The retail sector is a significant contributor to the UK economy, generating £437 billion in sales and providing 3 million jobs in 2020. Like any other industry, retail employers have a duty of care for their employees and, due to the size and diversity of the sector, there are various security and health and safety standards that need to be complied with.
The potential risks within retail
The variety of retail organisations is vast, meaning that hazards can occur in a number of places, such as supermarkets, clothing outlets or warehouses. The most common safety risks associated with retail include:
• Slips and trips
• Manual handling
• Workplace transport/machinery
Although a slip may seem like a minor hazard, it is considered the most common with nearly 11,000 workers being seriously injured as a result of slipping in the workplace – 90% of these accidents resulted in broken bones! Manual handling is also a common cause of injury due to the large number of retail warehouses where stock needs to be manually transported. Employees require proper training in correct lifting techniques, use of handling aids and how to detect and report aches and pains.
The importance of security must also be considered in the retail sector, especially when it comes to shoplifting. London was reported to have the most incidents of shoplifting in the UK: 46,840 in 2017/18, which was equivalent to 128 incidents a day. These cases could potentially escalate to violence and intimidating behaviour. In 2016/17, 326,000 adults experienced work-related violence. Therefore, employees need to be trained in how to recognise and appropriately react in the event of a shoplifter.
Organisations have a legal responsibility to protect the health, safety and welfare of its employees under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. This duty includes all forms of work-related violence, which HSE defines as: ‘Any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work’. Tackling the risk of violence should be dealt with in the same way as dealing with any other possible causes of harm in the workplace, such as slips, trips and lifting heavy loads.
How can you maintain safety standards?
It is evident that retail employees can be exposed to a variety of risks when working within the sector, so it is vital that organisations know how to maintain a safe working culture. This can be done by appointing a Health and Safety Representative – a current employee, or someone brought in externally, who can take responsibility and manage any concerns regarding the safety of the workplace. All retailers should also conduct a full health and safety audit every quarter within their stores. Assessing and identifying risks beforehand means they can be mitigated, making the organisation more compliant and a safer environment to work in. Audits also set the standard for employees and encourage staff to act appropriately if a dangerous situation occurs.
Continual training is another essential component of maintaining safety standards in retail. In the same way that training improves employee product knowledge, it can also be leveraged to deliver security and health and safety training. A large proportion of retailers would traditionally use an LMS to host all the materials that cover the necessary training, but completing these modules is time consuming and unengaging for the learners.
The right training approach
Bite-sized learning is the best approach when delivering a large volume of training. It is evident that there is a lot to cover in the retail sector. Therefore, companies will want to ensure that the most relevant information is being disseminated down to staff. It has been found that microlearning creates 50% more engagement in the workplace, with learners being more willing to take part in training if it’s broken up into shorter lessons.
Wranx can offer this type of training by creating a variety of bite-sized health and safety modules which are tailored to each organisation’s particular focuses. For example, a luxury retailer may want to focus specifically on loss prevention and security training. By combining microlearning with Certainty Based Marking (CBM) pre and post-assessments, retail organisations can truly gauge their learners’ current knowledge levels and watch their progress grow. CBM assessments also indicates how certain employee are of the answers they are giving – the employees who are achieving the right answers with high certainty levels should be able to demonstrate this in the workplace, creating a more competent workforce.
Due to the diverse nature of the retail sector, a variety of risks are posed within the different work environments. Although some hazards may seem on a smaller scale (such as slips and trips compared to violence), they all have serious consequences for the organisation if the right procedures are not implemented. The average cost for a fall injury was found to be £500 million annually to employers. Ensuring employees are kept aware of health and safety hazards through training and assessments is the first preventative measure to take, as their knowledge should translate into their behaviour in the workplace. Further actions, such as allocating a H&S representative and conducting audits, can then be taken to maintain a high safety standard.