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E-commerce boom highlights warehouse safety issues

Connecticut residents may have read media accounts about the harsh conditions at many e-commerce fulfillment centers. In many cases, warehouse workers are put under extreme pressure to gather items that have been ordered and ship them out quickly. Media reports have alarmed workplace safety advocates because many warehouse workers have been killed or injured in job-related accidents. However, there are steps that fulfillment center and warehouse employers can take to mitigate these risks.

Simple and cost-effective warehouses improvements can help prevent many common types of accidents. Using pedestrian barriers to clearly designate areas where vehicles like forklift trucks can operate could prevent warehouse workers from being struck and injured or killed. Furthermore, guard rails may be used to fill gaps and prevent falls. Guard rails could be an especially effective safety measure because trips and falls are the most common cause of warehouse injuries.

Some warehouse workers are inexperienced, but that does not mean that accidents and injuries are inevitable. Thorough safety training could help workers avoid painful back injuries caused by lifting heavy items improperly and accidents caused by falling stacks of heavy boxes. Strictly enforcing OSHA safety regulations can further improve safety, and robots or other machines may be used to perform particularly dangerous tasks.

Workers who have suffered injuries because poor safety considerations may choose to pursue personal injury litigation rather than file workers' compensation claims. While the workers' compensation system was designed in part to protect employers from this kind of lawsuit, they may still be held accountable in civil court for acts of gross negligence. Employers commit gross negligence when their disregard for safety measures amounts to malicious behavior.

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