Convenience Store Compliance to Reduce Workplace Violence

Posted on by Cammie Chaumont Menéndez, PhD, MPH, MS, and Thomas Cunningham, PhD



Robbery-related homicides and assaults are the leading cause of death in retail businesses. Workers in convenience stores have a 7 times higher rate of work-related homicide than workers in other industries (2 homicides per 100,000 workers vs. 0.28 per 100,000 workers). There are disparities among the homicide victims, too. Specifically, black, Asian, and Hispanic men have disproportionately higher homicide rates than white men.  Additionally, foreign-born men have disproportionately higher homicide rates than U.S.-born men, and men 65 and older have disproportionately higher homicide rates than any other age group.[i] 



Protecting Workers

Retail establishments using Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) programs, which suggest that environments can be modified to reduce robberies, have experienced 30%–84% decreases in robberies and a 61% decrease in non-fatal injuries.[ii]

In 2008, a Houston task force convened by the mayor, chaired by a local convenience store owner, and co-chaired by the Houston Police Department instituted a city ordinance incorporating CPTED principles to reduce robberies and associated injuries by implementing mandated security measures. Dallas followed suit and passed the same ordinance. Among other actions, the ordinance requires that convenience stores: register with the police department, view a required training video, post no-trespassing signs, provide a clear view to and from the sales area, and install an alarm system.

In 2011, NIOSH conducted a study to evaluate convenience store compliance with the ordinance in each city.[iii]  Store managers in approximately 300 randomly selected convenience stores in Houston and Dallas were interviewed.  While compliance to most individual requirements was high (79% of stores reported registering with the police, conducting training and instituting a cash limit policy) overall compliance was low with only 9% of stores in full compliance with all requirements of the ordinance. For both cities compliance was lower among single owner-operator stores compared to corporate-owned or franchise stores. The differences in ordinance compliance between single owner-operator stores and franchised stores is important to note. Smaller businesses (those with fewer than 100 employees) have a disproportionately higher rate of work-related injury and illness. The higher rate of injury and illness could be due to a host of reasons, including: lack of resources, manager inexperience with work safety practices, and inaccurate perceptions about safety on the job. Regardless the reason, smaller businesses can benefit from external assistance for workplace safety and health matters.

Notice Video Surveillance label

Even without assistance from others, there are steps single owner-operator stores and others can take. Yet, some of the least complied-with measures were two approaches considered low-cost and straightforward to adopt – post signage and provide a clear view of the sales area. Posting signage such as those stating store policy limiting cash, security cameras in use, etc. had 26% compliance and only 60% of stores complied with the visibility requirement. The ordinance states: “All Convenience Stores shall maintain an unobstructed line of sight allowing a clear view of and from the cash register and sales area. Windows and doors must be clear of all items that would obstruct a clear view from three feet above the ground to at least six feet above the ground.”


Intermediaries Are Important

An important approach to increasing store compliance would likely involve direct, targeted interactions with key stakeholders, or intermediaries. This approach involves identifying influential intermediaries, such as insurance companies and chambers of commerce, who are able to communicate with store managers and workers via both formal and informal networks. These intermediaries may be key for helping to eliminate workplace violence-related injury disparities, especially in smaller businesses that tend to lack resources to support worker safety and health. They are influential for safety and health decisions because they are already in a position to provide tangible and business-friendly solutions and support, to which new or additional safety and health content can be added.

What influential intermediaries have you worked with to reduce workplace violence in a small business setting? What are some intermediaries you think might be promising to work with? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.


Cammie Chaumont Menéndez, PhD, MPH, MS, is a Research Epidemiologist in the NIOSH Division of Safety Research and the Assistant Coordinator for the Traumatic Injury Prevention Program.

Thomas Cunningham, PhD, is a behavioral scientist in the NIOSH Education and Information Division and the coordinator for the NIOSH Small Business Assistance and Outreach Program.



For more information:

Application of a model for delivering occupational safety and health to smaller businesses: Case studies from the US.

A Model for Occupational Safety and Health Intervention Diffusion to Small Businesses.

How to engage small retail businesses in workplace violence prevention: Perspectives from small businesses and influential organizations.



[i] Chaumont Menéndez et al [2013], Disparities in work-related homicide rates in selected retail industries in the United States, 2003-2008. Journal of Safety Research 44:25-29.

[ii] Casteel C, Peek-Asa C. Effectiveness of crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) in reducing robberies. Am J Prev Med 2000;18:99–115.

[iii] Chaumont Menéndez et al, Compliance to two city convenience store ordinance requirements. Inj Prev 2016; 22:117-122

Posted on by Cammie Chaumont Menéndez, PhD, MPH, MS, and Thomas Cunningham, PhD

9 comments on “Convenience Store Compliance to Reduce Workplace Violence”

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    This is great work. But I would also focus on the cities outreach, education, and enforcement of these ordinances. Also shows the need for an OSHA standard on workplace violence prevention.

    Thank you for your comment. There was concerted outreach efforts on the part of the police departments leading up to the ordinance and during the grace period until the ordinance became effective. In both cities the police departments tried to visit every convenience store in operation to educate them on the requirements.


    Re. Convenience Store Compliance To Reduce Workplace Violence:

    For security, I feel that an unobstructed view of the cashier should be

    from the ground up- not 3 feet up- as proposed.

    This way there is no place for a criminal to hide.

    Thank you for your comment. The convenience stores that were part of our research in Houston and Dallas, TX were almost all pre-existing structures before the ordinance was implemented. Therefore, it was not practical, and in many cases, not possible to have an unobstructed view of the cashier without major construction efforts to the building.

    With this said, there are other CPTED principles to reduce opportunities for perpetrators to hide that don’t involve construction efforts. For instance, store shelves for merchandise should not exceed five feet and mirrors should be placed at the top of store walls for maximum visibility.

    Interesting work on a difficult situation – small businesses may not be able to afford the amount of renovation to fully comply. Involving the city commercial building code inspectors might be an additional source of outreach.

    Thank you for the insightful comment. That is one of the reasons we focused on the signage and visibility measures being among the least compliant because they are generally the least expensive (if not free) to adopt, they are straightforward to implement, and they do not require technical skills to do. The intent of the ordinance was not to force stores to undergo major renovation to be compliant but, rather, to do what was practically feasible. The surveyors for the study were trained to evaluate visibility based on what was possible with the current convenience store structure. If a convenience store was all brick walls with a few windows and glass doors, then the windows should have been clear of advertisements.

    You have a good suggestion about raising awareness among building code inspectors for any new construction or renovation of convenience store sites, since that would be another intermediary to have implementing safety measures to reduce workplace violence.

    When I supported a large network of retail gas stations, the key to compliance was auditing and acting; the owners had to review sites on a regular basis to make sure the requirements were clear and adhered to. It took local leaders to know requirements and act upon them. The brand had to provide consequences for both strong compliance (incentives & recognition) and poor compliance (gap closure plans, reviews, financial penalties).

    Thank you for covering this important subject that involves injuries to innocent employees from many nationalities. In providing risk services from an intermediary perspective, we have over 10 years of injury data from over 4000 C-stores. Crime related injuries prove to be our most difficult obstacle in reducing the costs and pain, and unfortunate rate of fatality. We feel we have strong CPTED efforts in place although not as consistent as hoped because of the multitude of store locations (e.g. strip malls, free-standing, etc.), geography, and store configuration because of building age. Retro efforts are on-going but it’s a long process to get consistency in design.
    However, our work is now focused on the behavior of the employees during shoplifting or similar confrontations. We have countless cases where the employee leaves the counter space to confront someone and in the most dangerous of situations, leaves the store. It’s been a challenge for us to understand completely the mindset that would cause someone to chase another over a 12 pack or sandwich. Our current efforts are on training, discipline, reminders, etc. but impulse behavior in these confrontation scenarios has so far been difficult to manage. And to further challenge improvement is the franchisee situation where resources are very limited and control of risk is generally up to the individual owner. The insurance companies, trade groups and associations, with law enforcement are likely the best sources of identifying and managing the crime risk. Sorry for the length of this and I could go on, but your post has hit on key issues we are striving to address, and elevating awareness through this kind of research is a great start.

    I would like to see this Branch off in a side tangent about why adults think they can bully someone that is an employee in a customer service position and as a customer they feel they have more power than they do because “the customer is always right” so employers force employees, with the fear and threat of employer punishment if they do not allow themselves to be belittled and bullied in their place of employment.

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Page last reviewed: August 15, 2016
Page last updated: August 15, 2016