The Hidden Hazards of Holiday Shopping

Shopping is a necessary part of the holiday season, and staying safe while shopping is key to its enjoyment.

We are always reminded of the do’s and don’ts of shopping safety: park in a well-lit area, don’t walk to your car alone, have keys ready, know your surroundings, don’t let electronics distract you, carry only small amounts of cash, and avoid holding too many bags or carrying a large purse, but there are other shopping hazards lurking about that we don’t think of. Among them are:

Obstructions: Overcrowded merchandise in the aisles can lead to trips or falls.

Overhead boxes: Warehouses store large, heavy boxes on high shelves. These boxes have been known to fall, causing fatalities.  Unfortunately, stores don’t warn you to look out for falling items. Instead, it is up to you to always be aware of precariously perched boxes overhead.

Forklift Operators: Stay clear of any areas where a forklift is operating, as well as the aisles on either side of a moving forklift.  Operators have been known to topple boxes from the opposite side of a shelf, causing boxes to fall and crush unsuspecting shoppers.

Furniture: Unsecured bookcases, T.V. consoles, lumber and other heavy items can fall on children or shoppers. Many stores secure these items with bungee cords or restraining bars, but the restraining devices have been known to break as well; so always use caution and don’t let children stand where the item might fall.

Slips/Falls: Thousands of shoppers every year suffer serious injury due to slip and falls. Be aware of slippery floors, uneven pavement, bad lighting, and loose or icy carpet, all of which can cause injury from an unwanted fall.

Shopping Carts:  Be sure they’re not top heavy, which can cause them to tip over on a child walking beside them. Be aware of any overzealous shoppers or employees who might run into you while not paying attention. And as always, if you put a child in a cart make sure they’re strapped in to prevent them from falling out.

Reaching Overhead for Merchandise:  Always have employees get heavy items off the top shelves. They have special equipment that allows them to reach the items safely. Shoppers have sustained brain and spinal injuries from falling merchandise when trying to reach it above their heads.

Retail stores have a duty to maintain a safe shopping environment for their customers; however, should you find yourself injured while shopping this season take steps to ensure that your injuries are taken care of quickly:

  • If necessary, call 911
  • Talk to witnesses/employees who saw the accident. Make sure to get their name & number
  • Get the manager.  Have him/her complete an incident report and find out who the store’s insurer is. If possible, get a copy of the report.
  • Take pictures of the area, being sure to get a copy of whatever caused the accident (i.e., water on the floor, a fallen object, etc.)
  • Go see your doctor

As always, know your surroundings and stay safe while shopping this holiday season. Let an employee know if you see liquid in the aisle, a heavy item that’s about to fall, or any other safety issue.  The company will appreciate the heads-up, and you will likely have prevented what could have been a serious injury to an unsuspecting customer.

Bicycle Safety

As the weather turns warm, many of us start thinking about getting on our bikes and going for a leisurely ride. There are few things more enjoyable than a bike ride on a nice day. But bike-riding does pose some risks.  The CDC has reported that 700 people are killed each year as a result of bike related incidents, and as many as 500,000 people are injured each year.  This is just too many.  Here are some basic tips to help riders stay safe.

  • Wear a helmet!!!  This is obvious, but proper fit is important.  Don’t just assume the helmet is adequate because it is on your child’s head.  Follow this link at to find out how to make sure a helmet fits correctly.
  • Stay Alert.  Don’t assume that motorists are looking out for you. Here are 10 tips on How Not to Get Hit By Cars from  Please take a minute to review these 10 important and possible life-saving tips.
  • Be Visible.  Wear bright clothing and avoid riding at night.  Be sure to obey all traffic laws.  Here’s a link to a list of bicycle-related traffic laws at  

Keeping Your Home Safe When Using Space Heaters

 It seems like every year we hear depressing stories about adults or children (or pets) suffering a personal injury or death due to fires started by use of space heaters in homes.  The National Fire Protection Association reports that from 2005 to 2009, 79% of home heating fire deaths and 69% of injuries from home heating fires were caused by use of stationary or portable space heaters.

So, what can we do to protect our families from the dangers of space heaters?  Space heaters need plenty of room around them, so we should all keep adequate space around space heaters.  Also, space heaters should not be left on while you are sleeping.  A great list of tips for use of space heaters can be found at the Home Safety Council Website.

A list of recently recalled space heaters can be found on this page at the CPSC website as well. Please take a moment to review it to see if you might have a space heater that has been recalled.

On another note, readers of this blog will notice that I’ve been very late in getting it updated.  I’ve been absorbed in starting a new law firm and have not been posting nearly enough recently.  One of my New Year’s resolutions is to blog more frequently, so look for more posts on a more regular basis to the blog, and I welcome all ideas for new topics readers would like to see addressed.