Five steps US retailers can take to eliminate workplace violence


US retailers experience higher rates of violence, such as robberies and assaults, than workplaces in other industries for a variety of reasons. For example, a good deal of cash is often exchanged in retail workplaces. What’s more, retail establishments are often open late. In fact, some are even open 24 hours a day.

By engaging in these five steps, retail employers can minimize the risk of workplace violence and adequately secure the workplace:

1. Understand your legal obligations to provide a safe workplace

Employers are legally required to protect employees from workplace violence. Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, known as the General Duty Clause, obligates employers to provide employees with a safe workplace and protect them from workplace violence. +29 U.S.C. § 654, 5(a) (1). While the General Duty Clause is the primary source of an employer’s obligation to protect employees from workplace violence under federal law, various state laws also require employers to maintain a safe workplace.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has shown that it is willing to issue citations and assess penalties against employers who fail to maintain a safe workplace and adequately protect employees. Additionally, OHSA has issued Recommendations for Workplace Violence Prevention Programs in Late-Night Retail Establishments.

2. Implement physical changes to protect retail workers

It’s no secret that retail establishments often hold a significant amount of merchandise and goods that can lead to an increased crime risk. However, an employer can implement physical changes to protect its workers and keep the workplace safe by installing surveillance cameras, alarm systems, buzzers, mirrors and metal detectors to monitor movements and notify employees that patrons are coming into the store. Further, an employer may want to install adequate outside and parking lot lighting and make sure all windows and doors have the ability to be adequately secured.

Employers should also make sure that those employees working behind the cash register have a clear view of what is taking place inside the store as well as outside the store and in the parking lot if possible. There should be no shelving, signage or obstructed windows blocking an employee’s view.

3. Train employees on safety measures

It is equally critical for employers to implement training for employees as part of a workplace violence prevention program. Employees should know how to respond to an act of violence and how to protect themselves should the store experience a theft, robbery or assault. Employees also should be trained to be on the lookout for potentially violent or suspicious individuals and required to report them to management.
Meanwhile, employers should limit the number of cash registers open at one time and require trusted employees to make cash deposits into a safe so as to reduce the amount of cash in the register. In addition, the employer should instruct all employees regarding the importance of locking delivery doors and the main doors at the end of the day, and following safety procedures for employees entering and exiting the facility through additional doorways. Employers also may want to consider additional workplace violence training for supervisors and those with managerial authority.

4. Establish procedures for responding to act of violence

Employers should have a clear action plan for employees to prepare for and respond to an act of violence with emergency procedures and a communication plan firmly in place. Employers also should make sure there is a panic button installed or an open line which lets employees quickly contact management as well as law enforcement. Employers also may want to put a proper plan in place for contacting emergency responders and making sure that any victims who are hurt receive prompt medical attention.

5. Maintain adequate records

Finally, an employer should maintain clear and comprehensive records of all safety measures intended to provide employees with a safe workplace and reduce workplace violence, as well as comply with all OSHA recordkeeping requirements.

Employers should also keep a record of all safety and violence prevention training provided to employees. Along these lines, employers should adequately document all incidents of violence and review post-incident reports to see what could be done to minimize the risk of a repeated occurrence. Over time, the employer may follow up and determine if additional precautions are necessary.