Making the retail sector COVID secure

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on many sectors of the UK economy, including the retail sector. This unprecedented time has meant that during the peak of the pandemic, two-fifths of UK retailers completely closed for business and in April alone, the sector experienced a 19% collapse in sales. For many retailers, it’s now a race against time to get back up and running, and eventually recover.
 
However, this hasn’t been the case for all businesses in the retail sector. Essential shops such as supermarkets and pharmacies have remained open throughout the pandemic and have had to quickly and sensibly adapt to the latest and ever-changing guidance about how they look after their customers and employees. The UK government and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have been clear that retailers must put measures in place to minimise the risk of catching and spreading COVID-19.
 
In this blog, we will explore the main challenges faced by UK retailers and useful hints and tips to keep in mind.

Like all employers, business owners in the retail sector have a moral and legal responsibility to minimise COVID-19 risk. Here are a few things to think about when re-opening your doors:
 
Cleaning has never been more important and it’s one of the most effective ways of controlling the spread of COVID-19. We know that retailers regularly use sub-contractors to complete their commercial cleaning regimes, however how will you manage with the increased need for more frequent cleaning? Many retailers will now look to their shop floor employees to carry out periodic cleaning throughout the working day.
 
Things to keep in mind…

  • It’s likely that your shop floor employees have limited experience of carrying out specific cleaning tasks, so they need to be trained on how to do this safely and sensibly.
  • Most cleaning substances have a hazard classification and can be dangerous to health if they’re not handled and used correctly. It’s important that you educate your staff on how to handle cleaning chemicals safely, for their own health and the health of your customers.
  • All surfaces such as shelves, tills, self-scanners, trollies, lifts and travellators are required to be cleaned periodically throughout the day. Make sure that your cleaning efforts are visible to your customers.
Managing hazardous chemicals in your business properly     

UKCA Logo For those who may not be aware, a coronavirus is a biological agent and therefore it falls under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations. Put simply, this means that as an employer, you have a legal duty to control and manage the virus as you would any other hazardous substance in your business.
 
Things to keep in mind…
  • Under the COSHH regulations, you legally must have a COSHH risk assessment in place for every hazardous substance used. This includes the coronavirus and any cleaning products. A COSHH assessment will outline how to use, handle and control the use of a substance sensibly.
  • You are likely to have a large volume of cleaning substances on your site, so storing and using them safely is important, particularly on the shop floor. Avoid mixing chemicals that you don’t know how to handle safely.
  • It’s rare that a retail business will have a dedicated health and safety person on every site.  You must make sure that you have a competent person or solution in place to manage your COSHH risk assessments and have visibility of your COSHH processes.   
Regulatory compliance and protecting your business

As a business, you are expected to demonstrate and evidence your commitment to legal compliance through your compliance processes and procedures.  
 
Things to keep in mind…
  • Don’t get confused, risk assessments and COSHH risk assessments are different documents. A risk assessment outlines your approach to minimising general COVID-19 risk but does not demonstrate how you’re managing the hazardous substances that you’re using. Hazardous substances require a COSHH risk assessment.
  • Make sure you have a consistent approach to hazardous substance management across your business, a lack of consistency often leads to increased risk.
  • The HSE have recently announced that they’re re-starting inspections. They will be looking to make sure that social distancing and COVID-19 governance is being followed properly. Make sure that you have the documenting evidence that you need, if they ever come to your workplace.

For more information about how an effective approach to COSHH management can help your business to minimise risk and comply with legislation, contact Alcumus Sypol.