Health and safety in the retail industry must be taken very seriously, since lapses in procedures can lead to accidents and injuries for both employees and customers. Retail is the UK's largest private sector employer, contributing around £194 billion to the economy – 11% of the nation's total output.
In 2017, it generated around £406 billion in sales and employed some 4.9 million people. Due to the sector's sheer size and the diversity of the businesses, the work is varied and has a wide range of different risks – thus, it is a complex issue.
The Health and Safety Executive is the watchdog that governs the UK retail industry. The law applies to every business, regardless of its size. Every employer, or self-employed person, is responsible for the health and safety of their business and must take the relevant precautions to minimise workplace hazards.
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Consequences of a safety breach
Failing to take the appropriate precautions can lead to serious consequences for the retailer, as this is a criminal offence. A company or an individual manager who is found guilty of breaching health and safety regulations can be prosecuted by the HSE. They could face a large fine, or even a jail term, if found guilty.
Any breach can result in a fine of up to £20,000, but if the business or manager is found to have broken the law deliberately, or to have been seriously negligent, they can be hit with an unlimited fine and imprisonment.
As an alternative to prosecution, the business may be handed a notice of improvement or prohibition. An improvement notice gives the employer 21 days to improve the situation that led to the breach. A prohibition notice means the employer can be ordered to immediately cease any activity that led to the breach.
If the employer doesn't comply with the notices, then they can still be fined and prosecuted at the magistrates' court.
In the event of an employee being injured, they can claim compensation from their employer if it's proven that a healthy and safe working environment hasn't been provided.
The employer can be found negligent for breaches such as failing to provide the correct training or the appropriate safety equipment.
The HSE will deal with all such incidents, aided by local authority Environmental Health Officers. The outcome of a case for a serious health and safety lapse (particularly one that has led to a serious injury or the death of an employee) can influence the future of the company, possibly even leading to its closure.
Common workplace accidents
The most common accidents for employees and customers in the retail environment are slips, trips and falls. A massive 65% of fall-related injuries occur on same-level walking surfaces, while the retail, wholesale and service industries together account for more than 60% of such injuries.
Slipping on spills is a fairly common accident, which is why shop owners must clean up any spills immediately to avoid injuries to staff and customers.
If a member of staff has spilled something, it should be reported right away, but spills by customers are often not reported or detected. This means there can be a risk of someone slipping that nobody knows about for some time. As soon as a spill is located, it must be cleaned, mopped and marked by safety signs or cones throughout the whole process, until the area has dried.
Tripping hazards can include defective floor surfaces and carelessly discarded packaging materials and other objects left in the aisles by either an employee or customer. These present a very serious risk of tripping and falling.
Rain, ice and snow can also cause the floor of a shop to become wet and slippery. If the floor isn't cleaned properly and insufficient warning cones are deployed, this can increase the risks.
Minimising retail accidents
Managers must carry out a risk assessment of their premises and put measures in place to minimise any potential hazards. A good management system should help managers to identify problem areas, so they can decide what to do to rectify any potential safety issues.
Practical steps should be taken, including checking that all shop fittings within the establishment are in good condition and without sharp edges, loose components or any other potentially hazardous issues. Any damaged fittings should be replaced.
Employees can also play their part in preventing slips and trips. If you have an accident, always report it to your manager and if you see a spillage, either clean it up, or make arrangements for it to be cleaned up.
If you notice any broken or faulty shop fittings within your retail environment, please do not hesitate to give us a call. As a team of dedicated professionals, we have many years of experience in the shop fitting industry.