It’s the holiday season and with the associated increase in retail business comes an increase in working hours, seasonal workers, and thus an increase in occupational hazards in the retail sector. Retailers are expected to hire approximately 790,000 seasonal workers throughout the holiday season. Amazon has said they will hire 200,000 seasonal workers and Target plans to add 130,000. In 2018, a seven percent increase in base employment occurred during the holiday season – roughly 583,000 additional jobs were created.
With these retail workforce increases comes an increase in workplace hazards. In 2016, retail workers experienced a combined injury and illness rate higher than the construction industry. The retail industry is unique in that it creates hazards for both the workforce and the public. Injuries due to slips and falls, manual lifting, exposure to noxious chemicals and machinery, and overexertion are all potential hazards the public and the workforce face in the retail industry.
The retail industry is also often made up of young people, and with the addition of seasonal workers comes the potential for under-trained staff. According to NIOSH, every minute a young worker between the ages of 15 and 25 is injured on the job, and every day a young worker loses their life in a workplace accident. Retail is one of the top industries in youth employment and accounts for 21% of all workplace injuries.
One of the major hazards present to both workers and the public is exposure to noxious chemicals. According to the National Safety Council, death by exposure to noxious substances creates a 1 in 96 chance of dying; fourth on their list of ways people are most likely to die.
OSHA has an array of helpful information and tips to stay safe in the workplace during the holiday season on their Holiday Workplace Safety page. Included are pocket guides, topic pages, eTools, and more, ranging from topics like forklift safety, warehousing safety, trucking industry, crowd management, etc.
Information can also be found regarding youth safety in BCSP’s The Safety Profession booklet, which contains information on how to protect young workers in all industries.