Independent Retailer Health & Safety Advice from @elliswhittam #IndieRetail




A retailer was recently overheard suggesting that: “Surely health and safety in a shop is really a matter of applying some common sense? It’s not as if it is a factory with heavy machinery, is it?”


But of course the law is the law and whether you run a national chain of supermarkets or a small high street shop you still have a legal, and more importantly a moral, responsibility to ensure that health and safety measures are in place. Ellis Whittam’s Health & Safety team look at how retailers can avoid incidents in the workplace…

Health & Safety measures

The premises may only be small, the numbers of staff and customers might be relatively few, the volume of stock arriving daily might be pretty low and requiring less storage space and less handling but there is still a chance that someone might get hurt. And putting robust health and safety policies in place will help to reduce that chance and therefore lessen the risk exposure.

A small, simple retail operation should in theory be less risky than a more complex outfit and therefore the time and cost of managing a health and safety regime should be relatively low.  But even so, most independents do not have the budget to spend on a full time health and safety expert and prefer instead to outsource this support.

The Health Safety Executive (HSE) highlights seven key areas requiring the attention of retailers:

  1. Slips and trips
  2. Handling and moving stock
  3. Working at height
  4. Employees health
  5. Threat of robbery and violence
  6. Shop equipment
  7. Fire

Slips and trips are the highest cause of injury in retail, in 2005/06 there were 1012 major injuries reported to the HSE so in this blog we look at how this risk in particular can be managed.

In a retail environment, more slips happen than trips and they are mainly due to:

  • smooth cleaned floors being left wet
  • spills not cleaned up quickly and effectively
  • failing to keep the floor free from contamination

Slips and trips also account for over half of all reported injuries to members of the public and legal actions brought as a result of an injury can be extremely damaging to business, especially where the public are involved. Insurance covers only a small proportion of the costs.

There are however some simple yet effective solutions suggested by the HSE to prevent slips and trips including:

  • Cleaning – train workers in the correct use of any safety and cleaning equipment provided. Cleaning methods and equipment must be suitable for the type of surface being treated. Make sure spillages are cleaned up immediately and use barriers to show that areas may still be wet. Do cleaning when the premises are empty.
  • Lighting – should enable people to see obstructions and potentially slippery areas,so they can work and move around safely. Replace, repair or clean lights before levels become too low for safe work.
  • Floors – need to be checked for loose finishes, holes and cracks or worn mats. Take care in the choice of floor if it is likely to become wet or dusty. Ensure mats are securely fixed and do not have curling edges. Try to avoid changes in level, if you can’t, improve lighting, add high visible tread nosings (ie white/reflective edge to step). Improve visibility at slopes, provide hand rails, use floor markings.
  • Obstructions – and objects left lying around can easily go unnoticed and cause a trip. Try to keep work areas tidy and if obstructions can’t be removed, warn people using signs or barriers. Cardboard should not be used to absorb spillages as this itself presents a tripping hazard.
  • Footwear – can play an important part in preventing slips and trips. This is especially important where floors can’t be kept dry. Seek advice on shoes/boots with slip-resistant soles. Employers need to provide footwear if it is necessary to protect the workers’ safety.
  • Trailing cables – should be avoided. Position equipment to avoid cables crossing

pedestrian routes, use cable covers to securely fix to surfaces, restrict access to prevent contact. Consider use of cordless tools. Remember that contractors will also need to be managed.

  • Waste.  Keep areas clear, remove rubbish and do not allow it to build up.

Slips and trip are just one area that needs to be managed and should be included in your Health and Safety Policy which is a legally required document for any business with 5 or more employees.  It should also include your arrangements for dealing with accidents, first aid and risk assessments, which must be written down if you have 5 or more employees.

Finally, if you share services with other shops such as common delivery areas, you need to talk to them about how you’ll work together to manage risks.

This blog was provided by Ellis Whittam. They provide fixed fee health and safety advice to retail clients nationwide and the company has been recognised by the Best Companies 2012. For more information visit or call 0845 2268393. Twitter: @elliswhittam


About Clare Bailey

Clare Bailey, The Retail Champion (formerly Clare Rayner), is one of the most well-known and respected retail experts in the UK. With unrivalled knowledge in retail, high streets and consumer matters, she offers unbiased, independent content – whether engaged as a professional speaker, for broadcast media, or for a written feature. Clare is a business woman, entrepreneur and founder of several small businesses. Having been born into a family of successful business owners, it was inevitable that she’d eventually jump off the corporate treadmill and step out on her own! Today her brand portfolio includes The Retail Champion, The Retail Conference, the Future High Street Summit and the Support for Independent Retail campaign. In addition, she is co-founder of Mobaro Retail UK and a non-exec director of Beed Virtual Assistant Services. Having started her career as a fast-track store management trainee for McDonalds, she went on to work with leading retailers such as M&S, Dixons and Argos. She moved swiftly into management roles before being headhunted into senior consulting roles with global software giant SAP, and international management consulting brand, Accenture. Her corporate background in senior retail, consulting and technology roles, coupled with her experience of creating and running her own business, has enabled her to be equally capable whether consulting to global brands or micro businesses. This unique blend has not only positioned her as a leading expert in all things retail, but has enabled her to add meaningful commentary and insight to the debate around the future of the high street, and, how technology is driving fundamental change in the way consumers, and businesses, interact. Clare has become an influential voice in her field, which has resulted in her becoming a regular media contributor and sought-after conference speaker. Often seen on Good Morning Britain, BBC Breakfast, Sky News, and Chanel 5 (to name a few), Clare speaks on a myriad of retail, high street and consumer issues – but is particular adept when it comes to explaining the context behind retail trading results, newly released data, and government stats, in a palatable and informative manner. In addition to broadcast and conference speaking, Clare is the proud author of two best-selling business books published by Kogan Page - The Retail Champion: 10 Steps to Retail Success, published July 2012 and How to Sell to Retail: The Secrets of Getting Your Product to Market, published February 2013. She has provided contributions to various academic texts, including Retail Marketing Management (published by Pearson). With an engaging, conversational yet informative style, Clare writes for press and content agencies, providing features, articles, blogs and opinion pieces as well as contributions to white papers and reports. However, when the situation demands a more serious style, Clare can deliver - In 2016 she wrote an extensive report for a major insurance and risk law firm, as a retail expert witness, to support a public liability suit. She found that project particularly enjoyable as it played well to her strengths – assimilating large amounts of data and information, identifying the key points and articulating that in an understandable manner. When not on TV or speaking at conferences, Clare’s “day job” sees her supporting consumer-facing businesses through her consultancy services. When asked to describe what she most loves about retail consulting it is typically the opportunity to “dig deep”, getting “under the bonnet”, in order to leverage the business data to uncover the insights that lead to “lightbulb moments”. She also loves working on business change programmes that centre on improving the processes and systems to increase profitability by supporting more rapid, better informed decision making, improving the customer experience, or simply by become more efficient and streamlined. In this respect she considers herself a “business engineer” with a brain that works like a relational database! Due to her years of experience, her logical, objective approach, her quick, rational thinking, she is known for being able to cut through complexity, seeing right through to the crux of issues, finding creative solutions that others may have overlooked. As if all that wasn’t enough, Clare is a working mum, juggling a home life in rural Lincolnshire with her partner, their 5 kids, 4 cats, and geriatric Labrador! For all enquiries, contact Clare directly on 01727 238890 or email
This entry was posted in Independent Retailer Month - Blog-a-day for #IndieRetail and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s