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Retail Working Standards

Expert: Audrey Birkbeck

Clair asked:

Is there a minimum number of employees that are required to be on shift in a retail outlet in Ontario? For example, can an employee be required to work by him or herself? (eg. beer store, variety store, liquor store, etc.)

Audrey Birkbeck answered:

Under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), there is no minimum number of employees specifically required to be on shift in a retail outlet in Ontario.

Under the Regulations for Industrial Establishments, where retail outlets would be covered, there is no specified minimum number of workers, except for hazardous work like confined space entry or working on live electrical conductors.

Section 25(2)(h) of OHSA requires employers to take reasonable precautions for the protection of a worker based on the hazards specific to the workplace. This is particularly important for workers who may be working alone and where potential violence is a day-to-day risk associated with their work. Employers must identify the hazardous situations and factors and implement appropriate policies and procedures as part of the workplace health and safety program.

Some specific measures employers may consider, but are not limited to, include the changing of staffing levels, the provision of adequate communication systems such as alarms, video systems, panic buttons, etc., the installation of security devices such as barriers, and the provision of personal protective equipment appropriate in the circumstances.

As well, employers must provide workers with information, instruction and supervision to protect their health and safety under Section 25(2)(j) of OHSA.

The Ontario Service Safety Alliance (OSSA) is a safe workplace association, which, as a partner of the Ontario health and safety system, offers health and safety services and products to workplaces in retail and wholesale distribution, tourism and hospitality, restaurant and food services, office and related services, vehicle sales and services. OSSA can be reached toll free at 1-888-478-6772. OSSA or on the Internet at

About the author

Audrey Birkbeck is a provincial specialist in the Ministry of Labour's Industrial Health and Safety Program.

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