NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

OSHA Guidelines Pose Lawsuit Threat To Businesses

May 6, 1998

Owners of convenience stores and other late-night businesses are wary of voluntary guidelines issued last month by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The measures were suggested as a means to combating late-night retail crimes. But store owners protest that they could generate lawsuits against businesses which can't or don't put the measures into effect.

The guidelines urge employers to:

  • Improve visibility by keeping windows clear of shrubbery and signs, as well as increasing lighting, especially in parking lots.
  • Install safes and post signs indicating little cash is kept on premises, while increasing staffing during high-risk periods.
  • Shorten hours and close off portions of the store.
  • Train workers on how to deal with potentially violent situations.

Lawyers say they are already getting calls from employers worried that they could be held liable if the guidelines aren't followed. Some point out that all the steps are not backed up by research. Moreover, changes such as installing bullet-resistant glass and video cameras could be prohibitively expensive for some small businesses.

In the period 1990-92, there were 22.3 job-related deaths per 100,000 workers in retail establishments.

Source: Stephanie Armour, "Retail Anti-Crime Steps Spur Debate," USA Today, May 6, 1998.


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