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When most people walk into a retail store, they don’t realize that they’ve entered one of the most dangerous work environments in existence. It’s hard to fathom, especially given that these stores are frequented by the public on a daily basis. There’s no protective gear required to enter, and stores may contain very few warning signs regarding potential dangers.
But because of the industry’s diverse demands of physical and mental nature, it remains wrought with workplace illnesses and injuries, and occasionally fatalities. In fact, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in 2006 alone there were over 820,000 reported injuries and 581 work-related deaths among the retail worker population.
And those reports don’t account for the countless hours lost to sickness from being exposed in a public-laden work environment.
These numbers paint an alarming picture and reinforce the need for a strong EHS culture to keep these numbers from climbing year after year.
When retailers often think of creating new profit centers, it’s not uncommon to first look at increasing product lines or adding new services. The problem with this, however, is that with new products or services comes new expenses associated with inventory, shipping, employee training, and in-store real estate space, among others costs. As a result, you may end up growing revenue that does little to impact your profit.
Instead, it pays to focus on scalable actions that will increase your profits without also adding additional overhead.
One of these unsung heroes is your EHS strategy. Given the grim workplace statistics for the retail environment, it’s no longer an option to think of environmental health and safety simply as an OSHA requirement, but rather a solution to plug profit leaks that stem from costly incidents and illnesses.
The idea that the retail industry is a nonrisky environment is a fallacy. Your workers, whether they’re working at the cash wrap, stocking shelves, or receiving shipments, perform a variety of tasks that require constant movement and hazardous objects, such as box cutters or industrial-strength cleaning supplies.
Range of motion injuries and slips, trips, and falls are regular visitors in retail stores. In addition, tightening budgets and cutbacks in staffing may force workers to perform tasks they aren’t qualified to do, which further increases the risk of an incident.
Some workers, including part-time employees occupying low wage positions, may feel less inclined to report injuries for fear of retaliation from the company or because they can’t afford to miss a day or two of work.
Because of the sheer amount of tasks retail workers are exposed to, your best bet in leveraging your EHS strategy is to build a culture around it and make it a conscious part of every work day. To do this, many retailers have turned to comprehensive EHS management solutions to streamline these and other actions.
EHS software works as a centralized system that documents things like workplace accidents, injuries, safety training completion, safety procedures, audits and inspections, workplace observations, and other data. By recording this information in a single place, your software can deliver deeper insights into your EHS efficiency and help you determine how you can improve what you’re already doing. For instance, if you discover you recorded five back injuries last year, you might need to focus your safety training on healthy lifting habits.
Retail EHS is far from simple, especially given the high turnover of the industry, but having the right tools can take you closer to reaching your goals.
One thing to keep in mind is that having zero recordable incidents in a retail environment doesn’t necessarily mean your EHS strategy is working. It could be that you’ve been fortunate to avoid serious accidents. Or, it could mean that your employees aren’t upholding their responsibility in reporting accidents or observations.
In either case, your EHS efforts won’t get far unless you have the support of everyone on your team. And, in the fast-paced, highly varied retail world, making it as streamlined as possible is a great place to start.
Click here to learn more about EHS Insight's Retail Industry EHS Software.
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