No retailer likes to think about injured employees and customers, but it’s something that you need to consider and prepare for. Workplace injuries cost business owners and at least 1 billion a week — not to mention the tremendous hassle that comes with such incidents.
Simply put, accidents and injuries can land your business in financial and legal hot water, so you need to take steps to avoid them.
Top causes of retail injuries and liabilities
Personal injury attorney Charles R. Gueli, Esq writes that the most common causes of store injuries include:
- Liquids spilled onto the floor
- Aisle obstructions
- Faulty staircases, elevators, and escalators
- Merchandise falling from shelves
- Jagged shelves and showcases
- Mechanical door breakdowns
- Insufficient lighting in parking lots
As you can see, injuries can happen in various areas of your store, which is why it’s essential to be vigilant and detailed with prevention.
Here are some steps you can take to do just that.
1. Stay on top of maintenance
Proper store maintenance is one of the best lines of defense against injuries and liabilities. In addition to keeping employees and shoppers safe, a well-maintained store also looks better and helps attract more customers.
That’s why you need to invest the time and resources in ensuring that your shop’s areas, fixtures, and equipment are all in top shape.
“An enormous fragment of protection claims against business protection incorporates episodes that are preventable with a touch of building support,” says David Morneau, CEO of inBeat Agency.
He adds that retailers should pay close attention to things like “handrails on steps, free tile, and broken walkways.”
If you’re leasing the space, Morneau advises that you stay on top of raising issues to your property manager and administrator.
“This decreases the danger of an occurrence before it even happens. It likewise guarantees that your business looks incredible to potential customers,” he continues.
Eliza Nimmich, co-founder and COO of Tutor the People, adds that maintenance should extend to tools and equipment. This is particularly important when keeping employees safe at your warehouse or backroom.
“Without careful care, the machinery and facilities of the organization will become unreliable or fall down, which puts staff and clients at risk. Clean and regularly inspect instruments and devices on a daily basis to ensure that they work securely and perform properly,” she says.
2. Be proactive in minimizing “slip and fall” injuries
“A ‘slip and fall’ injury is a term of art that references a type of injury when a person is hurt due to negligence or reckless behavior on the premises of another. These types of cases are also frequently referred to as premise liability cases,” explains David Reischer, Esq a personal injury law expert at LegalAdvice.com.
He says these accidents occur due to a variety of dangerous conditions, including liquid spillage, obtruding objects or defective flooring, inadequate lighting or cracked and broken concrete.
“When a visitor is injured due to a dangerous condition that causes the person to slip and fall, there are usually significant medical damages that result. A person might be entitled to monetary damages that compensate for the harm caused from a ‘slip and fall’ injury,”
According to Reischer, retail owners and managers must be proactive about mitigating risks and liabilities by correcting defective and dangerous conditions before someone injures themself.
“A retail owner can remedy a defect by not allowing a person to demonstrate liability in a slip and fall case with the existence of incriminating evidence. All of the evidence obtained can be used by a judge or jury to help ascertain the amount of a damage award.”
3. Have the right signage
Displaying warning signs in-store is another good way to prevent injuries.
As Morneau puts it, “the most effortless approach to shield yourself from a potential obligation… is to consistently make clients aware of likely risks. This incorporates putting out signs when the ground surface is wet because of cleaning or precipitation. Also, denoting any odd entryways or steps that may introduce a stumbling risk.”
Displaying signage is indeed an easy and low-cost way to prevent injuries in your store. That being said, you also need to be aware of guidelines around signage types and placements.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a number of specifications for accident prevention signs and tags. According to OSHA’s website, signage should “be furnished with rounded or blunt corners and shall be free from sharp edges, burrs, splinters, or other sharp projections. The ends or heads of bolts or other fastening devices shall be located in such a way that they do not constitute a hazard.”
The colors of your sign also depend on the type of warning. OSHA outlines the following descriptions:
Danger signs. Use red, black, and white.
Caution signs. Use a background color of yellow. The panel should be black with yellow letters. The letters used against the yellow background should be black.
Safety instructions. Use a background color of white; the panel, green with white letters. The letters used against the white background should be black.
It’s best to have these signs stored at your location at all times. Don’t wait until a safety hazard occurs before procuring the necessary signage.
4. Monitor your location remotely
In addition to implementing injury prevention on-site, it helps to have the ability to monitor your locations remotely. If it makes sense for your business, equip your location with cameras and IoT sensors that’ll help you monitor for hazards or anything that could lead to injuries and liabilities.
Having cameras in the parking lot and common areas of your store will assist you in monitoring things like lighting, obstructions, etc. Meanwhile, commercial sensors can track everything from lighting and motion, to temperature, humidity, and carbon monoxide.
With these tools, you can promote safety and security from afar and remain vigilant at all times.
5. Establish a safety training program
When it comes to employee training, most retailers immediately think about sales training or educating team members about store policies. And while these are all important, we shouldn’t overlook the significance of safety training in the workplace.
“Don’t overlook the importance of a regular safety training program,” says Jordan W. Peagler, Esq, of MKP Law Group, LLP.
“Many times the types of injuries in retail workplaces are from moving large items without the proper form, equipment or help. Retailers need to emphasize safety practices especially around the holidays when stores are busier and more products are moving on and off the shelves. Providing training at hiring is the standard practice, but businesses that provide ongoing training see the best results. Creating a safety culture and rewarding safety is a great way to build a safe work environment.”
If you haven’t done so yet, see to it that your retail teams are up-to-date with their safety training. There are plenty of third party providers that can implement programs for your employees. Alternatively, you can choose to conduct the training in-house, by designating an in-house trainer, and having them complete the necessary programs or certifications.
Whatever you decide to do, ensure that the program complies with OSHA requirements. Certain roles may also require special training. For example, those handling hazardous chemicals may need to complete additional programs, so do your research and cover your bases to figure out which programs are right for your employees.
6. Take care of your staff
Still on the topic of staffing, caring for your employees will go a long way in preventing injuries. As Tal Shalef, co-founder of CondoWizard, points out, “having tired employees significantly increases the chance of on the job injuries.”
Shalef says that employers should ensure that team members have enough time to rest and recharge. “Remember that well rested workers perform at their maximum and best capacity so don’t be stingy with giving them their well deserved breaks.”
7. Conduct regular audits and inspections
Many of the tips listed above — including maintaining your store, minimizing slip and fall incidents, and displaying signage — shouldn’t just be implemented; they should also be inspected and audited on a regular basis.
Store and district managers must conduct on-site inspections and evaluations to determine whether or not safety protocols are being followed properly. These audits will enable you to confirm compliance, and they can surface issues before they become full-blown incidents and liabilities. Audits also act as a record of proactive safety initiatives, so should the worst happen, you can demonstrate your due diligence for putting safety front and center.
For best results, arm yourself with a modern retail audit platform that streamlines your inspections. Rather than using pen and paper, get yourself a solution like Bindy, which functions on your mobile device and can automate tasks like creating checklists, sending notifications, and more.
Bindy is cloud based. So it records and stores inspection data that you can easily retrieve from anywhere, anytime when necessary.
8. Document everything
Speaking of which, documentation is critical to preventing liabilities. You need to keep a record of everything that relates to health and safety.
“You have to provide evidence that you took your responsibility seriously and made reasonable efforts to prevent harm to others,” remarks Dr. Robert Applebaum, a plastic surgeon based in Beverly Hills.
“For example, evidence can be in a variety of forms such as records of communication with your employees or customers about their safety being at risk. Testimonies of bystanders. Records of signs. Ensure that you have a paper trail for every liable risk that you may encounter.”
In addition to having a paper trail in the event of a safety incident, proper record-keeping is a good prevention measure,because it makes it easier to spot patterns or issues that need your attention.
Matt Scott, owner of Termite Survey, recommends that retailers “document inspections and keep a record of repairs.”
“Keep all of the checks, maintenance, and injury inquiries with careful notes. Holding tracks of such details will help you maintain track of repeated accidents and help you to recognise the places with the greatest danger potential.”
9. Choose the right insurance
Insurance technically can’t prevent injuries, but the right policy can protect your business from claims in case an accident does occur.
Everyone knows that insurance makes sense, but an alarming number of businesses either don’t have adequate insurance or are completely uninsured. Industry data shows that 75% of businesses are underinsured and 40% of small business owners have no insurance at all.
This is troubling particularly for SMBs because it’s usually these types of businesses that are unable to cover the costs of incidents and lawsuits.
So, do your business a favor and equip it with the necessary insurance policies. Depending on your company, you may need:
- General Liability
- Business Owners Policy (BOP)
- Worker’s Compensation
As a retailer, it’s vital that you dot your I’s and cross your T’s when it comes to injury prevention. It may not be the sexiest task, but keeping your location tight, secure, and safe could literally save your business in the unlikely event that an accident takes place.
About the author:
Francesca Nicasio is retail expert, B2B content strategist, and LinkedIn TopVoice. She writes about trends, tips, and best practices that enable retailers to increase sales and serve customers better. She’s also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores.