Retail work hazards under the microscope

15 March 2024

Protecting workers from slips, trips, falls and heavy and repetitive lifting injuries is the aim of a new SafeWork SA campaign targeting the retail sector.

From March, SafeWork SA inspectors will visit metropolitan retail businesses unannounced to measure and audit their ‘housekeeping’ standards and management of ‘hazardous manual tasks’.

In February 2023, Safe Work Australia released the Australian Work Health and Safety (WHS) Strategy 2023 – 2033 which identified slips, trips and falls, along with body stressing, as among the most common causes of workplace injuries.

Since January 2021, SafeWork SA has issued more than 49 statutory notices involving ineffective housekeeping and lack of systems and training in relation to performing hazardous manual tasks.

A review of Safe Work Australia’s 2019 report on Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders in Australia, revealed the retail industry had the fourth highest incidence of serious musculoskeletal disorders.

SafeWork SA Executive Director Mr Glenn Farrell said:

‘Many people don’t consider a retail outlet to be a particularly hazardous work environment, but the statistics clearly show that serious injuries caused by falls, slips, trips and strains are commonplace in the sector.’

‘Retailers have an obligation to identify and address potential hazards in their shops, offices and storerooms to minimise the risk to workers and members of the public, ensuring workers are educated in appropriate workplace practices to protect them from injury.’

Throughout the six-month campaign, inspectors will visit metropolitan businesses to measure compliance of workplace systems relating to hazardous manual tasks and housekeeping in retail.

Compliance activities will also focus on:

  • Front and back-office housekeeping
  • Slips, trips and fall hazards
  • Reviewing systems for managing hazardous manual tasks

If a non-compliance identified during the audit cannot be remedied while the inspector is on site, a statutory notice will be issued.

The inspectors will also provide advice, information and education in relation to traffic management.

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