Safety in the workplace is a very broad topic that covers a wide range of issues, each vital to the overall protection of retail customers and associates, and each important to the successful operation of the business. A successful safety program reaches well beyond compliance with governmental regulations and mandated procedures. It should become a mindset that is instilled in the thoughts and beliefs of every associate and demonstrated through the actions that we practice each and every day.
In the retail setting, however, safety in the workplace requires our focused consideration. Diverse environments and competitional modifications keep our stores and our entire organization in a state of constant transition. Products change as seasons and styles change, requiring ever-evolving safety adjustments. Floor plans are modified. Overstocks and storage issues come into play. Different retail formats demand different perspectives. Grocery stores must consider issues such as Freon and deli saws. Stores that carry sporting goods may have to consider the safety of firearms and ammunition. Warehouse stores must deal with bulk storage and product shelved 20 feet off of the ground. Pharmacies must deal with controlled substances. Home improvement centers must deal with a host of issues from fertilizers and hazardous materials, to lumber and construction materials, to rose thorns or even the possibility of mulch combustion in the garden center. We must consider all of the different scenarios that can possibly come into play, and then we must add a key variable that sets the retail environment apart from many other workplace settings—the retail customer.
We invite our customers into our stores and grant them what is largely free and unsupervised access to our products and showrooms. We allow them to shop at their leisure throughout the selling floor, lifting, moving, sorting, stacking, and shifting merchandise. We may work around them to meet various store needs during our day-to-day operations. We have to deal with weather issues brought into the store environment such as snow, ice or rain. We may have to deal with horseplay or unsupervised children. We may have to deal with poor decisions from untrained hands, and poor judgments caused by unfamiliar footsteps. As a result, we therefore must assume the responsibility to promote a safe shopping environment as well as a safe working environment, eliminating hazards and minimizing risks proactively without the same control that we have over our employees. Simple missteps or oversights can create the formula for a minor injury or a potential disaster.
It is essential that all employees fully comply with the standards and practices set forth to promote safety in the workplace. Company management should be committed to implementing effective and responsible policies and procedures based on industry best practices, global consistency and effective training programs. Every associate should understand the responsibilities and expectations that are required of them on a day to day basis, and be familiar with the practices and procedures that have been established to keep all of us safe and protected.
We should promote continuous improvement of safety issues to prevent injuries and other health concerns, taking active steps to achieve a safe and healthy working environment:
- Focus on safety as a core business value, and part of everything that we do. Our commitment should be displayed through both policy and practice, intolerant of behavior that leads to potential risks.
- Excellence reflecting our desire to comply with or exceed all regulatory requirements and company guidelines without compromise. Our strategies should include a commitment to continuous improvement in order to achieve and sustain safety goals.
- Ownership that includes constant awareness of real or potential safety hazards and incident prevention strategies, full compliance with all programs, and due diligence in resolving any and all potential issues.
- Communication that provides effective channels for dialogue between the company, its employees, and any and all outside programs or agencies committed to improving safety.
- Inclusion that encourages and fosters involvement and participation from every employee within the organization.
Some companies operate under standard safety operating procedures, while other companies may have entire departments dedicated to safety. Others may fall somewhere in between. The prominence of the program and the distinct guidelines that are followed may vary depending on the individual company, the type of business and the unique aspects of the retail operation; but the expectation for maintaining a safe store environment is universal regardless of the retailer.
Each retailer should tailor their own program and formulate safety rules and procedures that best apply to their own specific conditions and work environment. Every loss prevention professional should learn the guidelines established by their individual company and take every possible measure to see that those standards are met—and exceeded to keep our customers and our associates safe.
By capitalizing on opportunities to enhance our knowledge and education, we are making an investment in our own future. To learn more about safety in the workplace and other topics designed to help build your career in loss prevention, discover the professional growth opportunities available through the Loss Prevention Foundation.
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