Novice workers generally see a higher rate of workplace injuries. No time of year sees more novice workers than the holiday season, which means employers need to be careful about training and facility safety.

The driver of holiday employment is, of course, holiday retail sales. This means box stores and shipping facilities hire thousands of workers who likely are not used to the work. With this in mind, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offered several guidelines for employers who hire seasonal workers.

Watch out for crowds

Big holiday sales bring big holiday crowds. No business wants a customer injured during a shopping scrum, but businesses should be on guard for employee safety too:

  • Use trained security personnel to handle large crowds
  • Use barricades or rope lines for people both entering and in the store
  • Have a detailed staffing plan that designates a location for each employee
  • Designate a store manager to make key decisions as needed
  • Create proper signage both for directions (to exits and checkout lanes) and services (to restrooms and returns)
  • Have an emergency plan in place and be in contact with local fire and law enforcement officials

Watch out for the health of MMH

One industry study showed that seasonal manual material handlers (MMH) receive about half of one day of training before they are on the line, lifting heavy objects.

OSHA offers several tips on how to keep MMH’s safe. They include but are not limited to:

  • Keep forklift speeds at or below 5 miles per hour
  • Stack loads evenly and straight, with heavier loads on the bottom shelves
  • Remove items one at a time from shelves
  • Provide guardrails to keep employees from falling into open pits or vats
  • Ensure pinch points are adequately guarded
  • Beware of carbon monoxide poisoning when working around machines such as forklifts
  • Keep aisles clear and in good repair
  • Lift loads properly and assign a co-worker to help if necessary
  • Clean up any chemical spills
  • Prohibit smoking around charging stations
  • Make sure lighting is adequate
  • Reduce lifts from shoulder height or floor height by repositioning shelves