Here’s why retail workers sustain more injuries during the holiday season, and what you can do to help mitigate them
- Time is limited. Stores are crowded. Tempers are short. All impact retail workers’ safety.
- Learn what are the most common retail workers injuries during the holidays and what typically causes them.
- Learn safety steps you can take to ensure the well-being of your retail workers.
No doubt the holiday season is the busiest time of the year for most people. Year-end work pressures, crowded stores and malls, limited shopping time and other stresses cause shoppers to take risky shortcuts and be short-tempered. Those are just a few of the reasons why there’s an increase in retail workers’ injuries during the holidays. Increased store traffic may exacerbate the issue, with fewer workers on hand this year to help customers, thanks to COVID. Fewer applicants for open retail jobs and high turnover are also leading to fewer holiday retail staff.
The influx of inexperienced seasonal help plus additional holiday inventory that retailers are handling add to the safety challenge. Seasonal hires may not be properly trained in safety protocols, causing an additional risk to retail workers’ injuries during the holidays.
AmTrust’s 2019 retail sector risk report (latest available) shows that injured retail workers missed an average of 24 days of work due to injuries, with employees aged 18 to 30 accounting for the highest number of workers compensation claims.
While younger workers under age 30 accounted for nearly a third of all retail injuries, this group accounted for just 16% of comp costs, said the report. On the other hand, the growing number of workers over age 70 accounted for less than 1% of claims but had the highest average payout at $14,408.
Male retail workers’ total claim costs were more than double that of women retail workers. The average loss paid per claim for male workers was $11,641 vs. $7,030 for women.
Let’s look more closely at these retail workers’ injuries during the holidays.
What are the most common injuries for retail workers?
- Slip and fall accidents
- Injuries from improper reaching and carrying merchandise
- Injuries from repetitive motion tasks in the stockroom
- Workplace violence injuries
- Injuries from winter hazards
What are the most common causes of retail workers’ injuries during the holidays?
- Wet floors from snow or ice; frayed rugs; tripped-over merchandise on the floors
- Improper methods of lifting and handling merchandise boxes
- Collapsing materials from improperly stacked inventory
- Merchandise improperly stacked in walkways or stockrooms, blocking emergency exits
- Icy parking lots, sidewalks and entranceways
- Employees working second or third jobs, resulting in fatigue and high stress levels
- Unruly crowds of shoppers
How can we mitigate these risks?
- Don’t skimp on training employees on workplace safety. Assign a qualified, experienced mentor to each new hire so they can be shown the right way to do things and they have a person they can readily go to if they have questions or face a task or hazard they are unsure about.
- Keep fire extinguishers close by and clearly visible. Ensure there’s a clear path to fire extinguishers and boxes or decorations aren’t blocking ceiling sprinklers.
- Keep emergency exits clear. Emergency exits must always be clearly marked and cleared of boxes, furniture or other items.
- Set merchandise racks correctly. Space all merchandise racks according to federal and state rules. Don’t leave empty merchandise stands on the sales floor where customers can easily trip or walk into them causing injury.
- Clearly mark wet floors. Use wet floor signs to help prevent slips and falls on slick floors. Clean up the hazard as quickly and thoroughly as possible. This is particularly important during snowy months when customers are tracking snow into the store.
- Follow lifting safety procedures. Show all employees how to properly lift heavy objects to help avoid injuries and back strain. Establish weight and size limits for merchandise that trigger a mandatory two-person lift. Use carts and dollies to their potential.
- Use ladders properly: Falls from portable ladders are a major source of injury in the workplace. More than 300 people die each year in ladder-related accidents, while thousands of others suffer disabling injuries, says the American Ladder Institute. Train your staff on how to use ladders properly, from carrying them throughout the store, and placing them in clear spaces, to correct climbing tips and the correct storage procedure.
- Managing crowds and heading off potential violence. None of us will forget the 2008 incident where crowds trampled an employee, who later died from injuries. Retailers should be aware that work stress can negatively affect their employees’ mental and physical health, says the CDC. Being prepared and having plans in place can help reduce anxiety and assure that employees feel safe, supported, confident, and empowered to respond properly when needed in situations in which safety is at risk. OSHA has created fact sheet with recommendations for crowd management measures.
- Prevent employee theft. Employee theft increases during the holiday season. Retailers can help deter employee theft by performing background checks on new hires, using proper onboarding procedures, conducting loss prevention training, utilizing security cameras and enforcing company loss prevention protocols.
Encourage your retail clients to take extra measures to curb their retail workers’ injuries during the holidays. Following these steps will help make this the “most wonderful time of the year” for their workers.