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Posted On August 30, 2021 Personal Injury

The Worker Safety Implications of Walmart’s New Delivery Service 

Grocery Delivery

With retail companies like Walmart increasingly expanding into the delivery service industry, it’s more important than ever to keep delivery drivers’ safety top of mind.

Walmart Delivery Services Are Expanding

Over the last 18 months, business has changed for many companies. Retail stores and restaurants began offering curbside pickup of items that, not so long ago, would have required consumers to come inside and shop for or order in person. Even more convenient for consumers was the expansion of home delivery services of all kinds of products.

The demand for delivery has exploded, prompting retailers to launch their own delivery services, often tied to memberships or available for a fee on a per-order basis. One retailer, Walmart, just announced on August 24, 2021, that the company would be leveraging its effective logistics and delivery network to partner with other businesses to supply “last mile” delivery services.

Walmart’s delivery service initiative, Walmart GoLocal, could compete with Amazon Flex and delivery services by UPS, FedEx, the United States Postal Service. Walmart GoLocal isn’t the retailer’s first expansion into the delivery services sphere in recent years. The company started home grocery delivery services in the fall of 2019, according to CBS News, and has since launched its Walmart+ membership that offers free deliveries from stores and website orders.

Work-Related Risks to Delivery Drivers

As the popularity of retail and restaurant delivery orders has grown, our personal injury law firm has seen increases in the numbers of delivery drivers suffering injuries on the job, as well. Some of the most common accidents and injuries that affect delivery drivers include:

    • Motor vehicle crashes, whether the driver is actively driving, parked on the side of the road, or on foot completing a delivery
    • Slip and falls in which a driver slips on wet or icy walking surfaces or trips over debris while on foot and suffers an injury, whether or not they actually fall
    • Dog bites and attacks that can occur when a dog is not properly restrained in a residence

Work injury matters among delivery drivers can be complicated, since different parties may be liable and drivers may or may not be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits depending on their work arrangement and employment classification. Injured delivery drivers should speak to an attorney to understand their rights and options for securing compensation and getting their medical bills paid.

How Can Retailers Reduce Injury Risks to Workers (and Others) as They Expand Into the Delivery Industry?

One important question that remains is how Walmart will handle matters of delivery driver safety.

A look at past work injury data can offer some clues. A May 2021 report by the Strategic Organizing Center stated that Amazon’s warehouse workers have suffered injuries at considerably higher rates than Walmart’s, prompting the labor organization to call Amazon’s warehouse environment “far more dangerous” in comparison. Will Walmart be able to maintain comparably low rates of work injuries among its delivery drivers as it does among warehouse workers?

Historically, the leading causes of work injuries in the courier industry that have been serious enough to cause workers to miss days of work have been overexertion and making contact with objects, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These are also concerns that Walmart and other retailers must confront in warehouse settings, so it stands to reason that the company may rely on policies and protocols similar to those the company applies in its warehouses.

However, collisions with other vehicles, stationary objects, and pedestrians are another major concern when it comes to delivery driver injuries, so Walmart will have to manage these risks, too. Businesses that hire delivery drivers sometimes choose to manage these risks by carefully screening job applicants based on their driving experience and record. Depending on applicable laws, delivery drivers may or may not be required to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

One point to note is that enforcement of safety protocols is just as important as the protocols themselves. A July 2021 Business Insider article reported that Amazon delivery company managers instructed drivers to “ignore jammed doors, damaged seatbelts, and broken mirrors” despite safety protocols in place that require drivers to conduct a 60-point safety check before they get in the vehicle. As other retailers can learn from these allegations, simply formulating safety policies with the best intentions only goes so far. For these protocols to truly keep people safe, all levels of management must be on the same page about enforcement.

Safety Tips for Delivery Drivers

If you’re a delivery driver or are considering working in this role in the future, be aware of the safety risks. These dangers may include not only personal injuries like car accidents and falls but also acts of violence committed by carjackers, robbers, or others with criminal intentions.

Here are three basic safety tips delivery drivers should follow to help protect themselves:

    1. Be aware of your surroundings by driving defensively and avoiding situations that make you feel unsafe, whether due to visible safety hazards or to reasons to suspect criminal activity.
    2. Know your route before you go to avoid distractions that could take your eyes off the road and prevent yourself from accidentally ending up lost.
    3. Have a plan in case of any type of emergency. This plan should include getting yourself to safety, rendering any necessary aid to others, calling the authorities, and notifying your employer. If you sustain injuries, consider speaking to an attorney, too.

Delivery drivers are an essential part of modern life. Making sure delivery drivers are able to stay safe and well is important not only for the drivers themselves and their employers but also for everyone who relies on their work to keep their families fed, clothed, and otherwise provided for each day.