Employees working in retail stores, boutiques, and other small shops face a variety of hazards. Moving products from delivery trucks, storage areas, or shelves can be dangerous. They may experience lifting, tripping, or puncture injuries. Fortunately, by taking steps to prevent injuries on the job, you’re safeguarding your employees—and your business.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs provides general guidance for implementing a health and safety program.
For every dollar spent on a workers’ comp claim, $5 is spent on indirect costs, like lost productivity, hiring and retraining staff, and replacing or repairing damaged equipment. The most common injuries experienced by retail employees are:
- Sprains, strains, and soft-tissue injuries
- Contact with objects and equipment
- Slips, trips, and falls
Workplace safety tips for retail store owners
By implementing proper safety techniques, you can help reduce the number of workers’ comp claims by your employees. Be sure that all employees, even part-time help and trainees, are well trained in safety procedures.
Here are some tips to keep your workers safe at your retail store, boutique, or small shops:
- Conduct safety training routinely, including slip, trip, and fall prevention; safe use of ladders; parking lot cart-collection procedures; stretching; manual material handling; and housekeeping safety
- Conduct a monthly comprehensive inspection of the store, as well as daily inspections of high-volume areas
- Use ergonomic equipment and lifting techniques
- Minimize the number of times workers touch retail items during the unloading, storage, stocking, and checkout process
- Rotate employees’ tasks, especially those that require using the same motion over and over
- Consider using mechanical equipment to do repetitive employee tasks
- Use items like “lazy susans” for bagging to decrease the amount of weight lifted by cashiers
- Advise cashiers to work as much as possible in neutral body positions and to minimize reaching
- Ensure that sharp edges are softened in the checkout area to help reduce contact injuries
- Provide a place for employees to keep their belongings secure and out of the way
- Don’t block fire extinguishers or sprinklers
- Keep up-to-date fire extinguishers in your store and make sure employees are trained on how to use them
- Keep emergency exits clear
- Clean up liquid or powder spills and move objects out of walkways and aisles quickly
- Use the wet floor signs after mopping or cleaning up a spill
- To prevent the growth of mold, fungus, or bacteria or to ventilate a store without adequate airflow, install a system to cycle in fresh outdoor air and circulate it throughout the store
- Ensure employees are trained in basic first aid, from cleaning and bandaging a superficial wound to administering the Heimlich maneuver to a choking customer
- Always keep first aid supplies on hand in case of emergency
- Schedule at least two people per shift, especially at night.
- Consider installing a security alarm system, surveillance cameras, and/or hiring a security guard to monitor your store
- Advise employees to wear appropriate footwear for the job
- Remove or use signage to alert shoppers and employees to weather-related risks, such as moisture, ice, and snow
- Ensure safe, non-skid flooring is used throughout the store
- Ensure the floor is cleaned often and properly
- Store cleaning supplies and other chemicals in their original containers
- Make safety information available for each chemical used in the workplace and ensure all employees know where to find it
- Install adequate outdoor lighting
- Repair broken asphalt and sidewalks
- Provide a written hazard communication program to employees that includes a list of all the hazardous materials at the worksite and an explanation of how you will comply with OSHA’s standards for each
- Provide medical exams when required by OSHA regulations and provide workers access to medical and exposure records
- Make sure all employee injury claims are investigated to help uncover any fraudulent claims
- Keep records of workplace injuries and illnesses.
Perhaps most importantly, require that all employee injuries—no matter how small—are reported immediately.
Safety tips for retail store workers
Train and remind your employees to:
- Take a few moments during their shifts to stretch or take breaks, especially if they spend a lot of time carrying loads, bending, reaching, or repeating the same motions
- Not carry more than they can handle and remember that objects weighing more than 50 pounds require two people to move them
- Hold the load close to their bodies at their normal centers of gravity
- Bend at the knees, not the waist
- If they have to turn, move their feet instead of twisting at the waist
- Bend their knees and keep hands and feet clear when setting the load down
- Use a kneeler or stool when working at low levels
- Never stand on chairs, desks, boxes, or other objects to reach high areas.
- Never use a ladder that’s broken or damaged.
- Make sure the ladder is the right height (it should rest three feet above the area that the employee is working on)
- Place the ladder on a flat, stable surface at a 75° angle (for every three feet of height, the end of the ladder should be placed one foot back on the ground)
- Be mindful of weight limits on the ladder
- Don’t climb or stand on the top step
- Face the ladder, not the ground, when coming down
- Don’t leave a ladder unattended, especially if it’s propped up
- Never stand on the top rung of the ladder and not to over-reach or lean too far to one side when standing on a ladder.
- Never use a step ladder as a straight ladder. Step ladders should be fully open with spreaders locked in place
- Push carts instead of pulling them, where possible.
How to prepare for unexpected injuries
While you can’t plan for every type of emergency, every workplace should have a plan for dealing with a variety of scenarios, including medical emergencies, fires, floods, chemical spills, and robberies. All workers should be trained on what’s in the plan and what they should do specifically in the case of an emergency.
How to incentivize safety in your retail shop
Accidents can happen anywhere. Remind employees why safety training is important and provide continual reminders and retraining.
To help encourage your retail employees to make safety a priority at work, consider offering prizes or awards for those who follow the safety program and hit time milestones while remaining injury-free. Prizes like scratch-off lottery tickets, coffee gift cards, or 30 minutes of extra paid-time-off can help motivate your team.
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.