Convenience stores have a variety of safety and security concerns that can become serious problems for owners. From slips and falls to fraud and theft, c-stores face many risks for lost productivity and profit. It’s important for owners to take steps to mitigate these threats to prevent financial loss and reputation damage.
Recognize Slip & Fall Risks
According to the National Floor Safety Institute, slips and falls account for more than 1 million hospital emergency room visits each year and are the leading cause of worker compensation claims. In addition to the concerns for your employees’ safety, slip and fall claims can result in lost productivity and an interruption to your business. These problems are only compounded by the potential of a costly liability claim if a customer were to slip, fall and sustain an injury while at your convenience store.
While it is impossible to completely eliminate threats, there are measures you can take to safeguard your employees, customers and your store’s reputation:
- Identify the risk areas. Look to your past incident reports to see if you can track and trend incidents. This will help identify problem areas (e.g. specific departments, outside, entrances, bathrooms, etc.) and create a plan of action to minimize risks.
- Control the environment. Walk-off mats at store entrances are helpful in capturing debris and absorbing water before customers enter the store. During winter, ensure that ice is salted or removed on a consistent basis. Regularly wash and dry mats, and then use an extractor to remove excess water. Flatten out curled up edges and replace worn-out mats. Consider adding mats to any area where moisture may be present.
- Display safety signs. Make sure any slip, trip or fall threats are clearly marked. Warn customers of areas where they will need to step up or down. Make sure steps and stairs are well lit. Use wet floor signs only when the floor is actually wet — you run the risk of having these signs ignored if they are left out on a regular basis.
- Clean floors regularly. Implement a regular cleaning schedule, including removing debris or foreign objects from the floor (especially in the produce area), sweeping and mopping. Mopping should be done at non-peak times during low visitor traffic. Only spot-mop when necessary, and always use appropriate signage. Develop a sweep log to record when employees walk all the aisles to look for slip, trip and fall hazards.
Prevent Costly Cuts
Proper knife use is an important aspect of safety. Employees use knives and other cutting tools to open boxes, separate bindings from raw materials and slice food items. Unsafe knife practices can lead to serious, but thankfully preventable, injuries. Understanding where the hazards lie and how to minimize this risk will go a long way in avoiding cuts.
- Always ensure knives are sharp, since most knife injuries occur while using dull knives.
- Train employees to use the proper knife for the job, such as using an automatic retractable safety knife for cutting boxes instead of a kitchen knife.
- Employ a consistent safety policy by enforcing the use of cut-resistant gloves (for example, gloves made out of Kevlar). Keep these valuable gloves clean by wearing a latex glove, then the Kevlar glove and finally another latex glove, protecting the employees’ hands and the glove.
Increase In-Store Security
Security threats include fraud, theft, assaults and more. Fortunately, there are a number of practices convenience store owners can adopt to mitigate these perils and protect against financial hardship.
- Installing surveillance cameras helps prevent theft by both customers and employees. According to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, more than $13 billion of goods are stolen from retailers each year, with employees accounting for 42.7 percent of inventory shrinkage in retail.
- Surveillance footage is a powerful fraud deterrent. If someone were to claim they fell and were injured in your store, video footage of the event provides an unbiased, visual record that will help establish who may be at fault.
- To be most effective, install cameras throughout your store. At the very least, make sure cameras are located in high-traffic areas and parking lots.
- While you do not need to monitor video feeds constantly, keep in mind that most cameras only record a week’s worth of footage. Make sure you copy recordings to a separate storage device and properly label them so that footage can be viewed at a later date if needed.
- Alarm systems -- particularly panic alarms for robbery attempts -- increase your store’s security and can help reduce assaults on employees and customers. Clearly advertise that you have these security systems in place to help deter attempts.
Consistently Train for Threat Mitigation
Even the most detailed security and safety practices will fail if the safety policy isn’t enforced. Ensure employees are properly trained in, and understand, the expectations of your in-store security and safety precautions by reviewing them storewide on an ongoing basis.
While all of these threats can be mitigated, you can’t completely eliminate them. Look for a carrier whose team of loss control experts, association partners and agents can help ensure you have the proper practices and policies in place — right down to the smallest details — to minimize safety hazards. Your carrier should be able to demonstrate extensive experience insuring convenience stores and provide you with a custom plan to fit your needs.
Mike Rosenau, MBA, CSP, ARM, is a risk control manager at Society Insurance, a property and casualty company with niche expertise in convenience stores, grocery stores, restaurants and taverns. He manages a team of risk control representatives responsible for providing proactive safety and risk management related services to customers.
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.