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Boston, Massachusetts

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Ken Margolin
Ken Margolin
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Big Box Store Head Injury Hazard Continues

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One of the earliest blogs I wrote on InjuryBoard, entitled “Shop till you’re Dropped,” pointed out the hazards in big box hardware and home goods stores, from falling overhead objects. Here is a news flash – based on my one store survey this past weekend, nothing has changed. I went to this cavernous home supplies store – you would all recognized its name – to purchase some rug pads. As I wandered the long, narrow isles, I recalled the fate of my brain-injured client, harmed by a falling shop vac, and looked up.

What I saw was chaotic and incredibly dangerous. Boxes of lethally heavy items and large unboxed merchandise sat on the top shelves, 12 feet above ground, unsecured and with no barriers between them and the open air. Some items stuck out precariously beyond the edge so that if they were jostled by an employee stocking or unstocking the shelf (as happened to my client in the case I previously wrote about), they would crash onto the head of any unsuspecting customer below.

While customer service is the catchword for some chains, this store’s mantra appeared to be customer beware. As I turned one corner, a long pole with a razor sharp edge jutted out at abdomen height from a cart, while the employee who was moving it chatted unconcerned with another employee wandering down the isle. I watched a woman trip over a small box that lay haphazardly on the ground – she recovered harmlessly. The biggest danger by far, though, were the unprotected sky high items – brain injury waiting to happen. The risks posed by this sloppy big box store practice stems from the most cynical form of cost-benefit analysis. The big box stores know full well of the dangers posed by unsecured, heavy, top shelf merchandise. Fixing the problem in every isle in every store, though, takes time and money. Apparently a decision has been made somewhere at the corporate level, that paying for liability insurance is more cost effective than fixing the problem. If that memorandum exists, I hope that it is discovered one day in head injury litigation.