Retail store

Slips, trips and falls, lifting and carrying heavy loads, and standing for long periods of time are just some of the ways that retail workers can be injured at work.

What are the risks?

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA), every business has a responsibility to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers, and that others are not put at risk by the work of the business (for example, customers, visitors, children and young people, or the general public).

First, you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk.

The following are examples of only some of the health and safety risks for people in the retail sector. We also provide general guidance on how to manage your work health and safety risks.

Shop floor clutter, uneven floor surfaces and poor lighting can put workers and customers at risk of slip, trip or fall injuries.

How are workers and others harmed?

When someone falls as a result of a slip or trip, the injury can range from minor (bruises and scrapes) to more serious, including broken bones or head trauma. The severity of the injury will depend on the circumstances.

Examples of how injuries can be caused include:

  • slippery floors from water or other liquids
  • trailing cables
  • movable clothes racks or stools
  • products falling from shelves onto the floor
  • uneven or damaged flooring.

What can you do?

First you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk.

Here are some examples:

  • Keep the store tidy – housekeeping is really important in preventing slips, trips and falls.
  • Clean up spills promptly.
  • Use matting at the shop entrance to prevent customers slipping on wet tiles on a rainy day.
  • Design the store so that cables don’t trail or cross the floor.
  • Maintain flooring in good condition.
  • Design flooring to be non-slip.
  • Organise the store so that movable clothing racks, product displays and other store furniture does not obstruct movement.
  • Ensure merchandise is stored in an accessible and stable location to prevent it spilling or falling on to the floor.
  • Regularly maintain equipment with moving parts and trolleys, and ensure breaking mechanisms work to avoid accidents from unintentional movements.
  • Ask workers to wear non-slip comfortable shoes.

You need to select the most effective control measures that are proportionate to the risk, and appropriate to your work situation.

Lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling heavy loads can put workers at risk of serious injury.

How are workers and others harmed?

Workers are at risk of injury from lifting and carrying particularly when:

  • a load is too heavy, it’s difficult to grasp, or it’s too large
  • the physical effort is too strenuous
  • they are regularly required to bend and twist when handling heavy loads.
  • When a person reaches for items above shoulder height, their back becomes arched and their arms act as long levers. This makes the load difficult to control and significantly increases the risk of injury.

Injuries and conditions can include:

  • muscle sprains and strains
  • injuries to muscles, ligaments, intervertebral discs and other structures in the back
  • injuries to soft tissues such as nerves, ligaments and tendons in the wrists, arms, shoulders, neck or legs
  • abdominal hernias
  • chronic pain

Some of these conditions are known as repetitive strain injury (RSI), occupational overuse syndrome (OOS), cumulative trauma disorder (CTD) and work-related musculoskeletal disorder (WRMSD)

What can you do?

First you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk.

Here are some examples:

  • Keep the store tidy – housekeeping is really important in preventing slips, trips and falls.
  • Clean up spills promptly.
  • Use matting at the shop entrance to prevent customers slipping on wet tiles on a rainy day.
  • Design the store so that cables don’t trail or cross the floor.
  • Maintain flooring in good condition.
  • Design flooring to be non-slip.
  • Organise the store so that movable clothing racks, product displays and other store furniture does not obstruct movement.
  • Ensure merchandise is stored in an accessible and stable location to prevent it spilling or falling on to the floor.
  • Regularly maintain equipment with moving parts and trolleys, and ensure breaking mechanisms work to avoid accidents from unintentional movements.
  • Ask workers to wear non-slip comfortable shoes.

You need to select the most effective control measures that are proportionate to the risk, and appropriate to your work situation.

Unwashed and unclean second-hand goods carry the risk of infection or infestation, particularly second-hand clothing or bedding.

How are workers and others harmed?

  • Bacterial organisms such as streptococci and staphylococci are very unlikely to survive on clothing or bedding in sufficient numbers or long enough to cause a health risk to the purchaser.
  • Parasites (including fungi) however, may survive for extended periods of time. While transmission of these organisms is also unlikely, some second-hand goods may result in a risk to health if they are not thoroughly cleaned before use.

While the risk to health associated with second-hand goods is very low, and thorough and hygienic cleaning is all that is generally required to minimise the risk of transmission, there may be some residual risk.

Many charitable organisations and second-hand dealers ensure that items are washed or clean before offering them for sale to the public.

What can others do?

First you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk.

Here are some examples:

  • Washing second-hand clothing and bedding in hot water (hotter than 60oC) and detergent kills these disease-causing organisms.
  • Items that cannot be washed such as toys, pillows and delicates can be dry cleaned or placed on high heat in a tumble dryer for 10 minutes.

What to look for:

  • Bed bugs, lice and their eggs and/or waste products may be evident in the seams and creases of second-hand goods (although they usually scurry away and hide when exposed to the light).
  • Examining an article will give an indication of its general cleanliness and quality but not necessarily reveal a health risk.
  • Most parasites of concern are so tiny that they cannot be seen with the naked eye. That’s why it’s important that all items are treated as potentially contaminated and washed before use.
  • Items that are grossly soiled or contaminated should be discarded.

You need to select the most effective control measures that are proportionate to the risk, and appropriate to your work situation.

Lone workers – particularly those working late night shifts – may be at increased risk of being challenged or even violent behaviour. They can also be at increased risk of injury where some work tasks are more challenging to do unaccompanied.

How are workers harmed?

Lone workers can be at greater risk of threats, verbal or physical violence. This can affect workers physically and mentally, resulting in increased stress levels, decreased emotional wellbeing, reduced coping strategies and lower work performance.

Lone workers may also be in situations where they need to use machinery, manoeuvre equipment, lift heavy loads or use hazardous substances that may be too difficult or dangerous to be carried out by one person.

Employers need to be aware of any additional health and safety risks that could arise from work being done by workers in lone / unaccompanied situations. Workers should be involved when considering the potential risks and control measures that will be put in place to control them.

What can you do?

First you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk.

Employers should understand the situations where people work alone and consider some of the following questions:

  • Is there a safe way in and out of the workplace, (for example, for a lone person working out of regular business hours where the workplace could be locked up?)
  • What is the risk of violence and/or aggression?
  • Are there any reasons why the individual might be more vulnerable than others and be particularly at risk if they work alone (for example, if they are young, pregnant, have a medical condition, are disabled, or a trainee)?
  • Does the workplace present other specific risks to the lone worker, for example handling equipment, such as portable ladders or trestles, that one person could have difficulty handling?
  • Are chemicals or hazardous substances being used that may pose a particular risk someone working alone?
  • Does the work involve lifting objects too large for one person?
  • If the lone worker’s first language is not English, are suitable arrangements in place to ensure clear communications, especially in an emergency?

You need to select the most effective control measures that are proportionate to the risk, and appropriate to your work situation.

 

Violence at work can include attempted or actual physical assault, verbal abuse, intimidation, and low-level threatening behaviour.

Violence or threats of violence can come from customers, co-workers or even a worker’s family members or acquaintances.

Lone workers can be at greater risk.

What can you do?

First you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk.

Here are some examples of things you can consider:

  • workplace layout (for example, a workplace layout must, so far as is reasonably practicable, allow people to enter, exit and move about without risks to health and safety – both under normal working conditions and in an emergency)
  • workplace policies and procedures (for example, how to deal with customers including what unacceptable behaviour is and what to do about it)
  • what to do in an emergency (for example, you must also provide adequate first aid equipment/facilities and access to first aiders)
  • training, (for example, you must provide your workers with the training/supervision they need to work safely, such as procedures for working safely)
  • other security measures:
    • Panic buttons/duress alarms to seek help and alert other workers to potential danger.
    • CCTV with warning signs.
    • Signs that set out clear expectations of the behaviour of customers (for example, no bad language, no verbal abuse, no physical intimidation) and the consequences of bad behaviour.

You need to select the most effective control measures that are proportionate to the risk, and appropriate to your work situation. You should also have effective ways to investigate and deal with violence when it does occur.

For more information, see violence at work.