Indiana Convenience Store Panel Fast-Tracks Alliance

Proposed by INSafe, the alliance document will be signed next month. A final report from the working group will be issued by May and will recommend best practices and standards for safety audits.

The Late Night Retail Working Group involving Indiana Labor Commissioner Lori A. Torres and leaders of three associations of late night retail stores agreed Feb. 16 to create a formal alliance between those programs and the state's INSafe program. They agreed to have the alliance document signed in March and to follow it with a final report from the group.

In that report will be recommendations for late night store safety best practices; self-regulation recommendations; recommendations for standard safety audits; and recommendations for more interaction between the Indiana Department of Labor and the late night retail industry.

Four people who were relatives or representatives of victims of late-night robberies testified during the meeting, asking for more safety measures in the stores.

"The working group has established a clear plan of action to improve worker safety and violence prevention in late night retail stores in Indiana," Torres said afterward. "This meeting added to the progress leading to anticipated major and beneficial changes in the industry. The willingness of all key partners in the industry to address these safety issues is commendable, and I am optimistic that this group effort will result in significant benefits for Indiana workers in the late night retail industry."

The working group was created by Torres and held its initial planning meeting Jan. 11 as it got to work on the issue of workplace violence in 24-hour convenience stores. The Oct. 21, 2011, shooting of Marcella Birnell, a clerk who was working alone at a Village Pantry store, was one of two recent incidents sparking the group's formation; she was critically injured. The other incident was the fatal shooting of Rebecca Hough, a clerk working alone at another Village Pantry store in November 2009, according to newspaper reports in Indianapolis.

"Hough's store had been robbed 32 times since 2000, and Birnell's had been robbed eight times since 2008. Birnell was the clerk on duty for six of those robberies," John Tuohy reported Dec. 12, 2011, in the Indianapolis Star.

The group's participating members are Commissioner Torres; Jeffry Carter, deputy commissioner of Labor for Indiana OSHA; Michelle Ellison, director of INSafe, an Indiana DOL division that offers on-site consultation and works with employers and others to ensure workplace health and safety; Scott Imus, executive director of the Indiana Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association; Grant Monahan, president of the Indiana Retail Council; Joe Lackey, president of the Indiana Grocery & Convenience Store Association, Inc.; and Sgt. Rod Russell of the Indiana State Police.

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