Wooden Shipping Pallets are Killing People

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Wood pallet-related injuries are common, they are often serious, they sometimes result in death, and they are costing Walmart and other American retailers (and their investors) tens of millions of dollars each year.

An Alabama jury awarded $7.5 million last month to a man who broke his hip at a Walmart store after his foot became stuck in a wood pallet. News outlets from Fox to Washington Post reported on the story with headlines reminiscent of the famous McDonald’s hot coffee burn lawsuits of times gone by.

But the fact is, wood pallet-related injuries are common, they are often serious, they sometimes result in death, and they are costing Walmart and other American retailers (and their investors) tens of millions of dollars each year.

Earlier this year, for example, an employee at a Walmart in Florida was killed while moving a stack of empty pallets. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the accident occurred when two pallets fell off the top of the stack while the victim was pushing it, struck her forehead and killed her. Each pallet weighed about 60 pounds.

Sound like an anomaly? A similar accident occurred at a Restaurant Depot in 2015 when three pallets fell off a stack and landed on an employee. The accident reportedly caused head trauma and a fractured skull and facial bones; injuries to which the victim eventually succumbed. In 2016, an employee at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company was crushed between a stack of heavy wood pallets and a wall, causing death.

This list goes on. In fact, simply typing “pallet” in the “Fatality and Catastrophe Investigation Summaries” page of the OSHA website will result in a list of hundreds of instances of pallet-related deaths and injuries, complete with descriptions such as “Employee Crushes Hand During Removal Of Jammed Pallet” and “Employee Is Struck By Falling Lumber Pallet And Is Killed.” As common as severe injuries may be, however, they are far outnumbered by those injuries resulting from overexertion and strain.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “In 2015, musculoskeletal disorders (MSD’s), such as sprains or strains resulting from overexertion in lifting, accounted for…

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