Retail Worker Safety and Health During the Holidays


The practice of American shoppers looking for a deal on the Friday after Thanksgiving, has evolved into a four-day retail event ending with Cyber Monday.  This shopping bonanza leading off the holiday shopping season has implications for workers who may have long workdays and expanded work schedules. The approaching season offers an ideal time for a workplace safety refresher for those retail employers and employees who are on the front lines of the shopping frenzy.

According to NIOSH, while employees do benefit from the extra pay, they earn by working additional hours, lost sleep and lost family time may be high costs that affect employees’ health and well-being. In 2016, 24% of American employees reported that work regularly interferes with their ability to meet personal and family obligations.

Workplace stress can lead to increased risk of injury. As employees’ work demands are increased and combined with long work hours, less attention may be paid to safe work practices, increasing the risk of injury and back pain from slips, falls, and excessive manual lifting.

Crowds of customers anxiously waiting to be helped add yet another layer of stress. Such workplace job demands, along with a lack of control workers may have over their work environment, can increase the risk of frustration and can lead to angry verbal exchanges and even violence in the extreme. The NIOSH Occupational Violence topic page contains research focused on preventing workplace violence.

In 2008, a worker was trampled to death while a mob of shoppers rushed through the doors of a large store to take advantage of a Black Friday sales event. In response to such tragedies, OSHA developed a fact sheet containing recommendations for crowd management measures.

Retailers should be aware of the fact that work stress can negatively affect their employees’ mental and physical health. Being prepared and having plans in place can help reduce anxiety and assure that employees feel safe, supported, confident, and empowered to respond accordingly when needed in situations in which safety is at risk.

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