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Safety in the Retail Workplace

Feb 27, 2008
The retail environment may appear to be a relatively safe workplace (save the disgruntled shopper or two), and unlike a construction site or workplace that develops chemicals, a retail store doesn't seem to pose any obvious threats. However, retail workers face everyday hazards, from trip-and-fall risks to back injuries resulting from lifting heavy boxes.

With retailers typically setting aside $10-30,000 for each lost time injury, the unforeseen retail injuries can quickly add up. Employees who don't follow safety guidelines can wield a huge impact on a company's bottom line. Following are general guidelines that every retail owner and employee needs to protect themselves from the potential injury pitfalls of retail:

Safety in a Retail Store
1. Stack cartons so that they're not piled at the end of aisles where people could trip over them.
2. Clean all floors, aisles and stairs and keep them free of debris, trash, spills or fallen merchandise.
3. Make sure that all floor mats and carpets lie flat, free from ripples or curled edges, and are slide resistant.
4. All exit paths should be free of obstruction.
5. Stack merchandise in a stable manner and that's easy to reach.
6. Remove protruding objects from displays, counters, tables and floor stacks.
7. Maintain at least 30 inches of clearance around sources of ignition such as heaters, boilers, and electrical panels.

Tips for Proper Lifting
1. Size up the load. If it looks too heavy, use lifting equipment or ask for help.
2. Before lifting and carrying an object, check to make sure your route is free of obstruction, water, and other trip-and-fall hazards.
3. As you lift, place your feet close to the object, bend your knees and get a firm hold on the box. Lift primarily using your leg muscles.
4. Keeping the load close to your body without twisting or turning, lift straight up.
5. Turn your body by changing foot position as you start walking, rather than twisting.
6. Set the load down slowly, bending at the knees. Do not let go of the load until you've lowered it securely to the floor.
7. Transport carts and wheel racks by pushing - not pulling.

Receiving Dock Safety
1. Keep the dock area clear of displays or other debris.
2. Clean any spills or wet areas immediately.
3. Check all pallet jacks before use.
4. Don't hoist yourself up or jump from the dock to ground level. Use the stairs to fo from ground level to the dock, or vice versa.
5. Never ride a pallet jack or forklift.

To avoid injury or damage to inventory, retailers should also use caution when opening shipping and receiving freight. Perhaps one of the most often overlooked precautions is in the use of a utility knife. Retailers are constantly receiving shipments and orders that require careful opening to prevent injury as well as damage to the product. Use the following guidelines to safely open a carton with a box cutter:

1. Always keep a box cutter with a sharp blade handy when working with freight and opening boxes.
2. Set the carton on a flat, steady surface.
3. Position the carton at an angle to your body so that the cutter will not be moving directly towards you.
4. Place one hand on the box and use the other hand to firmly hold the box cutter.
5. Make a smooth cut, and then turn the carton a quarter revolution. Make another smooth cut, and turn the carton again.
6. Cut as close to the top of the box as possible.
7. Check the condition of the box cutter's blade. Dull blades require more pressure and increase the risk of injuries.

To work well, a safety knife needs to be mistake-proof. In other words, its safety features must be so deeply built-in that a new, untrained employee can't accidentally override them.
About the Author
Safecutters Inc., provides an online store of utility knife box cutters for opening shipping boxes and shipping packages, as well as safety knives to open moving boxes and packages. For more information about Klever Kutter and other Safecutters products contact us!
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