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April 16, 2014
OSHA announces emphasis program to protect retail workers

On April 14, OSHA announced a new local emphasis program aimed at preventing retail sector injuries and fatalities in Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands.

The retail industry experienced 262 fatal occupational injuries in 2012. The injury and illness case rate for retail workers, including in the Pacific, was four per 100 full-time workers, compared with a 3.4 rate for all other private sector employees during the same period.

“We are not in the business of waiting to act only after a preventable injury or fatality occurs. Retail employers and workers need to be aware of hazards and risks commonly found in this industry,” said Mike Rivera, acting area director of OSHA's Honolulu Area Office. “Stores must be safe for customers to shop and for employees to work.”

OSHA will conduct inspections to identify and evaluate hazards within the retail industry in Hawaii and the Pacific islands and territories. Targeted operation sites, such as clothing stores, department stores, general merchandise stores and other miscellaneous retailers, can expect random inspections. OSHA also will respond to complaints, referrals, and fatalities related to retail operations.

Federal OSHA inspections at retail stores in the Pacific routinely find numerous safety or health hazards that result in serious violations. Cited safety and health violations generally relate to electrical hazards, unsafe merchandise handling, transportation hazards, fire hazards, exposure to harmful substances, or improper design, construction and maintenance of exit routes. Violations also relate to hazards that, if left unchecked, can lead to falls, slips and trips; struck-by injuries, or amputations.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top causes of workplace injuries and illnesses in the retail industry are overexertion (48,530 injuries in 2012); slips, trips, and falls (30,230 injuries in 2012); and being struck by objects (21,820 injuries in 2012). The back was the most frequently injured body part among retail workers, followed by the hands, knees, and head.

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