Going into a big-box retailer or a large warehouse-style retail club is likely part of your weekly or monthly shopping routine. You make bulk purchases for certain items and grab other necessities before moving on with your day.
Unfortunately, situations can arise that turn a normal shopping trip into a tragedy. Countless things can go wrong during the shopping trips, such as slipping on a puddle while shopping and hurting your back. However, large warehouse-style retail facilities create a unique risk.
Their tall shelving units and bulk packaging could put customers at risk if merchandise falls from a higher shelf. Unlike in grocery stores, where most everything sits at eye level or lower, items could fall from well above someone’s head, possibly causing permanent injuries or even death.
So-called sky shelving is as dangerous as it is efficient
Having a large, open warehouse-style space works well for retailers who focus primarily on moving quantities of products. It’s easy to stock items quickly with forklifts, and merchandising displays don’t require as much staff time as they do in smaller spaces. Using vertical space allows the business to stock much more at one time.
Unfortunately, having shelving units 5 or 10 feet above customers’ heads can lead to the risk of items on those higher shelves falling off and striking people. There have even been cases where items have fallen and killed people because of their placement or because staff or customers strike the shelving unit with a forklift or a cart, causing items up high to shift and fall.
Retailers have an obligation to the public to keep their spaces safe
Big warehouse clubs have unique risks that come with their business model, including the risk for customers to get hurt because of falling items and the risk for forklifts and similar machinery to cause injury to patrons.
These businesses have an obligation to assess their facilities for risks and engage in staff training and facility maintenance to prevent risk to their customers. If negligence in shelving, machinery operation or displays contributes to merchandise falling and hurting a customer, the customer may have the legal right to take action against the store where they got hurt.