With regional governments across the UK beginning to lift restrictions allowing 'non-essential' retailers to re-open, what health and safety factors should retailers be considering, especially during the pandemic?

Social distancing requirements are widely understood by the public and most retailers have well established systems in place. Careful consideration should be given however, to whether a retailer's system will still comply with their health and safety duties, should there be a surge of 'last dash' Christmas shoppers, or Boxing Day bargain hunters.

Top things to consider:

1. Store capacity 

Retailers are likely to have already calculated the maximum number of customers that their store can accommodate at one time to ensure social distancing. Despite a spike in demand, this number cannot be increased unless changes have been made in-store to accommodate more people. Retail staff must also be included in the store capacity calculations. Customers are likely to touch items as they peruse the store, without purchasing. Try to ensure that hand sanitiser is readily available at the door and throughout the store, if possible. Consider signage to remind customers to sanitise their hands regularly. 

2. Queues for store access 

Limited capacity is likely to result in customers waiting outside a store to enter. Depending on the store location, the retailer will have to consider if this is being done safely and without causing obstruction to passers-by. If it's a high street entrance, check the rules/guidance published by the local council to ensure you are not breaching their requirements. You may need permission to install barriers (even temporary ones) on the pavement. It's also worth checking with neighbouring retailers to ensure customers do not block access to their properties.

3. In-store furniture 

'Traditional' health and safety risks do not disappear during a pandemic. Accordingly, provision still needs to be made for issues such as slips and trips caused by wet floors. Often, store furniture such as rails or display stands can present a forgotten hazard, particularly if they have recently been moved to accommodate social distancing. Take time to check stands are secure and heavy items such as mirrors or cabinets are suitably fixed in place. Bear in mind the potential for children to try to swing on or play around such items. 

4. Demands on staff 

Finally, make sure that staff working over a busy festive period have sufficient support to allow them to work safely both physically and psychologically. This includes consideration of store and personnel security but also, if staff numbers have been reduced to comply with social distancing requirements. Have you re-considered how certain tasks such as unloading deliveries are being done, and if it can still be done safely with fewer people in store and have the relevant risk assessments been updated? Do your staff have sufficient supplies of hand sanitiser/face coverings during busy periods? If additional staff are being hired to cover the festive period, have they been fully trained, from a health and safety point of view, to be able to do their job safely? Have you considered having additional staff available in the event of an in-store staff member having to self-isolate, to avoid shortages in store? 

If you have a specific query you'd like to discuss, get in touch.


Victoria Anderson

Senior Associate