CED Investigates: Retail Display Incidents

It happens more often than you think. Displays and end caps in grocery, department, and convenience stores allegedly fall and injure people. People may claim they were just walking by the display and product unexpectedly fell on them. Did the items fall without contact or was there human intervention? Physics requires that a force must act on an object for that object to move.

Accidental contact with a display could cause products to fall. In some claims, a shopper merely brushes up against the display and a catastrophic event happens. On other occasions, someone may pull supporting items from the middle of the stack rather than picking one from the top. These events could lead to a display failure and/or result in product falling from the display.

Incorrectly arranged displays could be unstable and result in collapse with minimal application of force. While building codes define retail store construction and means of egress requirements to avoid hazards, these codes do not discuss retail display assembly and use.

Some common causes of accidents involving injuries and displays include:

  • Failure to follow manufacturer’s assembly instructions resulting in instability of the display
  • Displays that extend into the aisles
  • Sharp display hooks
  • Improper placement of items on the display
  • Overloading the display
  • Use of displays with damaged components

CED’s engineers work to collect as much data about these kinds of incidents as possible. Inspections are conducted to determine the layout of the incident area, document the actual or exemplar displays, and determine the size and weight of the products placed on the displays at the time of the incident. Surveillance videos, photographs, witness statements, accident reports, and other materials are collected and analyzed. Testing can be performed with exemplar displays to determine the stability of the display based on various product loading protocols. Using this information, the engineer determines the likely events that caused the incident. A biomechanical engineer can assist in evaluating if a person could exert the force needed to create the display instability.

If you have a case involving a retail display mishap, contact us today. Our team of expert engineers is ready to review the incident!