Retail Worker Safety Over the Holidays

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Stocking shelves, packing boxes, delivering products, and selling merchandise are some of the many functions of a retail worker, and OSHA is reminding employers to protect retail worker safety and pay.

Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, Loren Sweatt, said in a statement, “Employers should focus on their responsibility to protect all employees during the busy holiday season.”

This shopping bonanza leading off the holiday shopping season has implications for workers who may have long workdays and expanded work schedules.

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.

NIOSH states that 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.

Employers can help keep employees out of harms’ way by managing large crowds during sales events, as well as addressing other holiday-related workplace safety hazards.

Trained safety personnel and barricades or rope lines, as well as other crowd control measures and emergency procedures, can help alleviate some issues, the agency recommended.

Temporary or seasonal employees hired to provide additional help have the right to a safe and healthful workplace, and to be paid for the work performed.

As hiring spikes, employees not familiar with this sort of employment, and employers unaccustomed to hiring part-time and/or seasonal employees may not be fully aware of the rules that surround such work.