Health and Safety Report
Volume 16, Issue 11

On Topic

Retail Health and Safety: It's a Big Dealprint this article

The retail landscape in Canada is changing. The rise of online retail has meant shoppers now have access to a world-wide market when looking for lower prices.  To stay competitive, traditional retail stores are changing their business model. To control costs, and attract customers with lower prices, some retailers are squeezing more merchandise into smaller store spaces and hiring fewer staff. This has meant that the already fast-paced world of modern retail is working harder and faster.

This demand for quick service and the drive for efficiency are intensifying, contributing to working conditions that present hazards. Some retailers base their staffing levels on sales which can put a strain on workers who are then required to serve more customers than they are physically able to. For employers, this can negatively impact revenue when scheduled staff can’t meet customer traffic flows. When you work in retail, you often work at a fast pace, perform a lot of repetitive tasks, use a variety of body positions (standing, sitting, reaching), and interact with customers.

With the overall increased pace of work that comes during the holiday season, temporary and seasonal hires may face the demands of the job immediately, increasing the potential for injury.  

Common Injuries

Retail workers are particularly at risk for ergonomic related injuries related to awkward postures, repetitive work, and handling potentially heavy loads.  These include muscle strains and back injuries, tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and rotator cuff (shoulder joint) injuries. They can result from awkward and static postures, bending or twisting the torso while lifting or holding heavy items, and lifting objects out of or putting them into increasingly cramped spaces. Cutting injuries can result from sharp objects, knives, scissors, and box cutters. Slips, trips and falls, working on ladders, exposure to extreme temperatures and the risk of overhead materials are also hazards that a worker can face. These factors and situations are prevalent whether working in a small store or a large warehouse-style outlet.

Preventing Injuries


Timely and effective training is essential when starting a new job.  Training should include:

  • Safe lifting procedures.
  • How to use ladders, equipment and tools safely.
  • Work postures and how to avoid injury from awkward body positions.
  • Housekeeping practices and how to keep work areas clear of clutter and equipment.
  • How to react in a negative or violent situation.
  • How to stay safe if working alone. For example, have a mobile phone or other alternative means to contact a designated person when working alone.


In addition to training, workers need to know their rights. These include the right to know what hazards are present on the job and how to protect themselves, the right to participate in keeping their workplace healthy and safe and a right to report unsafe conditions and practices. They also have the right to refuse dangerous or unsafe work, making sure to follow specific procedures when doing so.


Employers need to provide instruction and training on safe lifting techniques, fire safety and emergency evacuation procedures, and how to use equipment and tools safely.

  • Where possible, design work practices to avoid lifting and awkward positions. Give workers frequent breaks as needed.
  • In large and warehouse-type stores provide mechanical devices such as forklifts, hoists, carts, or dollies for moving heavy or awkward objects.
  • Establish good housekeeping practices.
  • Keep a first-aid kit within easy access.


  • Make sure you have been trained to work safely on ladders or other potentially unstable structures.
  • Keep all work areas clear of clutter and equipment.
  • Make sure you know and understand safe handling and storage procedures before working with hazardous products and merchandise.
  • Do not exceed the capacity of the shelves when storing merchandise.
  • Do not block fire-exits and fire-extinguishers.
  • Learn to recognize the early signs and symptoms of sprains and strains. The sooner the treatment starts, the better. Signs and symptoms include: swelling, redness or difficulty moving a particular body part, numbness, tingling, and pain. If you notice any early signs or symptoms of sprains and strains, report them to your employer or supervisor.

The retail landscape may be changing but it still plays a vital role throughout Canada, employing large numbers of workers. Proactively managing their health and safety is essential to keeping this workforce and industry thriving.


Tips & Tools

Good Communication Includes Active Listeningprint this article

Effective communication in the workplace involves more than just talking; it requires a structured way of listening and responding. Actively communicating and engaging with co-workers can help create effective and positive working relationships where workers feel valued and respected. It also supports a mentally healthy workplace.

Actively listening shows that you are interested and care what the person has to say or feels. Your attention is focused on the other person in an attempt to understand, interpret, and evaluate what they are telling you. You are not judging.

Here are some ways to actively listen, be genuine and show empathy.

  • Make eye contact. Note that in some cultures, excessive eye contact can be seen as inappropriate, aggressive, or rude. Be intentional, but don’t stare.
  • Focus on what is being said. Do not do other activities at the same time such as checking for e-mails or texting on your phone.
  • Listen and allow the person to speak. Do not interrupt. You may want to “fix” things, but if you have not heard the entire situation, you may be fixing the wrong issue.
  • Allow pauses. Some people may need time to think about and formulate their answers. Do not pressure someone to answer quickly.
  • Ask questions. If something is not clear, asking for more detail about it in a friendly and non-judgmental way shows interest and concern.
  • Repeat for confirmation. When you repeat what you heard, you reduce the chance of misperceptions and confusion. Give the other person a chance to correct any misunderstanding of what you think you heard.
  • Reflect on what you heard.
  • Listen between the lines. Look for clues in body language that may reveal how the person is feeling about what they are talking about (posture, facial expressions, eye contact, etc.)

By practicing active listening techniques, colleagues can help develop more effective and positive working relationships, and a stronger, more supportive workplace culture.


Health and Safety To Go

Podcasts: Carbon Monoxide: Odorless, Colourless, and Deadlyprint this article

This month’s featured podcasts include Carbon Monoxide: Odorless, Colourless, and Deadly and an enore presentation of Slips, Trips, and Falls: Preventing Workplace Injuries.

Feature Podcast: Carbon Monoxide: Odorless, Colourless, and Deadly

Every year in Canada, hundreds of workers experience carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Many survive, but others are not so fortunate. During the winter months, this odourless, colourless, deadly gas creeps back into the spotlight. The heightened concern is due in part to the increased use of furnaces, space heaters and generators, as we try to escape the cold, but also because of the use of fuel burning tools indoors. Understand the hazards of carbon monoxide and how to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. 

The podcast runs 7:00 minutes.  Listen to the podcast now.

Encore Podcast: Slips, Trips, and Falls: Preventing Workplace Injuries

Falls from slips and trips are common workplace occurrences that can result in serious injuries and disabilities. In this podcast episode, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) explains how to prevent workplace injuries that are the result of slips, trips, or falls from the same level.

The podcast runs 5:07 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.


CCOHS produces free monthly podcasts on a wide variety of topics designed to keep you current with information, tips, and insights into the health, safety, and well-being of working Canadians. You can download the audio segment to your computer or MP3 player and listen to it at your own convenience... or on the go!

See the complete list of podcast topics. Better yet, subscribe to the series on iTunes and don't miss a single episode.


5 Reasons to Attend Forum 2019print this article

93% of attendees from the most recent CCOHS Forum said they would attend again.

“It is very important to be motivated by big picture thinkers. Golden nuggets of truth and perspective came through and are applicable in my daily work life.  To think outside of the box…is fantastic! I was there to challenge my brain, to think bigger - and I got exactly what I wanted (and needed). Great job!”

Make a plan to attend and join us in Winnipeg March 5-6 for this national event that will bring together leaders, change makers, and subject experts to share their knowledge and experience around emerging health and safety issues.

  1. Balanced

Perspectives from government, employers and labour – spanning all provinces and territories – will be represented.

  1. Interactive

An intimate event size, single session stream, and networking opportunities allow you to collectively dive deeper into topics and connect with like-minded health and safety stakeholders.

  1. Fresh Content

From emerging technologies to the changing demographic landscape, the world of work is evolving. Learn about health and safety issues that we will need to be ready for.

  1. Solutions-focused

Gain insight and expertise from our speakers, showcase of innovations and soapbox event, and bring back practical solutions and tools to your organization.

  1. Incredible value

Registration includes all sessions, networking events, refreshments/lunch, and discounted hotel rates.


About the Forum

CCOHS Forum 2019 will take place on March 5 - 6, 2019, in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Register by November 30 to save $100. Discounts are also available for CCOHS Members and full-time students.



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The Health and Safety Report, a free monthly newsletter produced by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), provides information, advice, and resources that help support a safe and healthy work environment and the total well being of workers.

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