March 2, 2023

NIOSH Issues Guidance on Protecting Gas Station, Convenience Store Workers from Violence

NIOSH has published a new “Workplace Solutions” document (PDF) that provides guidance for protecting workers at gasoline stations and convenience stores. Workers in the retail trade sector have higher risks of violence and homicide than workers in other industry sectors, but gas station and convenience store workers are “at increased risk of both severe and multiple incidents of violence,” the document states. In addition to the potential for physical harm, workers may experience increased stress, sleep problems, insomnia, depression, fatigue, and post-traumatic stress disorder in association with workplace violence.

Small businesses such as gas stations and convenience stores may lack resources for reducing risks of violent incidents or dealing with their effects, NIOSH explains. Stores that are open for 24 hours—particularly during the time period between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m.—may be more susceptible to robbery and violence, as well as stores that have experienced previous incidents. Vulnerable enterprises may also have limited visibility of entrances and exits, lack bullet-resistant shielding or security systems, neglect to train employees on robbery prevention, keep cash readily available, and be independently owned or operated.

NIOSH identifies types of workplace violence in addition to incidents that have to do with criminal intent, in which the perpetrator has no legitimate relationship with the business or employees. Workers may also experience violence perpetrated by customers or clients, other workers, and people with whom they have personal relationships. Active shooter events are also becoming a greater concern.

“Employers and employees should be aware that there are different responses needed for different scenarios,” the document states.

NIOSH’s document outlines recommendations for reducing the risks of workplace violence in gas station and convenience store settings. The agency examines crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED), a set of principles that use the natural and built environments as well as community involvement to reduce crime by making buildings less appealing criminal targets. “For retail buildings,” NIOSH says, “general principles of CPTED include highly visible work areas, controlling access to commonly stolen items, controlling entry of customers, and keeping a workplace well maintained.” These measures may also include the installation of a drop safe in which employees can deposit cash without being able to retrieve or access it. A study conducted by NIOSH and the University of Iowa to assess the effectiveness of CPTED guidelines for protecting convenience stores and small grocery stores in Houston, Texas, found that there was a significant reduction in robberies after the guidelines were implemented. However, the authors concluded that a comprehensive approach may be more effective than selectively applying specific measures.

NIOSH’s new “Workplace Solutions” document also provides more general guidance for preventing violence and protecting workers. These include maintaining visible, accessible, and unobstructed entrances and exits and training employees on the differing responses to both robberies and active shooter events.

The document can be accessed through NIOSH’s website.