Creating A Safe & Healthy Retail Environment (UK)

A retail store has numerous hazards that can lead to accident and injury if left unmanaged. Shop floors can become slippery in wet conditions, fixtures and fittings can deteriorate and stock must be replenished regularly, involving deliveries and packaging waste management.

The nature of the varied roles and flexible working hours associated with retailing and in addition the high numbers of contractors and visitors. Regardless the number of contractors and visitors, all retailers still require the same investment in training and supervision to instil safe working practices.

Risk Assessment & Risk Management

A risk assessment is a legal obligation under the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999, which were introduced to reinforce the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974. The findings of a risk assessment must be recorded if a company has five or more employees.

As every store has its own unique set-up, layout and staff members, a risk assessment must be completed for every store. If you share services or facilities with other shops, there may be additional safety factors to consider. If in doubt, a workplace risk management expert will be able to offer advice to help you get started.

Within this section we’ll cover each of the main health and safety and fire risks associated with the retail environment and offer advice on appropriate action you can take to manage each risk.

Slips & Trips

Slips and trips are the most common cause of accidents in retail stores. While human error inevitably causes some accidents, most risks can be minimised through good housekeeping.

  • Keep the shop and stock rooms tidy and free from trip hazards
  • Dispose of waste materials appropriately
  • Keep aisles free of boxes while replenishing stock
  • Keep walkways and access routes clear
  • Ensure floor surfaces, car park surfaces, steps, slopes and ramps are well maintained and in good condition
  • Use appropriate safety signage or install barriers to restrict access to unsafe areas
  • Install appropriate absorbent floor matting to stop rain water being walked into the shop
  • Keep floors clean and dry
  • Implement procedures for cleaning up and reporting breakages and spillages
  • Set up a process to advise contractors and visitors to your store to advise them consistently of any risks


As many cleaning products contain abrasive chemicals and irritants, it is essential the correct products are used for the correct purpose.

  • Cleaning products should always be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and safety precautions
  • Protective gloves and appropriate cleaning equipment should be provided
  • All cleaning materials should be stored correctly
  • Contract cleaners should be trained how to use cleaning products safely
  • Create a simple log of cleaning activity

Working At Height

To minimise the risk of falling, work should always be carried out at ground level wherever possible. This can often be achieved by improving shelving layout.

  • Provide safe and stable ladders / steps when working at a height
  • Ensure contractors have a valid working at heights accreditation before commencing work
  • Train staff and contractors how to work at height safely, for example, do not overreach, never place ladders on uneven floors

Working Conditions

Retailing often requires employees to work in hot or cold environments, such as freezers or in-store bakeries. While there is no law specifying minimum and maximum working temperatures, employers must keep the temperature at a comfortable level and provide clean and fresh air. This is essential for maximising health and well-being and workplace productivity.

  • Consulting with staff allows concerns regarding working conditions to be addressed
  • Safety equipment should be provided, such as gloves and appropriate clothing
  • Contractors must have the appropriate equipment to complete the work safely
  • Establish processes for staff to report when they feel unwell because of working conditions

Shop Equipment

All equipment used by employees to perform their jobs should be kept in a safe, working condition. Equipment covers a wide scope from automatic doors, escalators and elevators, to chillers, shelving, portable electrical equipment and back office computers and till systems. All equipment will need to be accounted for in your risk assessment, considering staff, contractors, visitors and customers.

  • Evaluate and manage the risks of electrical injury from equipment
  • Evaluate and manage the risks of injury from moving parts
  • Consider the risk of injury from broken or jagged fixtures
  • Consider the likelihood of merchandise falling from shelves
  • Remove defective equipment from use
  • Repair or replace defective equipment
  • Check all new equipment prior to use
  • Ensure staff are trained how to use equipment safely
  • Perform regular visual safety checks
  • Organise electrical safety checks

Fire Safety for Retailers

As an employer you must complete a separate fire risk assessment and assign a ‘Responsible Person’ to take appropriate action to prevent fires and protect building users in the event of a fire.

According to the British Independent Retailers Association, the most common cause of fire in shops and retail premises is arson, however, while the risks are respectively low, it is essential not to neglect the importance of fire safety. The law comes down heavily on retailers found in non-compliance.

By performing fire risk assessments, retailers can implement a simple, practical fire safety management system that minimises both the risk of fire occurring and the risk of damage or injury in the event of a fire. Fire safety factors to consider include:

  • Availability of sufficient designated fire exits and escape routes
  • Measures to keep fire exits and escape routes clear and accessible at all times
  • Installation of appropriate fire alarms and regular fire alarm testing
  • Provision of safety training for all employees
  • Evacuation procedures, regular fire drills and analysis of fire drills
  • Storage of combustible waste
  • Location of flammable stock, such as clothing, paints, fireworks, matches and lighter fluid

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