OSHA’s Updated Guidance on Employee Safety In Late-Night Retail Establishments

The Occupation Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) recently updated its guidance document that addresses concerns regarding injuries and deaths of late-night retail employees. In 2007, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data, 167 retail employees were killed and nearly half of those were employed in late-night establishments, such as gasoline stations and liquor and convenience stores. According to OSHA, “The goal of this document is to encourage employers to implement programs to identify the potential risks of workplace violence and to implement corrective measures.”

These recommendations are not new standards or regulations; they do not create any new OSHA duties. The recommendations, however, do provide useful guidance to those companies operating late-night retail establishments. According to OSHA’s Guidance, the elements of an effective violence prevention program include:

  • Management commitment and employee involvement.
  • Worksite analysis.
  • Hazard prevention and control.
  • Safety and health training.

Management commitment and employee involvement. Management commitment should include demonstrating organizational concern of employee safety and working constructively with other parties (landlords, local police, other public safety agencies, etc.). Employee involvement is essential in preventing workplace violence, because the employees’ practical experiences can help identify potential solutions to safety challenges.

Worksite analysis. A worksite analysis is an assessment to identify environmental and operational risks for violence. This may include reviewing records and conducting employee screening surveys to determine the history of workplace violence, including threats of violence. Additionally, employers should conduct a thorough work through of their establishments noting high risk factors such as building layouts, interior and exterior lighting, and communication and security systems.

Hazard prevention and control. Engineering controls are the most effective at reducing workplace violence because they make physical improvements without relying on human behavior. The controls can include:

  • Limiting window obstruction so that employees can see incoming customers;
  • Maintaining adequate lighting inside and outside the establishment;
  • Installing video surveillance;
  • Having height markers on exit doors to help witnesses provide more accurate descriptions of assailants;
  • Installing fences or other structures to direct the flow of customer traffic into and around the stores;
  • Using door detectors to alert employees when someone is entering the door;
  • Installing physical barriers, such as bullet proof glass.

Administration controls can also prevent workplace violence. These include establishing policies on when doors should be locked, developing procedures for proper use of physical enclosures and pass-through windows, and developing a policy for employees in the case of a robbery or other security concern.

Safety and Health Training. Training and education ensures that all employees are aware of potential security hazards and how to protect themselves.

Finally, the employer should maintain accurate records regarding any workplace violence and injuries. OSHA requires certain employers to maintain a Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (Form 300), and employers should regularly monitor any new trends in workplace violence.

Is OSHA Refocusing on Ergonomics?

A recent rule proposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Organization (“OSHA”) has many wondering if there will be a new focus by OSHA on ergonomics in the workplace. On January 29, 2010, OSHA proposed a rule regarding recordkeeping changes to better identify work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSD’s).

The proposed rule requires employers to place a check mark in a column for all MSD’s they have recorded in the OSHA Form 300 Log. MSD’s are defined as “disorders of the muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage, and spinal disks.” See Proposed Section 1904.12(b)(1). Examples of MSD’s include “carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, herniated spinal disc, and low back pain.” The rule does not change existing requirements of when and under what circumstances employers must record musculoskeletal disorders in their injury and illness logs. According to Dr. David Michaels, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, the rule will “improve the accuracy and completeness of national work-related injury and illness data.”

At this time, it is unclear if this proposed rule is a new trend in OSHA for more regulations regarding ergonomics in the workplace, or if this is a one time occurrence. Comments on the proposed rule must be submitted by March 15, 2010.

If your company requires additional information, OSHA has provided several forms including samples of Workplace Violence Factors and Control Checklists, and Incident Report Forms. http://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3153.pdf