Work and hazards in retail

The retail industry employs more people than any other industry sector in Australia - about 15% of all jobs.  It also has the highest percentage of young workers - 40% of workers are under 25 years of age. For most young people their first job is likely to be in the retail industry.

There are three main parts of the retail industry:

  • food retailing
  • personal and household goods
  • motor vehicle retailing and services.

There are many jobs that young workers can do in the retail industry. These include:

  • sales assistant
  • shelf stacker in a supermarket
  • checkout operator in a supermarket
  • apprentice in butchers or bakers
  • delivery person.

There are hazards in all industries. The most common hazards in the retail industry are:

  • Lifting and pushing - eg. handling heavy or awkward sized objects
  • Slips, trips, falls - eg. slipping on a wet surface or falling from a ladder
  • Machinery - eg. using a bread slicer or power tools
  • Occupational violence - eg. abusive customers or dealing with robbers
  • Chemicals - eg. using cleaning products or spills from chemical products
  • Bullying - eg. continual harassment by supervisors or co workers.

The chance that these hazards will result in an injury for young workers is higher when combined with risk factors such as:

  • lack of supervision
  • lack of training
  • working alone
  • working at night
  • working long days
  • undertaking repetitive tasks
  • being uninformed about their rights
  • trying to impress the boss, supervisor or co-workers.

When hazards are combined with risk factors (these are called dangerous combinations) the chance of injury, and the possible seriousness of the injury, increases.

A dangerous combination in retail - an example

Ben works at a petrol station. He takes the money from customers. Some nights he works alone. He hasn't had any training about how to deal with abusive, drunk or drug effected customers. He isn't confident enough to raise the issue of dealing with such difficult customers with his boss.

Confronted with abusive, drunk or drug effected customers, Ben's risk of injury or illness is greatly increased.

Want to know more?

Then have a look at some of the resources about the retail industry and activities in the Resource centre.