Maintaining quality and safety across multiple store locations is challenging at the best of times. But during the busy holiday sales season, when things go into overdrive and the chance of injury increases, how do you ensure every employee is following correct procedure?
When a Wal-Mart employee lost his life on Black Friday in New York, the company was certain they had taken all necessary precautions. But the barricades, additional security and police consultation didn’t protect 34-year-old Jdimytai Damour, who was trampled by an ‘out of control’ crowd, desperate for a bargain.
This is the worst-case scenario and tragedies of this severity are rare. But injuries in retail workplaces are more common that people realise, and the likelihood of accidents occurring is far higher during busy periods.
How sure are you these aren’t risks for your employees:
- Slippery or uneven floors
- Injuries from repetitive tasks
- Strains from lifting heavy objects
- Tripping over stock and falls from ladders
- Being hit by falling objects
Not all safety hazards are physical
Last Christmas, the Australian union representing retail staff launched a campaign urging shoppers to stop abusing workers during the stressful holiday season.
Named ‘No one deserves a serve’, the campaign was a response to a Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) report finding that 85 per cent of retail staff suffered abuse at work.
“Retail and fast food workers have told us they routinely have customers swearing and yelling at them, spitting in their faces or threatening them, simply for doing their jobs,” said Gerard Dwyer, in a statement for the union.
“This Christmas we’re calling on customers to check their behaviour before they get to the checkout.”
Workers in the UK face similar problems during popular Black Friday sales, with the shopworker’s trade union recommending better security processes to keep employees safe.
“Our members have had real concerns about Black Friday. After two years of unprecedented scenes of mayhem in some stores, we discussed safety issues with retailers,” said the union leader, John Hannett.
Thankfully, retailers in the UK reacted positively to these recommendations, adopting better procedures to ensure safety and security for both staff and customers during busy sales periods.
“The last couple of years have been quieter and more respectful, but we continue to monitor the situation,” he said.
Staff abuse is not limited to peak shopping seasons either, as customer response to the end of single use plastic bags at Coles and Woolworths indicates. That means it’s even more important to ensure your staff are regularly trained in how to manage difficult customers, and to have clear procedures in place for when these incidents occur.
By taking proactive steps, such as opening every checkout lane to reduce queue lengths as customers adapt to the change, Coles were able to create a safer environment for their staff and reduce frustration levels overall. But for the leading supermarket, the most important thing has been visibility and consistency in employee management and training across their hundreds of stores—assisted by new technology like iAuditor.
Preparing for peak season
For those in charge of the safety of thousands of employees and customers, maintaining the visibility of safety metrics across hundreds of stores is a daunting prospect. Simon McBurney, senior delivery analyst at Coles knows that too well. After working for Australia’s leading supermarket for 20 years, he was tired of spending countless hours conducting individual safety inspections across all 760 stores. So he searched for a way to digitise the process and came across iAuditor—which Coles has since rolled out nationwide.
Now Coles store managers use the iAuditor platform to conduct regular safety audits, giving McBurney and his team real-time visibility of health and safety across the organisation—without having to visit in person.
“Getting iAuditor out to 760-plus shops with so many employees was surprisingly easy,” McBurney says. “We rolled it out in a matter of weeks.”
With more transparency and communication with team members at store level, organisations have the opportunity to respond to hazards as they arise. And that’s critical during busy holiday periods when all hands are on deck—and when customers can be most frustrated.
“iAuditor empowers us to give the customers a shop they can trust, and gives us the ease and simplicity to let stores really get ahead of the game to deliver on opportunities to improve,” McBurney says.
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