Health of shop workers

Health of shop workers

Research by Materialise UK has revealed that until lockdown UK retail and hospitality workers were spending 4 – 10 hours of their shifts on their feet.

45% felt physical pain during their shift. Since lockdown, the figure has risen to 52%. Almost one quarter have felt pain sufficient to keep them off work, and over one thirds felt that this has had a negative influence on their mental health.

The research concluded that workers spending up to 4 hours on their feet were unlikely to feel pain, which occurred for workers spending 4 – 8 hours on their feet. At over 8 hours, mental health is affected.

Trainers were the most popular type of footwear, but they did not result in significantly less chance of foot pains;trainer wearers also had a more than 40% chance of back pain, and a more than 20% risk of ankle pain.

However Team GB developed customised insoles for Olympic athletes to improve performance, and it is to be hoped that this development might be used to reduce problems caused by workers who are on their feet for long periods.

According to the NHS, back pain is the largest single cause of disability in the UK, accounting for 11% of all disabilities.

Research on musculoskeletal disorders have tended to concentrate on supermarket cashiers, despite the fact that the cashiers are often the only supermarket workers that are excluded from the heavy lifting!

Canadian research reports that over 80% of non cashier supermarket workers have reported musculoskeletal disorders in a 12 month period. In one third of cases sufficient to make a difference to their regular activities.

It should be remembered that retail workers in other sectors may be lifting lighter objects,or heavier.

During your visits to supermarkets, you will see colleagues filling shelves, but the really hard work filling shelves at the major supermarkets is done by the night shift.

ACAS claims that 14% of all workers nationally work nights “most of the time”. 

There are now over 70,000 retail workers working nights, with the number having increased by more than half in a little over ten years before lockdown. The move towards online retailing with 24 hour delivery times is increasing the need for night working, so these figures may prove to be well short of the peak.

Night working is known to increase the chances of ulcers, some cancers, cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure, gastro-intestinal problems and depression.

Working overnight could lead to vitamin D deficiency, vitamin D being mostly processed by the body from sunlight.

Our bodies also produce the energy boosting chemical cortisol. It is produced in the largest quantities in the mornings, and the lowest quantities at night, which puts night workers at a further disadvantage.