Health and Safety on the Shop Floor
Every business needs to take health and safety concerns seriously. It doesn’t matter if they are in the construction industry, where the risks are many and very serious, or in retail, where the risks are rather less obvious- accidents can and do happen anywhere and they can be very damaging to companies in any field.
Retailers have a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of their workforce, and also that of visiting customers and browsing passers-by. By law, any privately owned space into which the public is invited (such as a shop or a train station) must be kept free of safety hazards.
In the retail industry, and in offices of all kinds, some of the most common types of workplace accidents are slips, trips, and falls. Sometimes these just happen (particularly when children or less mobile people are involved) but they are often caused by trip hazards, slippery surfaces, poor views of the path ahead, or obstructed walkways and stairways.
The single most important part of preventing slips, trips, and falls is keeping floors tidy. Stray clothes hangers can cause falls and so can loose papers, boxes, or anything else lying on the floor. Make sure all electrical, phone, and internet cables run around the edges of the floor space rather than through the middle even if this means buying longer cables. Use cable guards where possible or tape long-term cables down to keep them in place and make the hazard more clearly visible. An empty clothes rail shouldn’t be allowed to get in the way. Instead, it should be dismantled and stored.
In winter, it’s also important to keep the staff and customer car parks safe and ensure that the pavement outside the shop isn’t dangerous. Retailers should keep a supply of grit or salt and a snow shovel just in case, and be prepared to post warnings to both their workforce and the public of dangers from icy or wet pavements.
Slips, trips, and falls often occur when employees are involved in manual handling tasks. A big box full of clothes hangers may not be heavy but it could be cumbersome. While carrying it, a person’s view can be obstructed and they have a much higher chance of a fall. Make sure all paths that staff may walk when carrying large items are clear before anything is moved.
Business owners also have a responsibility to make sure appropriate equipment and procedures are in place for manual handling. That might mean providing trolleys for moving heavy boxes or enforcing rules about safe ladder use. If a big clothes rail needs to be moved (for example), staff should know that they need to find a second person to help with the task.
A safe retail environment is a family-friendly working environment. By taking special care to render a space accessible for people of all ages and ability levels, retailers can help encourage more people of all kinds into their space. Health and safety shouldn’t be thought of as a simple legal requirement, but as the first step towards creating a warm and welcoming shop floor.