Avoiding Workplace Violence in the Retail Industry

Topics: Loss Control

Retail store owners are responsible for ensuring their employees are safe while on the job. These workers can face a variety of hazards that can cause injuries, from slips and falls on a wet floor to being struck by objects falling off shelves. AmTrust Financial’s 2019 Retail Risk Report discusses these hazards in great detail, including the most common injury types and the average time lost from work they cause.



In addition to being injured on the job, retail workers face another hazard: workplace violence. The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BLS) reports that the retail industry experiences the third-highest workplace violence victimization rate, following law enforcement and mental health professionals.


Retail Work and the Risk of Violence

OSHA defines workplace violence as any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the worksite. Workplace violence can occur in any number of industries, and according to OSHA, almost two million Americans are victims of occupational violence every year. That number does not include the additional cases that go unreported.

Why is the retail industry at such a high risk for workplace violence? Retail workers are exposed to the public more often than employees in other industries, dealing with a wide variety of people on a daily basis. Some workers’ duties involve exchanging money and having access to the cash register drawer, making them targets for a robbery. Retail employees often work alone or with only a few others. They also could spend long hours working by themselves. Other risk factors include the location and time of day the store is in operation, as some areas and late-night hours can be prone to higher crime rates. Additionally, the staff may not have the proper training in recognizing and managing aggressive or hostile customers.

gas station store at night susceptible to workplace violence

OSHA states that the types of retail stores at greater risk for workplace violence include:
  • Liquor stores
  • Jewelry stores
  • Commercial gas stations
  • Grocery stores


Tips for Preventing Workplace Violence at Retail Stores

Along with a workplace safety program, employers should create strategies to prevent violence in the workplace. An effective workplace violence prevention program should involve participation from management and employees through safety and health training, hazard prevention and control, and a thorough worksite analysis to help determine the specific risks that could arise.



OSHA recommends the following procedures be set in place to help mitigate the risks employees face:

Establish a clear policy on workplace violence

Conduct an analysis regarding the specific hazards that exist in the workplace. This means reviewing past incidents and considering potential threats to employees. Once it’s evident what the risks may be, create a policy statement that defines the threats and the consequences for employees who violate the policy. It should be clear that there is a zero-tolerance policy towards any form of workplace violence.

Create a team to enforce the policy

Representatives from all levels of the company should be included in a task force that will assess the risks facing employees. This team will create an agreement on the preventive measures that should be taken in the event of a violent incident and work to enforce them. All reported incidents will also be evaluated by this team to determine what changes, if any, need to be considered to help keep employees safe.

Ensure employees report any incidents promptly

Part of the policy should contain instructions on how to report incidents to management and the proper authorities in a timely manner. The longer an employee waits to report a situation, the more likely he or she is to forget important details. Employers should keep accurate records of every incident, too, so trends can be analyzed over time and additional training needs can be addressed appropriately.

Train employees on how to react in violent situations

Implement a training program for employers, supervisors and management to review the meaning of workplace violence and how to recognize, respond to and report incidents. All staff should have a thorough understanding of security procedures, how to resolve hostile situations and contact emergency response, as well as what to do following the incident. This training should occur quarterly or at least semi-annually.



A few additional tips for ensuring retail employees’ safety include:
  • Keep the building and parking lot well-lit at all times, but especially during evening hours
  • Install and regularly inspect cameras and alarms to ensure they’re working properly
  • Make sure employees understand which doors should always remain locked, and have them check those doors often
  • Avoid hanging signs or displays in windows so employees can always see who might be approaching
  • In retail convenience stores, install bulletproof enclosures with drop boxes if there is only one employee working the night shift, or always have two employees working night shifts with doors locked at a reasonable hour depending on crime rates in particular risk areas
  • Offer free coffee and beverages for law enforcement officers to enhance their presence within the stores
  • Maintain limited cash within the stores with signage posted
  • Equip stores with drop safes and panic buttons under the cash register counters which lead directly to law enforcement agencies
  • Instruct employees to not approach an irate customer or potential shoplifter and contact in-house security or local law enforcement instead
  • Conduct daily visual inspections of the store’s interior and exterior surroundings to check for any adverse conditions which could potentially cause an incident, and make the proper corrections

Protect Your Employees with Loss Control from AmTrust Financial

AmTrust’s Loss Control Department understands that safety starts with knowledge. We offer a variety of workplace safety resources designed to help your organization take a proactive approach in reducing injuries and incidences on the job. We are dedicated to providing the right recommendations to create the most effective loss prevention program for your specific needs. Please contact us today to learn more.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors. Coverages may vary by location. Contact your local RSM for more information.
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