Measures to Safeguard the Workplace

Easy access to cash, the presence of alcohol and tobacco products, and solitary late-night or early-morning shifts are among the factors that make convenience stores workplaces that require added protective considerations.

By David Quezada

The convenience store industry nearly doubled in size over the last three decades, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).

The latest CSD/Humetrics Human Resources Benchmarking Survey found that convenience store owners expected these growth trends to continue, with more than one quarter of those surveyed having anticipated hiring more employees in 2016.

PREPARING EMPLOYEES
Working in a convenience store involves a certain level of risk, for which many new employees aren’t initially prepared. Easy access to cash, the presence of alcohol and tobacco products, and solitary late-night or early-morning shifts are among the factors that make convenience stores more dangerous places to work.

On average, convenience stores experience a work-related homicide rate that is seven times higher than other industries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Not surprisingly, homicide is the leading cause of death in retail establishments.

In a growing industry where hourly employee turnover is estimated to range from 55-77%, smart convenience store owners realize there are recruiting and retention advantages as well as cost savings to be gained by offering their frontline employees a safer work environment.

In addition to protecting a business’s employees, workplace safety programs that teach violence de-escalation strategies can help convenience store owners keep the cost of their workers’ compensation insurance and related expenses under control.

There are a number of violent acts that could occur during a robbery, including actual or threatened bodily harm, harassment or property damage.

PREVENTIVE MEASURES
There are some important prevention measures business owners can implement to reduce the risk of workplace violence, including:
• Implement a violence prevention training program. A professional training program conducted by a reputable professional or law enforcement can train employees in specific conflict de-escalation techniques and detailed, step-by-step instructions on what to do in case of a robbery or assault.
• Limit access to cash. Require workers to deposit cash into drop safes frequently to reduce the amount of cash on-hand. You can also prohibit the use of bills greater than $20 bills.
• Establish what to do in case of a robbery. Make sure employees are then trained in what to do during a robbery, like calling 9-1-1 and activating a silent alarm.
• Staff appropriately. If your store is located in a high crime area, consider staffing two or more workers in order to reduce the risk of assault.
• Address adequate outdoor lighting. Make sure parking lots and all areas of the property are well lit, including behind the store where garbage dumpsters are often located.
• Do not do your banking at a set time. Robbers will look for patterns to spot potential times to target staff. If you are depositing a large amount at one time, consider using a cash transit service.
• Always have two people present at opening and closing times, if it’s feasible. Have one person shutting up and the second positioned away from the door but with a clear view of what is happening.

Prevention techniques like these and others are only effective if they are being used. Business owners should regularly review and monitor safety practices to make sure everyone understands the correct procedures in case of an emergency. Workplace violence is serious and frightening, but by implementing these practices, employers can greatly reduce the risk of adverse incidents.

No business owner wants to see their property damaged or employees injured or killed. By taking preventative steps to reduce the risk of workplace violence, convenience store owners can help protect their employees, customers and business.
One of the smartest things a business owner can do is to maintain a safe workplace—it makes good business sense, and it’s the right thing to do.

David Quezada is vice president, Loss Control Services for EMPLOYERS, a company that offers workers’ compensation insurance and services to small businesses.

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