(WBRE/WYOU) There is a new effort to keep retail workers safe during the holidays.
     Many people don’t realize this but some have risky jobs just so you can get the perfect gift for Christmas.
     Eyewitness News Reporter Crystal Cranmore explains what’s being done to create a safe work environment.

With the holiday shopping season in full effect, and stores *bustling* with activity.
    People say what can sometimes be a wild,  gift shopping experience is often off-set by good customer service..     

“Everyone has been nice, very welcoming, always asking if you need assistance” Said Julia Garrido who was holiday shopping on Monday.

“The places I shop, I know, that’s why I go..because I always get a hello… ” Said John Shelley

    A new effort underway to protect those employees who sometimes do back breaking jobs so you can have a good holiday.
    The U.S. Department of Labors Occupation Safety and Health Administration – or OSHA – has launched an initiative focused on protecting retail store workers this holiday.

 “We are ramping up our enforcement efforts because during the holidays a lot of those stock rooms get more crowded with extra inventory ” said Mark Stelmack, Area Director of Wilkes-Barre OSHA

    OSHA is targeting businesses who aren’t following safe procedures for storage and electrical hazards.

“One of the big things is means of egress. We find a lot of times, travel times to exits are blocked with material.” Added Stelmack.

    Putting not only employees at risk, but customers.
    Businesses could face a six-figure fine if they are found guilty.
    So why start this emphasis program now?
    Officials say they noticed a significant increase in these types of violations in recent years.
    Shoppers say they want a great deal – but would like to know the folks selling that holiday present are safe too

“I’ve worked for a big Corporation and safety is paramount.. Without workers, without them, you are nothing ” added Garrido

Here is the officials release from OSHA

WILKES BARRE, Pa. – As retailers, consumers and workers head into the hectic holiday season, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is launching an enforcement initiative focused on protecting people employed in the retail industry in the greater Wilkes Barre area.

The agency’s Regional Emphasis Program for the Retail Industry will institute a program of comprehensive safety inspections of certain retail establishments, with a focus on proper exits, material handling and storage and electrical hazards.

“Unfortunately, retail establishments – including some of the nation’s leading retailers – have a long history of leaving workers vulnerable to unnecessary hazards that can cause injuries and possibly death,” said Richard Mendelson, OSHA’s Regional Administrator in Philadelphia. “Our initiative seeks to ensure that retail employers are fulfilling their responsibilities and keeping workers safe from common, and easily correctable, hazards such as blocked exits and storing merchandise in unsafe manners. A busy season is no excuse for ignoring safety.”

Recent history shows OSHA inspections often reveal retail industry workers facing significant injury risks related to improper storage of materials, obstruction of exit routes and electrical and fire hazards. The agency has cited widely known chains repeatedly for these hazards as well as the risk of slips, trips and falls; amputations and boxes stacked perilously in storerooms. OSHA has levied more than $1M in total fines to employers in the retail store industry across the nation.

Since 2013, inspectors in the Philadelphia region have conducted 313 inspections of retail establishments, with 191 of the inspections resulting in citations. The emphasis program will cover each of the counties that fall under the jurisdiction of the Wilkes-Barre area office, including: Bradford, Carbon, Clinton, Columbia, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Lycoming, Monroe, Montour, Northumberland, Pike, Potter, Schuylkill, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Union, Wayne and Wyoming.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

For more information on the Retail REP, OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency’s Wilkes Barre Area Office at 570-826-6538 or visit http://www.osha.gov.