When evaluating safety in the workplace, safety hazards will vary based on the different retail settings that we work in, the types of job responsibilities that we are involved with, and the factors and conditions found in a specific workplace. Hazards can be something easily seen (for example: exposed wiring or worn carpet), or it can be something less obvious (a slippery surface, for example). It can be something general (such as poor lighting), or something specific to the particular type of retail business (such as meat saws in a grocery store).
Safety hazards can be categorized in a variety of ways. However, the method of categorization should be one that helps us to both better identify the hazard, and helps us to develop ideas and actions that can lead to safety solutions. In general, we can distinguish hazards as:
Workplace Related – Those safety hazards associated with the store or facility layout.
Activity Related – Those hazards associated with common work activities such as lifting boxes or using machinery.
Environmentally Focused – Those issues linked to specific environmental conditions, such as dust or fumes in certain environments, or snow and ice brought into a store as customers come and go.
Behaviorally Focused – Due to education and awareness issues, or an employee’s failure to follow clearly established policies and procedures.
In order to design a program of prevention and control to manage safety in the workplace, we must recognize and understand the existing and potential workplace hazards. We have to learn what to look for, and how to react once a hazard is identified. Some of the most common safety hazards that we face in the retail workplace would include but are not limited to:
- Ergonomics-related hazards are the most common source of injury in the workplace. Improper lifting, pushing, pulling, lowering and twisting can cause strains, sprains, and other serious injuries.
- Falls are another common hazard in the retail environment. Both employees and customers may fall due to trips and slips, and many can be avoided with proper care, maintenance, and housekeeping.
- Impact injuries are the result of being struck by or struck against something (such as product falling off of a shelf).
- Mechanical hazards cause bending, punching, pulling, caught-in, caught-on, and crush accidents that can cut, crush, break bones, strain muscles and cause additional and even more serious injuries. Just about anything that is mechanical and moves has the potential to be a safety hazard.
- Electrical hazards that we may face in the workplace include electrical shock, activation of electric equipment, overheating when high current creates high heat, ignition of combustible material, and electrical explosions due to the rapid overheating of circuit breakers, transformers and other electrical equipment.
- Heat and temperature hazards may result in a range of injuries from burns to frostbite.
- Chemical hazards from cleaning chemicals to the products that we carry and sell can lead to serious health issues and injuries in the workplace.
- Noise and vibration hazards can cause hearing loss and other serious injuries.
- Biohazards might include exposure to plants (for example, in a garden center), animals (pet stores), raw meats and seafood (for example, in grocery stores) and products that may be allergenic, infectious or toxic and may cause illness or disease.
- Explosions may occur as a result of chemical solids, gases, vapors, and equipment issues in the workplace. The results of explosions can range from minor injuries to major catastrophes.
- Fire safety hazards in the retail workplace may include solvents, cleaning agents, lubricants, refrigerants, pesticides, fertilizers, plastics, hydraulic fluid, fabrics, rubber, wood and paper products.
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