HEALTH AND SAFETY IN THE RETAIL INDUSTRY
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:
- Slips and trips
- Handling and moving stock
- Working at height
- Employees health
- Threat of robbery and violence
- Shop equipment
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 www.elliswhittam.com or call 0845 2268393. Twitter: @elliswhittam