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Solving the Challenges of Unsafe Behavior in the Retail Workplace

Mar 5, 2008
A basic requirement as a merchandiser, accident prevention is the responsibility of a store owner who is expected to assist management in any unsafe behavior as outlined by the company's established safety regulations and procedures. Employees should never be expected to work in an unsafe environment.

And while most people blame accidents on unsafe conditions, most accidents are caused by unsafe behaviors and the best way to eliminate accidents is to avoid unsafe practices.

To begin, housekeeping is a continuous process needed to keep the workplace free of debris and other hazards. Periodic inspections should be performed to review housekeeping practices and identify workplace hazards. Some housekeeping tips are:

1. Keep work areas clean and orderly. While working, employees should keep aisles open to customers.
2. Store tools, equipment and supplies in their proper place. When box cutters or safety knives are not in use, the blade must be kept in the closed position, locked with the guard in place.
3. Wipe spills up from the floor immediately. Notify a supervisor if additional help is needed.
4. Do not stack totes more than four high. Use dollies or flat-tops to transport heavier totes of more than one at a time.

In the retail business, some of the more common accidents include falling on a slippery surface or stairs, lifting injuries, sprains and strains, and cutting injuries as a result of the incorrect use of box cutters.

Slips, trips and falls are among the most serious accidents that occur in a retail environment. It's important, therefore, to wear proper shoes that enable you to move comfortably and maintain firm footing. Make sure the soles of your shoes are designed for the surface you are working on. The wrong type of sole can actually add to the hazards you face on the job. If you see a spill, make sure it is cleaned up immediately. If you fail to clean the spill up or notify someone that the spill exists, someone else may slip and fall. Always keep aisles and doorways clear of boxes, product, fixtures, and tools.

Improper lifting is the greatest single cause of back pain and injury. It's very important that merchandisers learn and practice good lifting techniques. If you think you need help lifting, don't hesitate to ask. Some common mistakes employees make when lifting include twisting and lifting at the same time, reaching for objects instead of using a ladder, bending and overextending, and lifting cartons that are too heavy.

Consider the following techniques for proper lifting:
1. Stand close to the object that you are lifting and plant both feet firmly on the floor. Point your toes out.
2. Squat down close to the object with your back straight, knees bent and stomach muscles tight.
3. Grip the object firmly with both hands, not just your fingers.
4. Stand up slowly, keeping your back straight and letting your legs do the lifting.
5. Avoid bending from the waist. Keep your knees bent and back straight when lifting from the ground.
6. Reverse the above procedures to put the load down.
7. Never jump. A jump from a short height, such as the back of a trailer or loading dock, can cause serious injury.

Protecting yourself from the potential hazards of your work environment can be achieved by using personal protective equipment (PPE) while working in your merchandising position. For instance, while working with chemicals, always read the container label. Even small spills in the retail environment can lead to harmful human exposure. For those who are unloading, handling or assembling any heavy-duty fixtures, gloves should always be worn, as well as when working with refrigerated/frozen food products.

The incorrect use of box cutters not only accounts for personal safety, but also damaged or unsaleable goods. Employees might consider wearing gloves when using box cutters. Use one-sided blades with safety handles. Sharp blades should be stored in a safe manner when not in use and employees should never leave a sharp blade unattended on the sales floor.

Unsafe behavior in the retail workplace depends on correct training and diligence. To avoid injury to yourself or damage to merchandise, follow these simple instructions:

1. Place the box on the floor, setting it at such an angle that you will not be pulling the box cutter toward you. Make sure that the line of tape is horizontal, not vertical, in relation to you.
2. Place your hand on the opposite side of the box.
3. Make a series of small, smooth cuts rather than cutting straight across all at once.
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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