A popular route into setting up a business nowadays is to start out online. It makes sense. Online retail is great for startups: no overheads or rent costs, relatively cheap setup and your customers can take a look at your stock 24 hours a day. If things don’t work out, then you haven’t lost all too much. But as your business grows and expands, you might like to consider setting up a real life tangible shop. A store gives your business the benefit of interacting directly with your customers. Great customer service increases customer loyalty. It also allows your brand to reach out to an audience who aren’t online. There are so many things to bear in mind when starting up a physical business. Health and safety don’t usually come top of the list of people’s priorities, but it’s such an imperative part of physical business that you just can’t allow it to be swept under the carpet.
Why is Health and Safety Important?
Health and safety should always take priority. It’s of the utmost importance. Regardless of the workplace environment, there are bound to be hazards. These pose the risk of accidents which can cause problems with an individual’s health or serious injury. Whether that person is you, a staff member or a customer, it needs to be avoided. You need to be personally and socially responsible.
Health and Safety Management System
Every business should have a health and safety management system in place. Everyone working for the business should be fully aware of it: always give a debriefing to any members of staff before they are in the workplace. If you employ more than five people, you’ll have to put your system onto paper in a written health and safety policy statement. Employ a competent legal aid to help you draw this up.
“Risk” is the significant probability that an accident will occur. You have to assess the potential risks in your workplace and draw up an assessment of them. This is a legal requirement. The main point is to ensure that everyone in the workplace is aware of potential risks.
Risk control involves training employees to prevent accidents and deal with accidents if they are to happen. Remember that all incidents must be reported, so have a book handy for staff to note down anything dangerous that occurs in the store. Make sure that there’s a first aid kit in easy reach and that everyone knows where it is stored.You must also take out employers’ liability insurance.
Creating a safe retail space
So, how do you go about creating a safe retail space? This might all sound like a lot of hassle, but it is all worth it. Most of the work will take place when you open up your business. Here are some key things to bear in mind.
Every single store is at risk of fire hazards. From electrical faults to improper storage of cleaning products: risks lie everywhere. To ensure that you are prepared for any first that may arise, you must have fire extinguishers in store and train your employees in how to use them, should they need to. You should also schedule regular fire drills and fire inspections to verify that all staff are briefed on fire procedures and your equipment is working correctly.
Certain stores prefer low lighting to create a certain atmosphere. But reduced lighting, unsurprisingly, results in more accidents. Customers are more likely to collide with displays and one another. There is also the increased risk of staff not noticing spills on the floor, which could cause somebody to slip and injure themselves. If possible, use bright lighting. Both in your store front and back in the stock rooms.
Not all stores have windows to air the space out. Think of stores located in malls or other large retail spaces. If your store doesn’t have windows, make sure that you have a good quality air ventilation system in place. This will prevent the growth of mould and bacteria in your retail space.
Photo: Mike Mozart
Temporary Hazard Signs
Make sure that your store has temporary hazard signs that can be put out. The most important of these is a wet floor sign. If there has been a spill, it will need to be cleaned up. But one of these signs should be placed in the wet area to warn customers of the safety risk until the floor is completely dry.
Photo: Jonathan Rolande
Every retail space will have fittings to display stock. This could be rails, shelves, table tops or any number of display units. It is important to check that these remain in good condition. As time goes on, you may find that wood splinters, shelves become loose, and display units develop sharp corners. When installing colored fittings in your store, try to ensure that they are powder coated. This means that the coloring won’t transfer onto your stock and customers. For more information, contact companies such as http://www.reliantfinishingsystems.com/.
Remember that a whole range of people will be visiting your store. Including babies, toddlers, and children. Take a look at your retail space from different perspectives to ensure that there aren’t any underlying hazards that you have overlooked. Scour your store from top to bottom. Put up warning signs for low ceilings where the tall may bump their heads. Make sure there aren’t any exposed wires at ground level.
Chances are that at some point your staff are going to have to do some form of lifting or manual handling. This can be something as simple as moving a box in a storeroom. It sounds simple enough, but weeks of work have been missed from employees pulling muscles in their back while shifting stock. Train your staff in how to properly lift and move items. If you will need particularly heavy items moved, make sure that the proper equipment is in place and that everybody understands how to operate it.