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9 ways to sustain the health and safety - of everyone - during the holiday rush

Nov 09, 2015

Holiday rushIf retail and hospitality employers get their wish, this holiday season will be hectic and profitable. "For some businesses, particularly small businesses, Christmas makes or breaks their year financially," says Rodola Sibuma, a WSPS key account manager. But with high traffic and demand comes a faster pace and higher volume of work, the introduction of temporary staff into the workplace, and a need to keep extra inventory on hand - all of which can increase the risk of slips, trips, falls, strains and sprains, stress, and more.

Sibuma suggests nine ways to help you keep your people safe, but first here's a little more on the hazards themselves.

  • Increased volume and pace of work: existing staff may be expected to work faster, do shift work, deal with more guests, handle more inventory, and guide temporary staff. It's easy to lose focus and rush, and that's when accidents can happen. "On top of all that, there's the psychosocial factor: where it's quite busy, where there is greater demand, it heightens the stress level for some people."
  • Seasonal staff: "If employers are bringing on temporary staff, they must be trained," says Sibuma. "If they've never worked in that capacity before, they are by all definitions vulnerable. Getting staff up to speed on safe work procedures, it's going to take a bit of time. If you rush it, or it doesn't happen, that's when injuries often happen."
  • Extra inventory: without careful pre-planning, the workplace can become chaotic. "Retailers are bulking up on inventory, which presents a logistical issue," says Sibuma. Cluttered corridors can lead to slips, trips, and falls. "Avoid the temptation to pile inventory high, which presents a risk of sprains and strains, and getting struck by objects."

Adding to these hazards are the seasonal delights of colds, flu and slippery entranceways, says Sibuma.

Here are Sibuma's suggestions for preventing hazards:

  1. Set housekeeping standards (see tips below) and educate employees on these standards.
  2. Schedule wisely. "People will call in sick. Have a backup plan." This is particularly important in small workplaces where staffing is minimal.
  3. Ensure you have policies and procedures in place around safe work.
  4. Provide orientation training for new employees early on that includes information on safe materials handling and housekeeping.
  5. Encourage employees to take mini-breaks, breathing and stretching for 3-5 minutes.
  6. Provide employees with the right tools and materials for the job (e.g., ergonomically designed tools, box lifting devices, etc.).
  7. Keep the surrounding environment free of snow and ice.
  8. Provide hand sanitizer for employees and encourage regular hand washing.
  9. Refresh your health and safety board. Remove torn posters and outdated materials. Make sure all safety information is up to date. Post health promotion materials as well.

Housekeeping tips

Good housekeeping eliminates clutter - the common cause of accidents like slips, trips and falls - and helps improve productivity:

  • keep work areas clean
  • keep aisles, exits and entrances clear
  • keep floors clean, dry and in good condition
  • keep sprinklers, fire alarms and fire extinguishers clear
  • stack and store items safely
    • store heavy items (more than 15 lb) on shelves at a height between the shoulders and knees
    • use a ladder or step stool to reach items on high shelves; avoid stretching while lifting and carrying
    • store all objects securely on shelves and racks to keep them from falling over

How WSPS can help

Check out our extensive online library of courses, downloads and other resources on:

  • vulnerable workers. Includes health and safety awareness training, orientation training
  • small business safety. In our Small Business Centre, you'll find a 3-step roadmap to health and safety, how-to guide, case studies, and much more
  • consulting services. Our consultants can help you identify hazards and implement cost-effective, sustainable solutions.