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November 21, 2017

10 Tips for Firearms Retail Workplace Safety

By John Bocker, NSSF Security Consultant Team Member

Safety in your store goes beyond responsible firearms handling.

Firearms retailer - Workplace SafetyWhen we hear the word “safety” in the firearms world, like most people, we immediately think of safe firearms handling and keeping guns out of the reach of children. For firearms retailers though, safety is also about keeping your employees working safely and free of injuries.

As reported by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 4,836 workers were killed on the job in 2015 (3.4 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers). On average, that’s more than 93 a week or more than 13 deaths every day. Although most of these fatalities occurred in construction-related situations, more than 2,000 occurred in non-construction scenarios. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also recently stated that employer costs for all private industry worker injuries averaged $1.36 per hour worked, or 4.1 percent of total compensation. Now that may not sound like much, but when a business’ net profit for a year may only be 5 to 10 percent of revenue, every dollar counts!

While safety programs across all industries have reduced serious illnesses and injuries to 3.0 per 100 full-time workers in 2015, there is always room for improvement. But having a safe work environment — something that ultimately reduces unnecessary costs to you — does not happen casually. Management must be fully engaged in creating, planning, implementing, communicating and making sure safety programs are designed to fit their specific business and that those plans actually work. Just as important, employees must understand their role in making their workplace safer and thinking “Safety First” on a daily basis.

Ten Critical Components of an FFL Safety Management Program

Your safety management program should incorporate the following 10 key components:

  1. Management Involvement — Management must lead by example. A visible demonstration that you embrace a culture of safety is imperative to success. Provide the essential time, budget and resources to create and support a comprehensive safety program. One program, one focus, no exceptions.
  2. Prioritize Safe Firearms Handling — In an FFL environment, precautions must first be explained and taught, eliminating all assumptions and creating specific in-house firearms handling standards. Whether you allow holstered firearms on premises, have a range or perform gunsmithing onsite, you need to provide clear expectations to all employees, especially new hires, that clarify expectations and ensure the safety of all staff and customers.
  3. Clearly Communicate Your Safety Plan — Your safety plan should not be a secret! It must be published and available to all employees, typically in the employee handbook, but readily accessible regardless. Same for safety reminders that your customers must abide by when bringing into or otherwise handling firearms in your store or on your range. Reminders and changes to the plan should be timely. Many FFLs review safety standards quarterly in team meetings and request a signed acknowledgement to reinforce the importance. It’s a great idea to allow employees to contribute their suggestions to making the workplace safer.
  4. Get Everyone Involved — A safety program is likely to be more effective when employees at all levels are involved. Standardized policies should outline responsibilities and accountability for all staff members, and safety goals can become part of job descriptions and employee reviews. A safety committee or the designation of a monthly “safety sheriff” can help ensure that safety practices are understood and reinforced consistently. Positive reinforcement of safe behaviors and accident avoidance suggestions can be an effective way to help build a desired team culture.
  5. Employee Safety Training — Safety training should begin from the moment an employee is hired and result in more than just a piece of paper to sign. Incorporating safe lifting and hazard communication videos are a great place to start. Important in a firearms shop, showing the NSSF Range Safety and Etiquette Video explaining safe firearms protocols can reinforce assumed knowledge. Ongoing training is also essential to creating your safety culture.
  6. Review, Revise, Improve — A safety program should be dynamic and flexible enough to adjust to changes in the store environment. Regularly review and evaluate the risks that could affect safety, making necessary changes in a timely manner. Ensure all employees (and customers where mandated) are informed of changes to your safety policy.
  7. Create Safety Standards — Each department should set safety standards that ensure every task within that department is done correctly and safely. Recognize good safety performance and cite and correct unsafe practices.
  8. Investigate Every Incident — Experienced supervisors should conduct an accident analysis as soon as possible after an incident, determine the cause, whether carelessness or negligence were factors and what should be done to immediately correct the issue. In-house rules should require that every accident or injury, small or large, is reported to the manager on duty the moment it happens to ensure prompt response and injury management.
  9. Stock Up — Even with the best safety program in place, an employee or customer injury can still occur. Planning helps you to react promptly when an employee is injured on the job. Having first-aid kits, eye-wash stations and even an AED (automatic electronic defibrillator) stocked can make a huge difference in a time of need.
  10. Manage Every Injury — Not every employee injury mandates OSHA reporting, but severe, debilitating and fatal workplace injuries do. As a rule, any injury requiring more than a Band-Aid should be reviewed with your worker’s comp claim representative or your business insurance agent to determine your reporting responsibilities.

Taking the steps to prevent unnecessary worker’s comp insurance losses (and customer injury liability claims), productivity downtime and interruptions to your normal course of business is both smart and necessary. Need help with your safety plan? NSSF has numerous business and security resources available to its Members, including access to industry research, compliance and security consulting experts and vendor discounts. For more information, click here. Need to join NSSF? Apply here.

About the Author
John Bocker is an NSSF Security Consultant Team Member and the Managing Director at JB Group, LLC, based in Denver, Colorado. JB Group is a business security and strategy consulting organization specializing in ATF FFL compliance and protecting FFL’s against unexpected losses resulting from burglary, robbery, and internal control failures. Visit or call (720) 514-0609 for more information.

You may also be interested in: Retail Security: How Tough Is Your Store’s Glass?

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