The seasonal rush of customers is good news for retailers, but can raise injury risks for employees working faster, harder and longer to meet demands. More customers can also mean greater potential for exposure to respiratory illnesses and violence and harassment.
"New and young employees, who often fill temporary positions, are particularly vulnerable to injuries and bullying," says WSPS Account Manager David Smith.
"Before you hire, set the foundation for a safe workplace," says David. Employers and supervisors/managers need to understand their legal roles and responsibilities, know the hazards, develop control programs and safe work procedures, and finally train employees, including temporary workers. "If you rush, or it doesn't happen, that's when injuries can occur."
Take action now with our 7-point checklist
Holiday conditions can heighten existing hazards and introduce new ones. Use this checklist to raise awareness and adjust your programs and training.
- Slips, trips, falls, and struck by injuries. As you bulk up on inventory, walkways can become cluttered and chaotic, increasing the risks for slips, trips and falls. Slush and snow from customers' winter boots can also make floors slick, Plan where you will store your inventory before the seasonal rush, says David. "Make sure it doesn't block corridors and entryways." And take more time for housekeeping over the holidays. "Keep floors clean, dry and in good condition, and ensure aisles, exits and entrances are clear."
- Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and struck by injuries. The potential for strains and sprains resulting from repetitious tasks or positions, awkward postures, heavy loads, and overreaching is greater over long working days. Struck by injuries are also more common when ladders are used in haste to retrieve or store goods. Here's what you can do:
- review safe lifting guidelines and techniques, including weight limits,
- provide ergonomically designed tools and equipment,
- rotate jobs and tasks,
- revisit ladder safety techniques.
- Weather-related hazards. To prevent slips, trips and falls keep entrances and exits free of snow and ice. Protect employees who work outside from cold stress, hypothermia and frostbite by ensuring they wear insulated layers of clothing, including hats and gloves, and take frequent breaks in a warm location. Increased traffic and wintry conditions can lead to vehicle impacts for employees who deliver goods to customers' cars or pave parking lots. Make sure they wear reflective clothing, follow safe work procedures, and watch for cars that are backing up or moving.
- Electrical hazards. With more lights and decorations during the holidays, shock injuries can occur. Advise employees to check for damage before using wires, cords and outlets.
- Stress, anxiety and fatigue. Higher demands can tire employees physically and emotionally, affecting their ability to stay safe and healthy. Watch for signs and encourage people to bring problems to you. Find solutions together. For example, reduce hours of work, rotate jobs, or take frequent mini-breaks that include breathing and stretching for five minutes.
- Agitated or angry customers. Tempers may flare during the holidays so guidelines for de-escalating situations must be part of your Workplace Violence & Harassment Policy, says David. Provide training to front-line employees, supervisors and managers on the process, their roles, and techniques to de-escalate. To find out more, see 5 de-escalation tips when responding to agitated customers.
- Respiratory illnesses. Employees may be exposed to COVID, flu and colds this holiday season. The province has recently changed its public health guidance for COVID. "To keep employees safe from all respiratory illnesses, use the control measures in your COVID Safety Plan, including sanitation - provide training on the safe use of chemicals - masks, social distancing, and plexiglass barriers," advises David. "Also encourage vaccinations."
How WSPS can help
Connect with a consultant for help in these areas:
- Developing or Assessing your Health and Safety Program
- Hazard Assessment
- Violence Risk Assessment
- Orientation Training for New Hires
- Training on High Hazards
- Supervisor Responsibilities and Due Diligence, (½ day classroom)
- Safety, Health and the Law (1-day classroom)
- Mandatory Awareness Training (available through the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development)
- COVID-19 Workplace Risk Assessment and Safety Plan (20-minute eCourse)
- Return to Work During COVID-19 (30-minute eCourse)
- OHS for Supervisors - Everything You Need to Know
- Understanding the Legislation
- Developing a Health & Safety Policy & Program: The Elements
- COVID-19 and WHMIS: 7 Disinfectant Do's and Don'ts
Guides and toolkits
Case Study & Downloads