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September 1992, Vol. 115, No. 9
Occupational safety and health: retail grocery stores
Sarah O. Campany and Martin E. Personick
"Customers had a tendency to stop shopping
when the baskets became too full or too heavy."
-Sylvan Goldman, on what prompted
his design of the first shopping cart in the 1930's
Shopping carts, those common carriers traversing today's supermarket aisles, have provided clues to the changing character of grocery stores since the Great Depression. Back then, small one-person operations were the norm and customers shopped with small baskets or store operators filled their shopping lists. But by the early 1940's, larger food stores, commonly called supermarkets, were firmly established, featuring many self service departments, one-stop food shopping, selected nonfood items, and free parking.
By 1960, supermarkets accounted for a large majority of the Nation's food for home consumption, replacing the corner grocery as the primary outlet for family food shopping.1 This article examines the recent injury and illness experience of the nearly 3 million workers currently employed in grocery stores, an industry with diverse settings that include convenience food stores, food markets, supermarkets, and the supporting operations run by large food retailers, such as fleets of trucks and cavernous ware-houses.2 The grocery store study is part of a Bureau of Labor Statistics series focusing on "high-impact" industries, which are defined as industries with the largest numbers of occupational injuries and illnesses, although not necessarily the highest incidence rates.3
According to a 1990 BLS survey, the grocery stores industry ranked third in total recordable injuries and illnesses, with 250,000 cases. Only nine industries reported at least 100,000 cases that year, according to the survey. (See table 1.) These industries, however, accounted for nearly 30 percent of the 6.8 million cases reported nationwide in 1990. Clearly, steady improvement in national figures on injury and illness experience on the job requires safer working conditions and work practices in high-impact and high-rate industries.
This excerpt is from an article published in the September 1992 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 See Randolph McAusland, Supermarkets: 50 Years of Progress (Washington, Food Marketing Institute and Butterick Publishing, 1980), p. 59.
2 The Standard Industrial Classification Manual, 1987 ed., prepared by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, designated grocery stores as industry group 541.
The industry includes stores engaged primarily in the retail sale of canned foods and dry goods, such as tea, coffee, spices, sugar, and flour; fresh fruits and vegetables; and fresh and prepared meats, fish, and poultry. Stores chiefly retailing one class of products, such as bakery or dairy products for home consumption, are classified as food stores elsewhere in the major group number 54.
3 For a current listing of industries with high rates if workplace injuries and illnesses, see Occupational Injuries and Illnesses in the United States by Industry, 1990, Bulletin 2399 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1992), p. 2.
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