If you’re the owner or proprietor of a retail business, you probably have a lot on your plate – from running the day-to-day operations of your establishment, to coordinating hiring processes and determining staff shifts, your duties may feel overwhelming sometimes.
As a business proprietor, one of your many responsibilities is ensuring that your business meets OSHA requirements (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), which is essential for the continued growth and success of your store, as well as for the safety of your employees and customers.
Businesses that fail to meet OSHA requirements can be fined heavily. To put it into perspective: retail stores were fined a total of $3,700,398 between October 2018 to September 2019 for failure to meet OSHA standards. These fines are huge financial headaches that your business doesn’t need (and might not survive).
For your convenience and your business’s protection, we’ve compiled some useful information that will help you not only comply with OSHA standards, but pass any retail safety inspection with flying colors!
Let’s start off easy: OSHA’s general requirements under Standard 1910.22 (Walking-Working Surfaces) are pretty straightforward. Ultimately, it is your job to avoid trips and falls by ensuring that:
- All places of employment, passageways, storerooms, service rooms, and walking-working surfaces are kept in a clean, orderly, and sanitary condition.
- The floor of each workroom is maintained in a clean, dry condition, where possible.
- Walking-working surfaces are kept clear of hazards, such as sharp or protruding objects, loose boards, corrosion, spills, snow, and ice.
- All surfaces that support loads are equipped to handle the weight of said loads.
As added suggestions for checking the general conditions of your store, you should also regularly ensure that store functionalities are working properly, such as sliding/automatic doors, kiddie rides, self-checkouts, etc. It’s also important to lay slip-resistant mats or rugs in front of doors to prevent sliding and falls.
An important area of focus during any retail store safety inspection is, well, safety. Ensuring that your establishment is a safe place to shop makes it a reputable business, and reputable businesses consistently perform well.
To make your business a safe workplace, be sure to comply with the items listed under OSHA Standard 1910.37 (maintenance, safeguards, and operational features for exit routes):
- Exit routes must be kept free of explosive or highly flammable furnishings or other decorations.
- Exit routes, including ramps and stairs, must be free and unobstructed.
- Exit signs should be clearly-marked and lit
- An employee alarm system must be operable to warn employees of fire or other emergencies.
- Safe guards designed to protect employees during an emergency such as sprinkler systems, alarm systems, fire doors must be in proper working order at all times.
- Lighting and marketing must be adequate and appropriate
These are just a few of the items you’ll find under standard 1910.37, but they’re a great place to start.
Another important standard for a safe workplace is OSHA Standard 1910.1200 (Hazard Communication):
- Proper labeling and tagging of all chemicals in the workplace.
- Keep a safety data sheet for all hazardous chemicals used in the workplace.
- Have a written hazard communication program.
- Proper employee safety training on how to detect hazardous chemicals and how to protect themselves against the hazards.
Being in compliance with standard 1910.1200 will help you avoid the most cited violation in retail stores by OSHA.
It’s also important that your establishment is consistently meeting mandatory health requirements, and that you’re complying with the General Duty Clause of the OSHA Act. This clause essentially states that you’re keeping your workplace free of all serious hazards, making it a safer work environment for your staff.
To comply with OSHA Standard 1910.151 (Occupational safety & health standards):
- Have medical personnel available for prompt treatment for any injured employee onsite.
- In the absence of a nearby infirmary or hospital, a person or persons shall be adequately trained in first aid, with fresh first aid supplies readily available on-site.
- When a person’s eyes or body are exposed to injurious corrosive materials, suitable washing facilities are provided within the immediate work area for emergency use.
In addition, a few more generic steps you can take to ensure the health and safety of your employees are:
- Post a noticeable hand-washing procedure in applicable areas (bathroom, etc.)
- Make your employees aware of the CDC hand-washing standards (scrubbing for a minimum of twenty seconds, particularly under fingernails and between fingers)
- Properly stock employee bathrooms and break rooms with hand sanitizer and antibacterial soap
- Enforce an effective company sick policy
- High-traffic surfaces are frequently cleaned with a powerful disinfectant
- All personnel who work with chemicals or fumes that pose health risks wear appropriate protection, or PPE (masks, lab coats, etc.)
Following these checklists, you’ll automatically increase your compliance with the OSHA health requirements for Standard 1910.151.
It’s essential that your business maintains all state and federal injury reports, as well as retains copies of supervisor’s accident/injury reports. All preventative safety measures and activities that you’ve facilitated among your team should be updated and well-documented (such as recent fire drills/protocol, etc.), and an emergency plan should be posted for easy employee access.
If you have more than 10 employees, you are required to keep a record of serious work-related injuries and illnesses. See a complete list of how OSHA defines a recordable injury or illness. However, minor injuries that only requires first aid do not need to be recorded.
For more information on preventing workplace injury and incidents, review and comply with the official OSHA standards.
Fire safety is integral to any retail safety inspection. To ensure your business is compliant with OSHA Standard 1910.39 (Fire Prevention), review the following items:
- An employer must have a fire prevention plan
- Said prevention plan must be kept in writing in the workplace, and made available for employees to review
- Prevention plan must include items such as: regular maintenance of safeguards installed on heat-producing equipment; the name or job title of employees responsible for the control of fuel source hazards; the name or job title of employees responsible for maintaining equipment to prevent or control sources of ignition or fires.
Also confirm on a regular basis that:
- Smoke detectors are working
- A functional fire extinguisher is kept in an unobstructed, highly-visible area
- Sprinkler systems work
- Employees are familiar with fire drills/know the designated meeting place in the event of a fire
These checklists will help you get started in preparing your retail establishment for an OSHA inspection, but more importantly, following these guidelines will help you keep your employees, customers, and business safe.
Always remember to consult your state’s official OSHA guidelines for clarification about inspections, or health and safety. When in doubt, take the extra step of ensuring your workplace is protected against violation penalties.