Is your shop or store one of those set to re-open as we move to the next phase in the easing of lockdown restrictions?
Do you wonder what safety precautions your employer should be taking? And what to expect on your return?
Many retail outlets have been operating since lockdown began, but more and more are now getting the green light to open.
We set out key considerations here. And should you have any concerns about the arrangements in place in your workplace, we can provide free and confidential advice and support via our COVID-19 Helpline: 0800 0015 022.
How is my employer going to keep me safe from COVID-19 at work?
A phonecall telling you to return to work in a day or two’s time. Is that the first contact you’ve had with your employer since being furloughed?
If so, you’re definitely not alone!
But, this is not the way it should be!
Have you been consulted about a COVID-19 Risk Assessment?
For a kick off, your employer should put in place a COVID-19 risk assessment ahead of re-opening.
A risk assessment sets out how your employer is going to operate safely, minimising any risk to you, your colleagues, your customers, and any other visitors to your premises, such as delivery drivers.
And who knows best about the risks faced when doing a job? Aye…it’s you! The people actually doing the work.
So, either you personally, or else nominated health and safety representatives, should have been spoken to when the risk assessment is being created. This process identifies areas of the workplace where hazards could occur, and then considers what measures can be taken to prevent harm.
Does a Risk Assessment need to be in writing?
The thing is, if your employer has less than five employees, they’re not legally required to commit their risk assessment to writing.
But, particularly just now, we’d suggest it’s in everyone’s best interests to have it written down. Apart from anything else, your employer needs to keep it under review.
And it’s the best way to be clear about the risk presented by the hazards that have been identified. And everyone knows the measures being taken to reduce that risk to one that is as low as is reasonably practicable.
If your employer is not committing these things to writing, you still have the right to be told about what hazards exist and what measures your employer is taking.
So, if you get the call about returning to work, ask to see the risk assessment.
If your employer refuses to show you or to tell you, show them the video below.
How can Scottish Hazards help?
And if you:
- still have difficulty getting access to the COVID-19 risk assessment,
- have concerns about what the risk assessment says, or
- worry your employer is not doing what the risk assessment says they should be doing,
…then please get in touch: 0800 0015 022 or firstname.lastname@example.org
What key areas should my employer take action in?
When you’re considering the information your employer gives you about the risk assessment, these XX areas will give you some pointers on things to think about.
1. What should be done before re-opening a retail outlet
Aside from making sure any shop or store that has been closed or partially operated is cleaned, ready to re-start, your employer should also have checked, serviced or adjusted ventilation systems.
The Health and Safety Executive has issued guidance on Air conditioning and ventilation during the coronavirus outbreak .
This notes that the risk of air conditioning spreading coronavirus (COVID-19) in the workplace is extremely low. But advice is offered depending on the type of system. For example, a recirculation feature should be turned off if you use a centralised ventilation system.
There’s also an increased legionella risk arising from re-starting certain types of air-conditioning system. And that’s also true where other water systems are being reinstated when its stagnated due to lack of use.
2. What should my employer do about cleanliness and preventing transmission via contaminated surfaces?
Steps your employer should have considered here include:
- Frequent cleaning of work areas and equipment between uses.
- Frequent cleaning of objects and surfaces that have regular touch points such as self-service check outs, trolleys, baskets, coffee machines or the numerous staff handled devices.
- Ensuring safe disposal arrangements are available and communicated.
- Clearing workspaces and removing waste from the work area at the end of each working shift.
- And if there needs to be cleaning AFTER a known or suspected case of COVID-19, specific guidance should be followed, for example, this guide to cleaning in non-healthcare settings from the UK Government.
3. What social distancing / physical distancing arrangements should my employer put in place?
A Lidl store in Greenock recently had enforcement action taken against it by environmental health officers because of concerns about lack of appropriate social / physical distancing.
So, what could your employer be doing?
There is likely to need to be a limit on the number of customers in the shop/store at one time. This should be calculated taking into account total floor space, but also any potential pinch points.
Signage and reminders to aid compliance
A one way system might be necessary, and visual markings on the floor to help aid compliance. And they should be made out of material that doesn’t cause a potential slip or trip hazard!
These should be in place for any queuing system, aswell as inside the premises. And it’s not just the customer areas of a shop or store that need to be thought about.
What about common areas such as toilets, or in staff locker rooms or kitchens?
Clear signage and tannoy announcements could be used to reinforce the need to maintain social / physical distancing.
What if social / physical distancing isn’t possible?
There will be places, like the till or check-out area, where social / physical distancing may not be possible. Your employer should there be thinking of the installation of Perspex screening between customers and staff.
The short video below contains more information about other areas your employer might want to think about.
And, again, if you have any concerns about the arrangements your employer has in place, please contact us for free and confidential advice and support: 0800 0015 022 or email@example.com
4. What steps could help to maintain good hand hygiene?
Your employer will want to think about provision of hand sanitiser. And will this be for staff only, or also for customers?
Clear use and cleaning guidelines will be needed for toilets.
And signs and posters could build awareness of good handwashing techniques. They could also be useful reminders to avoid touching the face and to cough or sneeze into a tissue which is binned safely, or the crook of an arm if a tissue is not to hand.
5. Should the fitting rooms be open?
That is a very good question, and one your employer should think about carefully.
If they are to be opened, frequent cleaning – between uses – may be necessary.
Cleaning procedures to manage clothes that have been tried on will be needed. And that could involve delaying their return to the shop floor.
Limiting and controlling contact between customers and colleagues might also be needed. For example, fitting assistance might need to be suspended.
6. What about returns that are brought back to store? Could they be a source of transmission?
Setting up “no contact” return procedures where customers take return goods to a designated area could be considered. And then keeping these separate from displayed merchandise/stock for a period of time.
Has the Scottish Government issued guidance for my employer?
They most certainly have, in the shape of the Coronavirus (COVID-19): retail sector guidance.
Of particular interest might be the Operational Guide for Retailers (COVID-19) Checklist. It sets out the actions employers of differing sizes would be expected to take.
- Small – less than 250 square metres i.e. a boutique store;
- Medium – 250 to 2500 square metres i.e a large high street store; or
- Large – more than 2500 square metres i.e. a department store or shopping centre
Work out what size your workplace is, then have a look at the checklist to see if there are any areas your employer still needs to do work on.
Where can I get more information and support?
This video contains an overview of the areas dealt with above. And we’ll regularly be posting new videos on YouTube, so please subscribe to our channel.
If you have any questions, queries or quandaries, then please, pick up the phone – 0800 0015 022 – or drop us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We’re determined to stop this pandemic at work! Helping you will help us towards achieving that!