Workers and employers in Victoria’s retail sector are being urged to focus more closely on workplace safety during the busy end of financial year sales period.
WorkSafe inspectors are visiting retail stores across the state and are paying particular attention to poor manual handling practices, which account for around half of the injuries in the retail sector.
Of special interest to inspectors are the distribution centres and warehouses that store and deliver whitegoods, furniture and electrical goods to retail outlets.
WorkSafe’s Acting Head of Operations and Hazardous Industries, Phil Grimson, said the message to retailers was to make employee safety a top priority during the end of financial year sales period.
“For many employees, handling large boxes and heavy, unwieldy goods is a normal part of their day,” Mr Grimson said.
“But movement of stock accounts for many injuries, such as bad backs, tendon, ligament, and soft tissue tears and even bone fractures. The risk of falls created by using the wrong access equipment can also cause serious injury. During a peak period such as this, these risks increase.”
As well as appropriate stock handling, Mr Grimson said inspectors would focus on stock control and storage, basic housekeeping practices, and ensuring staff were adequately trained and had the right equipment to handle stock.
“Many businesses are likely to employ additional casual staff, so it’s particularly important for new employees to receive appropriate training and supervision,” he said.
“New and young employees should also be encouraged to speak up if they are uncertain about how to do something safely.”
“Almost eight retail workers are injured every day in Victoria and, at this time of year, young and new employees are particularly vulnerable.”
Mr Grimson urged every workplace to take a proactive approach to identifying and addressing safety issues, such as:
- Using height adjustable mechanical aids e.g. trollies, for moving, loading and stacking store items and products.
- Providing suitable platform ladders for employees to safely access and retrieve goods from shelving, ensuring staff have been trained on safe use of ladders.
- Making sure in-store and back-of-store areas are free from clutter and excess stock, ensuring there is enough space between aisles and corridors for people and equipment to move freely and emergency exits are clear.
- Never climbing on chairs, table, racking or shelving to reach items at height.
- Ensuring loading docks have sufficient edge protection to eliminate fall risk.
- Having a proper inventory control system in place to avoid overstocking beyond store capacity.