07/11/2018

The future of the (e-)retail sector from an occupational safety and health point of view

E-commerce is the fastest growing retail market in Europe and
North America. There are many facets of e-retail, including purchasing event or
travel tickets, holidays, insurance or fast food, gambling, and much more.

E-retail is convenient, economical and empowering for the purchaser. For the
seller, it presents numerous challenges, with additional logistics required to
deliver goods directly to customers' doors, tight profit margins driven by easy
access to online price comparisons, and the pressure to provide a positive
customer experience. Despite the challenges, e-retail is an established
success, consistently outstripping growth in ‘high street' retail. In order to
meet the challenging demands of customers, e-retailers are increasingly
automating, using a ‘gig economy' workforce and minimising costs throughout
their businesses.

The drive for efficiency can arguably compromise the working conditions of the
workforce. Numerous mainstream media articles have exposed challenging working
conditions associated with e-retail, including high picking rates and long
walking distances in distribution centres; extended working hours; and
compromises to worker health and wellbeing. A recently published article
discusses some of the possible occupational health implications for the
e-retail workforce of the future.

In his conclusions the author emphasizes, that the development of e-retail, and
increased efficiencies, can result in humans ‘filling the gaps' in automation
by performing fast-paced, long-duration, high-risk jobs which could compromise
workers' musculoskeletal and psychosocial wellbeing. But: The message that
managing good health is good for business is as true in e-retail as anywhere
else.

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AplusA-online.de - Source: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work