The retail sector in the UK and Ireland employs over 3 million people and is worth a staggering £348 billion. The typical hazards associated with a retail environment are often thought to be low risk, but accidents remain common and can inflict significant extra costs on a business.
Retailers are expected to protect anyone who enters their premises from harm, by removing or controlling risks to employees, volunteers, contractors or members of the public.
Any employer has to ensure the health and safety of employees while they are at work, and of any third parties affected by their business, which includes visitors to a retail unit such as members of the public, volunteers and contractors, by taking all "reasonably practicable" steps to guard against any "reasonably foreseeable" risks. Regular and carefully considered risk assessments are needed to identify these risks and allow employers to put the necessary measures in place to eliminate them – or mitigate them as far as possible.
Some of the major risks facing retail are:
Slips, Trips and Falls
A slip injury often doesn't sound very dramatic, but some result in months or years of pain, restricted movement and loss of earnings. In one case reported on the HSE website, a woman had her leg amputated following complications that set in after a fall on a wet floor.
Around 11,000 workers were seriously injured as a result of a slip or a trip last year, making it the single most common cause of major injury. In 2007/2008, handling, lifting or carrying accounted for 38% of reported injuries to workers. Slips and trips accounted for 27% - HSE
Manual handling can seem like all we have the common sense to know how to avoid trouble but this is just not true. Manual handling injuries accounted for one third of all reported injuries in 2010. In 2013 an estimated 909,000 working days were lost due to handling injuries in the UK and the latest 3 year averaged estimates from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) showed an estimated 54 000 reportable handling injuries resulted in more than three days’ absence from work. During 2014 and 2015 there was an estimated 2.1 million working days were lost due to handling injuries and slips & trips in the UK.
As in all industries this seems to be an obvious place to be mindful and it definitely is. During 2013/2014 16 workers suffered a fatal workplace vehicle injury. This was around an eighth of the total number of fatal injuries to workers (RIDDOR). The type of vehicles involved in injury accidents included cars, trucks and vans – but the highest level of injuries was related to fork-lift truck accidents. There are an average of 1500 injury accidents involving fork lift trucks every year – and research suggests that a high percentage of these are due to lack of training for fork lift truck drivers or poor maintenance of the truck.
Fire is usually the most looked after hazard in retail and with good reason. In Ireland annual statistics have shown a significant 13% increase in the number of workplace fires during 2014. Fire services were called to 1,767 workplace fires in that year and 1,522 in 2013.
Lone working and violence
With no visual or auditory contact with another co-worker the dangers are many. A key component of worker safety is to watch out for one another. A rise in workers having work on their own has led to a dangerous rise in serious acts of violence against these vulnerable staff. One extreme case relating to this risk would be the murder of a Ladbrokes worker while working alone in a branch in South London.
For more information as to how Effective Software and our Risk Assessment Software module are working with customers in the retail sector to improve their health and safety management procedures, why not Contact one of our friendly product experts or even Request A Demo.