A quick-stop guide to health and safety in your shop at Christmas

Thursday December 19, 2019

It was back in 1963 that Andy Williams sang about the most wonderful time of the year. But anyone working in retail will more than likely be singing it’s the most challenging.

Managers are faced with differing pressures all year round. With an increase in customers during the festive season comes an increase in stress. And stress can make it much harder for employees to keep a cool head. Some may even find ways to cut corners in order to meet targets. But workplace health and safety should always be at the top of every retailer’s list, not just at Christmas.

If shopping is your business, there are a number of risks your store might encounter. Today, we’ll look at those issues in more detail.

Slips, trips, and falls

Last year, a major high-street retailer was fined £337,500 after a 64-year-old customer fell through a trapdoor in one of the stores. Reports indicated the trapdoor had been left open while staff collected goods from the stockroom in the basement. The retailer paid a further £135,000 in costs for what was described as a ‘preventable’ accident. Unfortunately, this customer paid the price for their poor safety practices.

Reports like this show that even if retail hazards are sometimes considered low risk, serious accidents do still happen. Slips, trips, and falls are one of the most prevalent causes of injury, both for employees and customers.

With December weather, floors can become extra wet and slippery. Cleaning up spillages or removing clutter from aisles is essential. Even the process of cleaning can create a hazard in itself. Remember that signs only warn of the hazard. A barrier is always more effective.

A physically demanding job

Retail work often involves lifting above your head or off of the ground. Standing for prolonged periods of time is not uncommon.

A risk assessment is the first step towards managing these risks. Always check ladders are safe to use and never ever opt for a table or chair. Following the correct lifting procedures can help to avoid back pain and musculoskeletal disorders. Heavy objects should be carried with the assistance of trolleys or lifts wherever possible. Nobody wants to see your strong man impression!

Fight fire with regular risk assessments

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (and similar legislation applicable in Scotland and Northern Ireland) requires you to conduct a regular fire risk assessment. The assessment may find you need new fire alarms, sprinklers, or emergency lighting. If so, don’t delay implementation. Make sure you carry out regular fire drills at your store so that employees and regular customers know exactly what to do. But also so they know that fire safety is one of your store’s top priorities.

Violence against staff

The HSE defines work-related violence as ‘Any incident in which a person is abused, threatened, or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work’. This includes physical violence or verbal abuse and the risks should be prepared for in the same way as slips and trips or any heavy lifting.

Unlike many other workplaces, the retail environment is one where any person is free to wander in and look around. Not everyone has good intentions. A risk assessment is the answer here, and will help you create a policy that solves any problems that arise.

A white Christmas?…

It’s possible the UK won’t get snow this year. But if you do happen to work in an area that receives a visit from Jack Frost, you are free to clear the ice from the pavement outside your retail premises if you want to.

According to the government, there’s no risk of you being sued or held responsible if someone is injured. But provided you clear it carefully, you’ll be doing the street a jolly good deed.

Need help with health and safety in your shop?

For every business, maintaining the highest health and safety procedures is a challenge that occupies us all year round. Keeping people safe and avoiding prosecution are top priorities.

So whether you’ve just opened your first store or you’ve been in business for years, getting professional advice or a review will help you implement the right systems and processes to succeed. Talk to one of our health and safety experts today and discover how they can help you.

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