Accidents can hit the bottom line hard in retail. If you make $8 on an item, you would have to sell 1,250 units to pay for a store accident that costs only $10,000, according to commercial liability insurer Zurich NA. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 requires all employers to ensure worker safety. But retailers must also provide a safe environment for shoppers. Retailers that fail to regularly inspect their stores, fix hazards and warn shoppers of potential dangers could be setting themselves up for a costly liability claim.


Keeping floor surfaces dry and debris-free increases your safety factor because falls and slips are the most common retail accidents. Consider floor mats your first line of defense. They reduce tracked-in water and dirt by 91 percent, according to Dennis Fetzer, a National Floor Safety Institute board member. Use mats with non-skid backs that extend at least 10 feet from doors for best results. You can also improve safety by adding caution signs, putting in strips in areas prone to slipperiness, promptly cleaning up spills and installing slip-resistant floor-care products. Simply having all employees get into the habit of picking up paper can also prevent accidents. To limit tripping incidents, keep aisles clear of boxes and merchandise.

Exterior Concerns

Retailers need to keep their safety eyes on the store exterior as well. Regular inspections allow prompt repair of cracked, uneven or pitted sidewalks. Removing snow and ice from sidewalks and steps is important in cold-weather locations. Retailers with parking lots must watch for potential hazards such as holes, exposed rebar or poorly painted curbs that could cause employees or customers to trip or fall. All retailers should keep entries well lit and doors in proper working order.

Visual Merchandising Hazards

Falling merchandise causes frequent injuries in retail stores. Fasten shelves securely to walls and don't overcrowd them with products. Secure floor-to-ceiling displays and stack floor displays with safe shopping in mind. Poorly secured mannequins can tumble onto shoppers, so tighten the support rods from the base plate. Overhead signs not fastened to ceiling grids can fall, while those hung with insufficient headroom also pose a safety concern. When lighting displays, take precautions to prevent customers from tripping on cords, getting shocked by faulty wiring or burned by a hot, or exposed bulb. Ensure that wall-mounted props stay put with nails and screws, not pins.

Traffic control

Major promotions and sales, such as Black Friday, can draw huge crowds. According to OSHA assistant secretary Dr. David Michaels, injuries during these events have increased. OSHA suggests scheduling security and extra staff to guide shoppers. To help maintain order, place checkout rope lines away from entrances and post signs to guide bargain seekers. Other recommendations include keeping shopping carts away from doors and using headsets or radios to communicate with staff.