Premises Safety in the Retail Built Environment Expert Article

Retail spaces should be designed and maintained to provide safe walkways and merchandise displays that are free of unreasonable hazards. In industry, this is achieved, in part, through conformance with codes and industry standards relating to buildings and their elements, including retail and wholesale stores. 

In forensic casework, our premises safety experts are frequently engaged to investigate injuries in retail environments involving building elements, such as fixed and temporary displays, shelving, aisleways, and walkways, including floor mat placement. The experience gained through our casework supports industry-best-demonstrated practices; there are specific safety measures that, when followed appropriately, can reduce the likelihood of injury to both shoppers and employees.

Retail Environment Premises Liability Expert

Merchandise Displays Can Become Hazards

  • End Caps  - should be fully stocked to prevent customers from tripping over empty displays.
  • Floor Displays - should be at least 3’ tall to reduce tripping over them.
  • Hanging Displays - should be secured above to prevent falling and hung at a minimum height of 7’ from the finish floor to prevent customers from striking their heads.
  • Heavy Items - such as furniture and appliances should be anchored to prevent tipping during customer interactions.
  • Means of Egress - must not be objstructed by merchandise displays.
  • Aisles - should be free of any trip, slip and fall hazards.
  • Peg Hooks - should be rounded or guarded to reduce the likelihood of injury.

Falling Merchandise Can Cause Injuries

  • Items on Upper Shelves - should be secured and remain in their original packaging to prevent customer access.
  • Signage - shelving should be signed, advising customers to ask for assistance.
  • Merchandise Stability - displays should be checked for stability to identify merchandise that could fall when bumped by customers.
  • Restocking of High Shelves - should be accomplished during off-hours, or the area should be blocked to prevent customer access during stocking of high shelves.
  • Access Equipment - rolling ladders and other access equipment should be removed from retail areas when not being used by employees.

Retail Fixtures (Displays) Should Be Inspected Regularly

  • Proper Assembly - fixtures are correctly assembled.
  • Properly Anchored - displays are safely anchored to prevent falling.
  • Appropriate Signage - signage remains in place, requesting customers to ask for assistance with heavy items and merchandise on high/overhead displays.
  • Displays are Free of Sharp Edges - including broken/chipped glass or protruding fasteners.

Retail Safety Investigations

The Premises Safety Experts at Robson Forensic investigate cases involving the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of residential, institutional, and retail premises. We conduct site inspections, perform tests, and review applicable standards to learn facts and form opinions about how and why individuals were injured within the built environment.

For more information submit an inquiry or contact the author of this article.

Featured Expert

Catherine Peterman, Architecture, Construction & Premises Safety Expert

Catherine Peterman, AIA, NCARB

Architecture, Construction & Premises Safety Expert
Catherine Peterman investigates cases involving construction disputes and defects, workplace and construction site safety, premises safety, and professional architectural practice. Catherine has… read more.


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