It’s riskier to work in retail than on America’s factory floors

Department store
A man with a large shopping bag walks past a department store in Brooklyn the day after Thanksgiving. The holiday shopping season, and the extended hours that come with it, are taking a toll on America’s retail workers.
(Associated Press)

The holiday shopping season and the extended hours that come with it are taking a toll on America’s retail workers.

Employees at shopping malls and other outlets in 2018 were more likely to get sick or injured than in the previous year, making it the only U.S. industry with a meaningful uptick. The increase means retail-store workers are now worse off than those working in the manufacturing sector. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 3.5 of every 100 retail workers suffered an illness or injury last year, up from 3.3 in 2017 and compared with 3.4 in manufacturing.

The uptick in nonfatal injuries, such as sprains, tears, general soreness and overexertion, comes amid forecasts for a record holiday shopping season. It could also mean higher costs for companies if employees require time off or are successful in an injury claim.


Some of the riskiest stores to work in include those selling home furnishings, used merchandise and building materials, as well as tire dealers and supercenters. Injuries and illnesses at each of those also increased in 2018 from the previous year. The most precarious are pet supply stores, where about seven in 100 employees experience nonfatal injuries, according to the data.

The top reported issues by retail workers are sprains and strains, although those declined from 2017, while there were increases in general soreness and pain, contusions, lacerations and fractures.

Overall, other industries continue to top the list. Those in farming have the highest incidence of illness and injury (about five per 100 people), followed by transportation and warehousing, which includes logistics and delivery centers for online retailers.