‘Tis the Season for Shopping and Safety


‘Tis the season for shopping and for working—specifically in retail. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015, 4.6 million Americans worked in retail sales while 3.4 million more worked as cashiers, making up almost six percent of total U.S. employment. This holiday season, many retail employees are working longer hours and to meet the increased holiday demand, many employers are hiring extra help.

The National Retail Federation predicts that retailers will hire between 640,000-690,000 seasonal workers this holiday season.  Research shows that new employees are at a greater risk of injury. According to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, more than a quarter of incidents or injuries happen to people who’ve been on the job for less than a year (2016).

In fact, injury statistics indicate workers are most vulnerable to an injury during their first month of work (BLS, SOII, 2014). Some of the hazards faced by retail workers are highlighted below.  During this busy and stressful time of year we can all do our part to help keep workers in retail (and all industries) safe.

As shoppers converge on retail outlets for “Black Friday” and other seasonal sales events, employers and workers can take specific actions to avoid workplace injuries during the holiday shopping season. Crowd management, pre-event setup, and emergency situation management should be part of sales event planning. Crowd Management Safety Guidelines for Retailers from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides general information that employers may use in planning large events.

While violence erupting at Black Friday sales makes news headlines, retail workers face the threat of violence every day. Robbery-related homicides and assaults are the leading cause of death in retail businesses. Workers in convenience stores have a 7 times higher rate of work-related homicide than workers in other industries (2 homicides per 100,000 workers vs. 0.28 per 100,000 workers)[i].

Violence at work includes hitting, fighting, shooting, sexual harassment, rape, bullying, stealing, and verbal abuse. Retail businesses at high risk of assaults and violent acts include convenience stores, gas stations, and businesses that sell alcoholic beverages. Jobs that require employees to work alone at night, handle money, and sell alcohol, particularly in poorly lit areas, will increase the risk for workplace violence. For more information see Convenience Store Compliance to Reduce Workplace Violence.

Below are a few recommendations for employers to help keep workers safe:

  • Keep windows from being covered up by signs or displays.
  • Ensure adequate lighting inside and outside of the workplace.
  • Make sure alarms and cameras work.
  • Educate workers about the security and safety plan.
  • Make sure all workers know which doors should stay locked. Check those doors often.