According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are approximately 3.4 million cashiers currently working across America. While the rise of self-checkout stands may reduce this number somewhat in the coming years, it is likely that a significant portion of the workforce will remain in these positions for the foreseeable future. With so many people engaged in this type of work on a regular basis, it is important to identify the types of risks they face and address and mitigate these risks regularly. Keep your tribal employees and volunteers safe by reviewing the following tips to reduce risks to cashiers and retail employees.
What injuries do cashiers and retail employees face?
Atkinson Gerber Workers Compensation Attorneys note that cashiers and other retail employees are often at risk for the following types of injuries:
According to the NIOSH, these are soft-tissue injuries due to sustained exposure to common conditions such as repetitive motions, force or vibration.
Repetitive strain disorders
Also known as repetitive strain injuries, these often go hand-in-hand with musculoskeletal disorders and include a wide array of conditions such as tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, trigger finger, shin splints. For more information, please see our recent article on repetitive strain injuries: Steps to prevent repetitive strain injuries at work.
Overexertion and fatigue
This is another condition related to the previous two risks. Cashiers and other retail workers often work long hours on their feet. They also often must perform the same tasks repeatedly, leading to muscle fatigue and potential injury.
Cashiers who work at locations such as gas stations, convenience stores and fast-food establishments may have shifts that extend through the night. Workers employed during these hours may develop sleep disorders due to regularly being awake during times that go against their body’s natural circadian rhythm. In addition, working such hours may lead to dependence on caffeine and other stimulants, further skewing the body’s natural cycles and potentially heightening other underlying disorders, such as anxiety.
Illness exposure and workplace violence
Cashier and retail employees are also among the workers who are at the highest risk for contracting illnesses due to close proximity to the public. They are also much more likely to experience threat of serious injury due to armed robbery or other types of workplace violence and assault. The risk of being a victim of a violent crime on the job increases if they are handling a cash register, working odd hours, if they work shifts alone, if their facility is highly accessible to foot traffic, if their facility serves or provides access to drug and alcohol products, and if there are no meaningful safeguards in place at their facility to discourage violent crime.
Tips to reduce safety risks to employees
Fortunately, there are many things employers can do to help reduce the risk of injury to their cashiers and retail workers, many of which involve simple ergonomic considerations, proper equipment and attention to safety and security. Utilize the following tips to reduce risks to cashiers and retail employees.
You can remedy most musculoskeletal, repetitive strain and overexertion disorders with properly configured equipment and attention to ergonomics. Provide cashiers that spend most of their shift standing with a high stool or chair that they can use at their discretion, and install anti-fatigue mats at their stations. Implement workplace policies to ensure employees are wearing appropriately supportive and protective footwear while on shift.
In addition, set all equipment necessary to complete job functions (conveyer belts, scanners, cash drawer, printers, check stand height, etc.) to appropriate heights and be within easy reach for your workers. Wherever possible, make provisions for these elements to be adjustable to accommodate employees of different heights.
Identify the number of repetitive motions your employees make during the day and make changes to reduce this number. Monitor when peak hours of operation might exacerbate the potential for a repetitive motion injury and build in appropriate staffing and break times to help alleviate these risks. A considered and consistent approach to ergonomics can help prevent a significant number of potential injuries, streamline operations and can make your facilities attractive places for employment.
Many employees sustain musculoskeletal, repetitive and overexertion disorders simply because they are not adequately trained to recognize and mitigate these risks for themselves. Too many cashiers and retail workers must learn “on the job,” and injure themselves out of an earnest effort to complete the work they are given. This is often done without knowing about the hazards of improper ergonomics and the serious effects that various types of strain can have on their bodies over time. In addition, other types of injuries can be sustained by being unfamiliar with the hazards of their environment, leading to slips, trips and falls and other related incidents. If employees are not trained in proper lifting techniques, lifting, bending and twisting injuries can also be a significant threat to employee health and wellness.
There are many ways to help ensure the safety of cashiers and retail workers on the job. First, assess the risk factors already present: how closely must employees interact with the public? Do employees work odd hours or do they work alone? Do they sell alcohol and tobacco products or handle cash? Is their facility in a highly accessible area to foot traffic? What is the frequency of violent crimes in their area?
Once you assess these factors, you can address them. The following measures can be great ways to deter the likelihood of either contracting illness or experiencing violent crimes:
- If illness is a concern for your workers, provide them with whatever personal protective equipment they would like to use (e.g., facial masks).
- Make provisions for employees to be able to take time off if they are sick, so that they do not spread illness to customers or coworkers.
- Establish cleaning protocols to regularly clean or disinfect equipment around employee workstations, as well as high-traffic areas or public touch points (like door handles and countertops).
- Post signs to encourage customers to cover their cough, wash hands and use masks if they are sick.
- Provide workers and customers with access to hand sanitizer and follow all required sanitation rules and protocols (hand washing signs, etc.)
- Adhere to the principles of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED):
- Install a high-quality camera surveillance system.
- Ensure your facilities are well-lit during nighttime hours of operation.
- Ensure your facilities are clean and maintained
- For more information on CPTED, please refer to our article How to design your property to deter crime.
- Avoid scheduling employees on shifts alone during odd hours. If an employee must work alone, ensure they have appropriate methods for summoning law-enforcement at their disposal. Ensure they are trained in proper response for violent situations and empower them to prioritize their safety.
- Post signs clearly stating safety measures have been enacted, i.e., cashier does not have access to cash box, security cameras are in place, shoplifters will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, etc.
- Work with local law enforcement to familiarize them with your facility, your staff’s duties and obligations and the potential risks your workers may encounter.
The health and safety of workers should be the number one priority for all employers. Please use these tips to reduce risks to cashiers and retail employees. For additional information on how to protect your cashier workers and retail employees, please reach out to your broker or tribal risk manager.