Protecting Retail Workers This Festive Season

The Andrews Labor Government is urging retail sector employers to look after their workers during the busy Christmas period.

November and December are traditionally the peak months for the retail industry and its casual workforce grows substantially to meet the demands of shoppers.

This includes large numbers of workers hired for temporary positions, whose inexperience can make them more vulnerable to health and safety hazards in the workplace.

WorkSafe Victoria inspectors will visit retail outlets over the next three months in a targeted inspection program to crack down on employers who are not meeting their obligations to keep workers safe.

Casual employees, who may have limited occupational health and safety knowledge, can be required to work alone and are often managed by people who have limited experience themselves.

They can also spend long hours on their feet and be required to lift heavy objects while stacking shelves or sorting stock.

Those in customer-facing roles are also at risk of being exposed to acts of occupational violence and aggression from members of the public.

In 2018-19, WorkSafe accepted 2251 injury claims in the retail sector, up from 2200 in 2017-18.

Last year WorkSafe visited at least 166 retail employers between October and December during the Christmas peak and issued 72 notices relating to health and safety breaches.

Today Minister for Workplace Safety, Jill Hennessy, also announced that WorkSafe has endorsed the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association’s ‘No-one deserves a serve’ campaign pledge, which commits employers who sign up to taking a zero-tolerance approach to occupational violence.

In addition to workplace inspections, WorkSafe will also run a social media education campaign, providing employers with advice about their responsibilities.

Retailers can also benefit from WorkSafe’s OHS Essentials program, which provides free independent safety advice and solutions to the owners of small and medium-sized businesses, with 60 employees or less.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Workplace Safety Jill Hennessy

“The Andrews Labor Government is determined to ensure everyone’s right to a healthy and safe workplace is protected, including temporary and casual retail employees.”

“Just because Christmas is a busy time of year, it is no excuse to take shortcuts or pressure staff to take unnecessary risks that can cause serious injury or death.”

“It is also completely unacceptable for customers, even though they may be tired from the demands of Christmas shopping, to treat our hardworking retail workers disrespectfully.”