Protecting your retail employees from hazards in the workplace

As a small business owner of a retail store, you’re responsible for many items such as ordering products, customer service, and business operations. However, one of your most significant responsibilities is to create a safe work environment for your employees. 

The CDC currently lists the retail industry as having the highest risk for workplace violence. With employees spending most of their day handling money and working with customers, it’s easy to see how retail employees are at a higher risk. 

Along with workplace violence, retail workers face hazards that can lead to injuries and accidents throughout their day. One way to lower the risks of injuries, accidents, and violence is to establish a culture that focuses on workplace safety. 

Providing your team with proper training, installing security systems, and keeping them covered with essential insurance coverage like workers’ compensation can go a long way in keeping your retail employees safe.

Most common workplace injuries for retail workers

Even though retail environments aren’t inherently as dangerous as construction or health care workplaces, retail employees still face a wide range of hazards throughout the workday. For example, a retail employee continuously moves products, putting themselves at risk of suffering a muscular injury.

Along with lifting injuries, several other injuries could affect a business’ retail staff. Some of these injuries include:

  • Muscular injuries and sprains
  • Injuries from falls, trips, and slips
  • Injuries from customer violence
  • Injuries from falling objects

Muscle injuries and sprains

Of the injuries on the list, muscular injuries and sprains occur most often. With the constant need to move products, set up displays, and work in the backroom, team members are at high risk of pulling a muscle. 

It’s also crucial that employees have additional help when moving heavy objects. One of the leading causes of lifting-related injuries is lifting above capacity. Encouraging workers to ask others for assistance or using moving-aids is a great way to prevent these injuries from occurring.

Injuries from falls, trips, and slips

Anyone who has worked in a retail environment understands how fast-paced it can be. Constantly attending to customers, fixing displays, restocking products, and organizing the stockroom is a lot to manage and often means moving quickly throughout the store, which can lead to falls, trips, and slips.

Often the number one cause of falls, trips, and slips has to do with the product being left in aisleways or clogging up the stockroom. Spills are also another major cause of slips and pose a hazard to everyone in the store, not just employees.

Injuries from customer violence

It’s something every retail business owner hopes never happens but unfortunately does—customer violence. With team members working closely with the public, altercations occur more frequently than most people realize, and verbal abuse is common. Thankfully, extreme violence isn’t as frequent; however, it still happens. 

To help prevent customer violence from occurring and decrease the risk of extreme violence, OHS recommends retail workers take the following precautions:

  • Making eye contact with customers not only provides good customer service but can also decrease the likelihood of a robbery or theft happening
  • Place signs throughout the establishment stating that very little cash is kept at the store to help deter would-be robbers 
  • Employees should not close up by themselves or leave alone at night
  • Aside from the main entrance, close and lock all doors at night
  • Enable one-touch emergency buttons as part of the building security system

Injuries from falling objects

Since most retail environments involve workers continuously moving products from the stockroom to the floor, the likelihood of an object falling off a shelf or pallet and striking a team member is high. 

While most of the injuries caused by falling objects tend to be minor, there is a chance that a large item could do significant damage. To lessen the chance of these incidents occurring, staff should avoid stacking boxes higher than five feet unless supported by a shelving unit. 

Other ways to avoid falling object injuries include:

  • Placing heavy items on lower shelves
  • Stocking heavier items towards the back of a shelf instead of the front
  • Only moving one box at a time in a controlled manner
  • Asking for assistance when removing heavy products from high shelves

Five tips to improve safety in your retail company

With the various hazards that retail employees face daily, it’s up to company leadership to keep staff safe. While employers can’t mitigate every risk, there are several steps small business owners can take to provide a safe work environment. 

Here are five tips to help your organization improve workplace safety for all your retail team members. 

  1. Hold regular safety training sessions to cover proper lifting techniques and the safe use of tools like box cutters.
  2. Take preventive measures to decrease the likelihood of slips, trips, and falls by keeping walkways, floors, and stockrooms free of products and boxes.
  3. Always ensure products are safely secured on shelves and not stacked too high, to avoid items from falling.
  4. Encourage employees to frequently take breaks and stretch to avoid injuries caused by repetitive tasks.
  5. Provide accurate descriptions of positions throughout the interview process to ensure potential employees understand the physical requirements of the job they’re applying for.

Keeping your team safe with workers’ comp insurance

It’s impossible to mitigate every risk, but implementing some of the safety measures above will help reduce the chance of workplace injury happening to one of your team members. If someone on your retail team does get injured while performing their job, workers’ compensation insurance may cover their medical costs and provide benefits until they can return to work.

Protecting your business with workers' comp insurance

It’s impossible to mitigate every risk, but implementing some of the safety measures above will help reduce the chance of workplace injury happening to one of your team members. If someone on your retail team does get injured while performing their job, workers’ compensation insurance may cover their medical costs and provide benefits until they can return to work.

Thanks for reading! Please note that this content is intended for educational purposes only. As best practices change regularly, you should refer to your trusted advisor for specific counsel. If you’re a small business owner, learn more about workplace safety or check your workers’ comp rate in 3 minutes.

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