Sunday, June 23, 2024

Washington Retail Association Report


Revised permanent outdoor heat exposure rules outlined by L&I

In June, the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) issued emergency rules to protect workers from outdoor heat exposure when temperatures are elevated. L&I first adopted emergency rules in 2021, but due to pandemic-related scheduling challenges, L&I had not initiated permanent rulemaking.

The 2022 emergency rule outlines many features contained in the 2021 emergency rule, including requirements for training and education, ensuring employers provide adequate water and shade at the worksite, and required 10-minute rest breaks every two hours when temperatures exceed a specific “trigger” temperature. In 2021, the emergency rule requirements were triggered when temperatures reached 100 degrees F but the 2022 emergency rules lowered the trigger temperature to 89 degrees F.

WR expressed concern to L&I with continuing to use emergency rulemaking processes rather than permanent rulemaking. Unlike emergency rules, the permanent rulemaking process requires stakeholder and public input, an economic impact analysis, and an analysis of impacts on small businesses.

In response, L&I moved forward and initiated permanent rulemaking by hosting a webinar on August 4, 2022. In the webinar, L&I outlined its initial proposal for permanent rules to protect workers from outdoor heat exposure. The proposal would lower the trigger temperature to 80 degrees F, increase required rest periods to 25 minutes/hour when temperatures exceed 100 degrees F, and add new requirements to monitor employees for acclimatization to current conditions. The rules would also be in effect year-round instead of limited to the June-September period.

WR submitted comments on the proposed rules, which detailed how retail businesses protect their workers from heat-related illness. WR also outlined concerns on lowering the trigger temperatures and how the proposed rules would impact retail employers and employees across the state, particularly in Central and Eastern Washington.

Grocers anticipate inflation

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) predicts grocery prices to increase 10-11% this year, due to inflation. July grocery prices were 1.4% higher month-over-month, and 13.1% higher than a year ago. Restaurant prices exhibited smaller increases than food purchased at grocery stores, however at approximately half the rate of grocery stores, increasing .7% in July, and 7.6% year over year.

The forecast also expects restaurant food inflation to be as high as 7.5% during the year with all food prices increasing between 8.5% and 9.5%.

Economic indicators clash on pending recession

The National Bureau of Economic Research defines a traditional recession as “a significant decline in economic activity that is spread across the economy and that lasts more than a few months.” The committee looks at the three criteria—depth, diffusion, and duration—which must be met individually to some extent. Extreme conditions in one measure can partially offset weaker indications from another.

According to the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis, gross domestic product dropped by 1.6 percent year over year in the first quarter of 2022 and another 0.6 percent in the second quarter, according to the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis. Two consecutive quarterly declines in GDP would typically define a recession. That said, gross domestic income grew 1.8 percent in the first quarter and 1.4 percent in the second quarter, which puts a confident announcement that our economy is in a recession to be a precarious statement.

“All eyes remain on the consumer, and what is happening in retail is very important,” National Retail Federation Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “While consumers have become more cautious and cooled their spending in the first half of 2022, households continue to spend and are contending with inflation by using credit cards more, saving less, and drawing on savings built up during the pandemic. Consumer stamina will be the big question going forward.”

Significant discounts coming for the holiday

In the wake of supply chain issues over the past year, many retailers are sitting on excessive inventories, and they hope to move as much of it as possible for the holiday shopping season.

In recent weeks, executives at Best Buy, Ulta, Macy’s, and other top chains have said they expect a holiday shopping season packed with discounts. Recently, Walmart released its annual top toy list and confirmed it was offering more “rollbacks” — temporary price reductions on items — than they have in previous years, including a wider variety of toys for less than $50 and $25.

Shoppers will also find discounts on clothing, televisions, beauty products, sporting goods, and other items. The glut of stockpiled inventory sitting in warehouses is driving prices down, which will likely serve to support strong retail sales numbers in the months ahead.

Making fire safety a workplace priority

When management and those who oversee safety build a relatable and progressive safety accountability structure, even if it is one piece at a time, the business is one step closer to having a safety management system in place. One of those pieces is fire safety.

Workplace fires are always possible, but businesses can prepare and reduce the opportunities of them occurring in the first place. Set time aside to train employees to identify fire hazards and practice correcting potential problems. Training should also include policies on what steps to take in an emergency.

Plan for fire safety readiness by:

• Inspecting fire alarm and smoke detector functionality

• Visually check the condition of fire extinguishers monthly and sign the tag

  • Ensure the quantity and location of extinguishers are adequate for the building size and use type

• Verify emergency exit doors are not blocked and operate correctly

• Periodically perform fire drill exercises, including all staff members and management

  • Have heating systems and electrical equipment regularly inspected for proper functionality

WR diversity statement: WR is committed to the principles of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. We strive to create a safe, welcoming environment in which these principles can thrive. We value all people regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, identity, sexual orientation, nationality, or disability, and that is the foundation of our commitment to those we serve.


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