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Health and Safety in the Retail Environment

The UK retail industry employs around three million people, making it one of the country's largest industrial sectors. Health and safety legislation applies to every business (even the smallest), so if you're an employer, you're responsible for taking the appropriate precautions to reduce the risks of danger.

Remember that as well as providing a safe working environment for employees, you must also provide safety for customers and visitors who enter your premises, including volunteers, contractors and members of the public. Guidance provided by the Health and Safety Executive states employers must take "all reasonably practicable" steps to protect against risks that are "reasonably foreseeable".

The key to retail health and safety is regular risk assessments aimed at identifying all workplace risks, enabling employers to put the required safety measures in place to eliminate or mitigate them as much as possible. Although most people wouldn't consider working in a shop or going shopping to be a dangerous activity, it's surprising how many accidents occur in a retail environment. The most common accidents leading to injuries involve trips, slips and falls.

Slipping on spills is common and shopkeepers must clean up spills as soon as possible to avoid injury to employees or customers. While an area is being cleaned, safety cones or signs must be erected to alert shoppers and staff and these must be left in place until the floor has dried sufficiently to prevent it from being a hazard.

Trip hazards leading to falls include packaging materials and other objects carelessly abandoned in the aisles by staff/customers and flooring defects. Another common retail injury is caused by falling items from poorly-stacked display units or shelves. The weather can also lead to slipping hazards when it's raining, snowing or icy outside - the shop floor can end up like a skating rink, particularly if it has an unsuitable surface, if it isn't cleaned properly or if it doesn't display the relevant warning signs. Other accidents can include trips in the car park over potholes or debris.

The Health and Safety Executive's guidelines to carrying out satisfactory risk assessments advise employers to identify hazards and ascertain how they might harm people. They should then evaluate the risks and decide which individuals or groups of people are most at risk and then remove the hazard. The risk assessment must be reviewed and updated regularly.

By law, businesses with more than five employees must keep a record of the procedure but it's good practice for any business to keep a written record of significant findings, as this provides evidence of risk assessments should any future investigations be required in the event of a health and safety breach.

Employers are advised to involve employees in the risk assessments so everyone understands and feels part of the process. The HSE has developed an online risk assessment tool aimed specifically at shops. It takes around 20 minutes to complete and enables employers to produce a bespoke assessment by considering the hazards and establishing how to control them.

All retail businesses must immediately notify the local authority of any fatalities at work or of certain injuries, diseases and even near misses involving staff. In all cases, the initial alert must be followed by a report within 10 days. If retailers fail to comply with the health and safety regulations, they will be committing a criminal offence.

Although fire safety isn't directly included within the main health and safety laws, it's important that a retail employer takes reasonable steps to reduce the risks of fire and to ensure that employees and customers can escape safely should an outbreak occur.

All retail premises must be insured against liability for injuries or diseases sustained by staff in the workplace. Currently, public liability insurance isn't mandatory but it is useful as it will cover the costs of legal action or compensation claims by customers who have suffered injury or illness while in the retail environment. A retailer might be liable for damages if it can be proven that a reasonable duty of care is owed to an injured party and that this duty of care has been breached through negligence. A claim may succeed if it can be proven the retailer has failed to take the reasonable care required by law.

With slips and trips being a major cause of accidents in a retail environment, Coruba's rubber matting products are invaluable. To enhance health and safety for staff and customers alike, one of the best places to put rubber mats is in the entrance to the shop, where the floor may become slippery on a wet day.

Coruba Rubber Matting

Rubber matting is also commonly used in environments that experience high footfall or in supermarkets with a prevalent use of trolleys. Staff who are on their feet all day, particularly those who may be standing at a cash desk for long hours, can soon experience tired joints. Rubber mats can provide a more comfortable standing experience for employees.

For a safer, more productive retail environment, please contact us for further information and guidance on our range of rubber matting products.

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