You may not think of your retail store as a dangerous place, but even small spillages and bad working practices can have long-lasting consequences.

According to the Labour Force Survey, 693,000 people sustained an injury at work in 2020.

Here’s why retail health and safety is important and how you can protect your staff, site visitors and customers.

Why health and safety is critical in a retail environment

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 recommends that it is the responsibility of ‘every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.’

This means that if a member of staff or customer is injured on your premises, you could be liable for a fine or even a prison sentence.

Last year, a large supermarket was fined over £73,000 when a 91-year old customer slipped in a pool of liquid, breaking his hip. There was a drainage problem in the store that the supermarket had failed to address.

If you need to claim on your public liability or employer’s liability, your insurance company may ask to see proof of the health and safety checks you have carried out. If you have nothing to show, your insurers may refuse to pay out.

Making sure your retail store is safe for everyone

The first step to ensure health and safety in your retail outlet is to carry out a risk assessment. This will allow you to identify the dangers and the steps you can take to protect staff and shoppers.

Some stores may be prone to more danger than others. For example, let’s say you are a food store with an in-store bakery. Not only is there an increased risk of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning, but staff may handle heavy bags of ingredients, which can cause back pain and injuries over time.

Here are some of the issues you may need to consider when you carry out your risk assessment:

  • Is there anything that could be a potential trip hazard?
  • How often is the store cleaned and rubbish removed?
  • Are all areas of the store well-lit?
  • Are fire escape routes clear of hazards and adequately signed?
  • Is there a fire/smoke detection system in place?
  • Do you have a fully-stocked first aid kit and staff trained in first aid procedures?
  • Do staff know how to handle heavy or irregularly shaped goods?
  • Are there handwashing facilities in place for staff?
  • Do you have personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff that need it?

The HSE has a risk assessment that will help you identify hazards in your retail outlet

If you have five or more employees, you must have a written health and safety policy in place. This will highlight the risks and what action you will take to mitigate against them.

When you have carried out your risk assessment and taken action, don’t forget to revisit it regularly. Circumstances can change, which means your health and safety guidelines need to change too.