternal icon

Castillo D, Lewko J [2013]. youth employment and the health and safety issues of young workers in the U.S. and Canada: An overview. In Health and safety of young workers–Proceedings of a US and Canadian series of symposia. DHHS (NIOSH) Pub. No 2013-144, pp. 4-25, https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2013-144/default.html

CDC [2010]. Occupational injuries and deaths among younger workers: United States, 1998-2007. MMWR 59(15):449-455, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5915a2.htm

Cummings KJ, Kreiss K [2008]. Contingent workers and contingent health: Risks of a modern economy. JAMA 299(4):448–50.

IOM (Institute of Medicine) [2001]. Musculoskeletal disorders and the workplace: Low back and upper extremities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/10032external icon

Katz LF, Krueger AB [2016]. The rise and nature of alternative work arrangements in the United States, 1995-2015. http://scholar.harvard.edu/files/lkatz/files/katz_krueger_cws_v3.pdf?m=1459369766Cdc-pdfExternalpdf iconexternal icon

Luckhaupt, S, Groenewold, M, et al. [2017]. Back pain and work using population-based data from the National Health Interview Survey. Presented at the American Occupational Health Conference, Denver, CO, April 24. Unpublished.

NIOSH [2015]. National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), Occupational Health Supplement (OHS), 2015. Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/nhis

Rauscher KJ, Runyan CW [2013]. Prevalence of working conditions associated with adolescent occupational injury in the US: A review of literature. In Health and safety of young workers–Proceedings of a US and Canadian series of symposia. DHHS (NIOSH) Pub. No 2013-144, pp. 126-136, https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2013-144/default.html.

Page last reviewed: April 24, 2018