Risk Mitigation Strategy for Hardware Stores

Topics: Retail

Over 19,000 hardware stores in the U.S. sell machinery, power tools and equipment, lumber, paint and sundries, plumbing fixtures and supplies, hand tools and accessories and so much more. Retail stores , from high-end boutiques to these types of hardware stores, contain a variety of risks that can lead to employee injuries.

The success of retail and wholesale operations are based on the movement and storage of products either on a sales floor or in a backroom or warehouse. Hardware stores display products in various places inside and outside their buildings: shelves, hanging on fixtures, in barrels or in large stacks. Some hardware stores keep additional stock in warehouses where they have to be accessed by ladders and moved by forklifts.

By having the correct safety measures in place, hardware store owners can have peace of mind that they are protecting both their customers and employees.

Download the AmTrust Retail Risk Report

Common Hazards in Hardware Stores

Hardware store employees climb ladders, cut lumber, move items of all sizes and load heavy supplies onto pallets or into cars for customers. Along with these activities, some of the common hazards employees face in hardware stores include:
  • Lifting and handling materials
  • Housekeeping and maintenance
  • Ladders and step ladders
  • Forklifts – including ancillary truck unloading, pallet jacks and hand trucks
  • Hazardous materials and chemicals
  • Knives, box cutters and sharp instruments
  • Hand tools and electric-powered tools
  • Rack/storage safety-ranging from shelf installation injuries to falling merchandise to falls from heights
  • Packaging, unpacking boxes and stocking products

Employee Injury Risks in Hardware Stores

The most common retail industry injuries according to a Center for Disease Control study include sprains and strains, cuts/lacerations, punctures, bruises, contusions and fractures, no matter which type of retail operation. Businesses from wholesalers to jewelry stores have all exhibited variations of these same injury types. Similar to the rest of the retail industry, hardware store employees exhibit sprains and strains more often in their workers’ compensation claims.

In AmTrust's 2019 Retail Risk Report, our claims data revealed that the most common types of injuries involve the trunk (upper back), upper extremities (shoulder/upper arm) and lower extremities (ankle). 


Tips to Prevent Risks in Hardware Stores

Preventing risks in your hardware store starts by looking for potential hazards and training your employees in safety procedures.

Forklift Safety Tips

For hardware stores that have a warehouse storage area, forklifts might be needed to move products. To reduce the chances of incidents, employees should follow safe forklift practices , such as:
  • Slowing down and sounding the horn more than once when approaching an intersecting aisle or doorway to warn others your approach
  • Using flashing lights, audible backup alarms and overhead protection for the drivers
  • Keeping the forks as low as possible when driving whether or not you have a load. The forks should not be raised or lowered while in motion. 
  • Wearing safety belts
  • Ensuring lift loads do not exceed the forklift’s weight capacity

Back Injury Prevention – Overexertion Issues

Overexertion is another type of injury hardware store employees often suffer. Back injuries, the most prevalent injury from overexertion, can be caused by pushing, lifting, pulling and moving objects, repeated lifting of awkward or heavy items, improper lifting techniques, or excessive reaching or twisting and more. To prevent back injuries:
  • Review tasks and confer with workers to identify bending, lifting and other hazards that may cause back injury
  • Modify tasks such as reducing the weight of items to be lifted
  • Store heavy items at waist height
  • Arrange workstations to minimize bending, twisting, reaching and pulling
  • Provide floor mats, footrests or rails upon which workers who must stand in place may place a foot in order to change position and rest the back
  • Train workers in safe lifting and moving of materials, including using hand trucks and other lifting aids if needed

Ladder Safety Tips

Falls from portable ladders are a major cause of injury in retail, including hardware stores. Ladders should be kept off the sales floor unless an employee needs to use them. Ladders for sale should be chained and clearly labeled to prompt customers to ask for assistance. Employees who use ladders should undergo hands-on ladder safety training to learn about the various risks involved and the precautions necessary to prevent falling. This training often includes specifics on how to:
  • Inspect the ladder before use by looking for broken rungs or rails, checking pulleys, ropes and locks on extension ladders, and checking footings to make sure they still have a non-skid surface.
  • Place the ladder on firm, level footing and secure the bottom to prevent it from slipping.
  • Avoid setting up a ladder on an unstable or slippery surface including a box, cart, table or scaffold.
  • Face forward to the ladder when ascending or descending. Also, have both hands free to grasp it securely.
  • Follow the correct stopping point. Do not climb higher than the third rung from the top of a ladder. For stepladders, climb no higher than the second tread from the top.

Preventing Slips, Trips and Falls

Slip and fall injuries are types of losses that can present a significant cost to your hardware store. However, with some careful planning, you can help reduce the potential of these types of accidents inside or outside your building. Keep the following slips, trips and falls prevention tips in mind:
  • Keep the floor clear of fallen objects
  • Clean up or report any spills
  • Check your pathway for any obstructions
  • Keep an eye out for uneven floors or changes in floor level
  • Place floor mats at the entrances to prevent customers from tracking snow, which would make the floor slippery, into the store in the winter months
  • Use handrails when ascending or descending stairs
  • Watch out for loose, torn or worn flooring
  • Report poorly lit areas or burned out bulbs/non-functioning lighting

Workers’ Compensation Insurance for Hardware Stores

Hardware stores are just one of the business classes that AmTrust writes. Protect your employees with workers’ compensation coverage from AmTrust Financial. For more information, please contact us today.

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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