Common Hazards Joint Health & Safety Committees Should Look for During Inspections: Retail Sector

Common Hazards Joint Health & Safety Committees Should Look for During Inspections: Retail Sector

Every workplace has hazards. However, there are hazards that are more common depending on which sector your workplace falls under. This month, we are featuring the Retail Sector. We will discuss common hazards to look for to give JHSCs (Joint Health and Safety Committees) an edge when it comes to spotting and controlling hazards during their monthly workplace inspections and making recommendations to the employer.

Within the retail industry, there are many hazards that put both workers and customers at risk. Pair that with the increased volume of shoppers and staff over the holiday season, and the risk of occupational injury or illness resulting from an uncontrolled retail hazard doubles. For JHSC members, these are the hazards that require the most attention:

Slip, Trip, and Fall Hazards

This hazard puts customers and workers at risk, and in the retail industry it is usually a result of poor housekeeping and/or overstock of inventory to accommodate increased demand. Practicing proper housekeeping is essential to controlling slip, trip, and fall hazards. The JHSC should pay special attention to areas of high customer traffic, stock/store rooms, and hallways. Slip, trip, and fall injuries can be anywhere from minor to catastrophic. If a customer is seriously injured, it may even result in litigation, fines, or convictions from the Ministry of Labour if the employer is found to have been negligent in controlling the hazard and/or following the JHSC’s recommendations.

Manual Material Handling Hazards

This hazard applies more to staff, but can affect customers as well. Consider the height of products on shelving, and the weight of the product. Customers reaching for heavy items on top shelves could become injured from strain. However, this hazard is a primary risk to workers, who spend shifts lifting, moving, unpacking, and shelving goods and products. Proper lifting techniques, and correct tools for the job (for example pallet or lift trucks, push carts, dollies, platform ladders, etc.) mitigate the risk of suffering an injury due to strain, improper lifting techniques, and/or improperly designed workstations.

Workplace Violence and Harassment Hazards

Businesses that deal with the public are automatically at a higher risk for workplace violence and harassment injuries/incidents. It is important for the JHSC to consider the risk of harassment and violence from all sources, and not just from within the workplace. Sources include the public, suppliers, co-workers, supervisors/management, and even family members on the work premises. When evaluating the risk for harassment or violence, JHSCs should take care to evaluate the potential risk to workers from all of the sources listed, but also the risk to customers and clients patronizing the business.

High Risk Work Situations

Retail workers sometimes work in high risk situations, including cash handling, working alone, and working at night. These are all precarious situations that increase the risk for a workplace injury or illness, and increase the risk of violence or harassment. During monthly inspections, the JHSC should consider all precarious situations that are increasing the risk to workers to determine if there is a control that can be placed to reduce or eliminate the probability of an incident. Working alone can be controlled by adding a second worker; working with cash can be controlled by keeping small floats and having frequent cash pulls; working at night can be controlled by adjusting hours to meet both customer needs and reduce safety risks.

Lack of Training

Perhaps the most common hazard found in the retail industry is lack of training. JHSC members can work with their employer to implement a training program that meets industry requirements and legislative standards. JHSC members may ask random workers in retail locations if they’ve received manual material handling training or if they’ve been trained on the company-specific workplace violence and harassment program. If a JHSC member isn’t satisfied with the response, a recommendation for training or re-training can be made to the employer.

Slips, trips, and falls, workplace violence and harassment, manual material handling, and high-risk work situations are not the only hazards you will find at a retail work location. There are many other hazards that the JHSC needs to be mindful of. From knives/box cutters, to dangerous chemicals, to fork or pallet truck operation, JHSC members in every sector need to remain cognizant of hazards in their work environment and feel confident in identifying and controlling them.

OSG Has Been Certifying JHSC Members for Over 20 Years

If you have questions about the JHSC’s role during or after workplace inspections, or how to identify common hazards in the retail sector, OSG can help.  We have been successfully training JHSC members for over 20 years, and we are the largest private provider of JHSC committee certification training in Ontario. When it comes to JHSC – we know our stuff! Call 1.800.815.9980 to speak to one of our health and safety experts today, or view our JHSC Part 1 or Part 2 training online now.


Written by Jennifer Miller | Curriculum Development Coordination

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