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Automation and intense competition impact warehouse safety

The retail landscape in New Mexico continues to shift from brick-and-mortar stores to online retail. Shipping orders requires warehouses to store merchandise and process orders. As more commerce relies on warehouses, the injury rate among warehouse workers has become comparable to agricultural work. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that warehouse work injures 5.1 people per 100 full-time warehouse workers. Between 2015 and 2017, the fatal accident rate in warehouses doubled from 11 to 22. Safety analysts attribute the worsening situation to humans working alongside robotic equipment and business financial concerns that focus on productivity and sometimes limit time committed to safety training and accident evaluation.

Despite the competitive pressures that employers experience, they still have an obligation to budget time and money for safety training. Workers should routinely receive information about common hazards within warehouses. Safety meetings need to address topics like keeping exits and aisles clear of clutter, working around forklifts and pallet jacks and recognizing electrical hazards.

Advances in automation that place human workers alongside robotic equipment create new hazards unfamiliar to people. Managers should install robotic equipment in test areas where they can evaluate and solve safety problems before adding automated equipment throughout an entire warehouse.

In addition to the demands of working with automated machinery, warehouse workers face many other dangers, like repetitive motion injuries and extreme temperatures. When work-related illness or injury strikes down a worker, that person should have access to workers' compensation benefits. Legal representation might be crucial after a workplace accident if a person has trouble reporting the accident or an insurer denies a claim. An attorney may be able to appeal a denied claim by communicating evidence about medical need and filing a lawsuit when necessary. With legal support, an injured worker might also access benefits that pay for lost wages.

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