Health & Safety & Fire Safety For Retail Stores

Heath & Safety In Retailing

In the UK, the retail sector is a major source of flexible and local employment, providing an extensive variety of full and part time roles for approximately 3 million people. While employers in every industry are required to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees under government legislation and regulations, the retail industry, and indeed each individual retail outlet, has its own specific risks that need to be evaluated and managed.

The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 is the primary statute covering occupational health & safety in the UK. The act outlines the responsibilities of an employer in doing everything ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’ to protect employees and members of the public on their premises. Although it is impossible to foresee and prevent accidents beyond your control, most risks can be eliminated through ongoing assessment of a workplace environment, with practical steps taken to manage and eliminate dangerous behaviours and conditions.

In 2016/2017 the combined wholesale, retail, MVR and food trade sectors incurred 12 fatal injuries, representing 7% of total fatal workplace injuries reported across the UK. In comparison to many other industries, serious workplace health and safety risks within retail are considered low. Yet nothing can downplay the tragedy of every workplace fatality, further intensified if the causes could have been prevented.

Despite retail remaining a generally safe industry to work in, non-fatal injuries and accidents in retail stores are still regularly recorded, most commonly as a result of slips, trips and falls. As stores are frequented by employees, suppliers, customers and the general public, workplace accidents can have severe or expensive consequences for retailers. The higher the number of outlets owned by a retailer, the greater the risk and responsibility involved in health and safety management.

Retail Health & Safety & Fire Safety Guide

The Cost Of Workplace Injury

In 2017 a total of 31.2 million working days were lost because of work-related illnesses and workplace injury in the UK. In addition to the inconvenience and financial cost of lost productivity, workplace injury can cause a variety of complications, including:

  • Low morale amongst employees
  • Time consuming and costly HR management
  • Insurance claims
  • Higher insurance costs
  • Investigation
  • Penalties or prosecution for non-compliance
The Cost Of Workplace Injury

In today’s compensation culture, the popular saying ‘where there’s a blame, there’s a claim’ has significant implications. If an employee or a customer is involved in an accident in a supermarket, shop or store that wasn’t their fault they could make a claim for compensation under The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. No win no fee solicitors will tenaciously pursue the maximum accident compensation they can achieve for their clients.

The most common types of insurance claim against retailers are for injuries caused by slipping on wet floors, manual handling accidents, falling objects and accidents involving moving vehicles in store car parks. The widespread use of camera phones now makes it easy for the cause or circumstances of an accident to be recorded at the scene and used as evidence.

Health & Safety Protects Everyone

Health and safety legislation exists to protect everyone. Taking responsible steps to minimise workplace risks leads to safer, happier and more productive employees and an improved working environment. Health and safety management for retailers needn’t be complicated or expensive to implement. The correct information, advice, preparation and processes are all that’s needed to understand and comply with your legal obligations as a retail employer.

Health & Safety Protects Everyon

Employer Obligations

The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 outlines the duties every employer must perform to meet government guidelines and Approved Codes of Practice regarding employee health, safety and welfare. Under the Act all employers must comply with the following requirements:

  • Provide a safe place of work
  • Provide safe equipment and machinery
  • Provide adequate workplace facilities for staff welfare
  • Promote competent people to help you with your health and safety duties
  • Perform risk assessments (this should be an ongoing process)
  • Create a health and safety policy for your business if you employ five or more staff members
  • Take reasonable action to manage risks (insufficient funding is not an acceptable reason not to eliminate known risks)
  • Consult your staff, discussing health and safety relating to the work they do and how their behaviour can control risks
  • Provide clear instructions, information, supervision and adequate training for all employees
  • Establish first aid procedures, appoint a first-aider and maintain a first aid box
  • Display the health and safety law poster
  • Get employer’s liability insurance from an FCA authorised insurer

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Prevention Is Better Than Cure

In the case of health and safety it always pays to minimise risk by following sensible precautions. As retailing is not considered a high risk work environment and HSE inspections are infrequent, some retailers perform a risk assessment and fire risk assessment and argue that the risks are low enough not to warrant further consideration. However, should an injury arise as a result of a known or preventable dangerous condition, the retailer could be liable under claims of store negligence. The risks are simply not worth taking.

Employer Obligations - Prevention Is Better Than Cure

Creating A Safe & Healthy Retail Environment

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 also attract high numbers of temporary workers, such as students. Regardless of staff turnover or the number of hours worked, all employees still require the same investment in training and supervision to instil safe working practices.

Creating A Safe & Healthy Retail Environment

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
Slips, trips and common causes of accidents in retail stores


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
  • Staff should be trained how to use cleaning products safely
  • Create a simple log of cleaning activity
Cleaning product safety

Handling & Moving Stock

Injuries caused by inappropriate handling of stock are common within retailing. This is an area where providing the correct handling equipment and training are essential.

  • Create procedures for safe deliveries and collections
  • Train staff on safe lifting and handling techniques
  • Provide equipment to assist safe lifting where required and ensure this equipment is only operated by trained personnel
  • Store heavy items at the appropriate height, both in the stockroom and on display
Accidents when handling and moving stock

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
  • Train staff how to work at height safely, for example, do not overreach, never place ladders on uneven floors
Risks of working at height

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
  • Establish processes for staff to report when they feel unwell because of working conditions
Working Condition Risks

Retail Crime

The British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) 2018 Annual Retail Crime Survey has reported an increase in violence against retail staff, with 13 people injured every day in the UK. This is a sobering figure for retailers, especially in conjunction with an overall rise in incidents of retail crime, with the cost of retail crime rising to over £700 million. Retailers must consider security measures for managing retail crime and processes for protecting staff. It is vital that staff understand what to do in the event of a robbery.

  • Create a policy for dealing with retail crime
  • Implement safe cash handling and cashing up procedures
  • Ensure staff report incidences of abuse or inappropriate behaviour
  • Assess the risk to staff working in isolation
  • Consider appropriate security measures such as alarms, CCTV or security staff
  • Install a panic button
  • Train staff on how to handle confrontational customers and what to do in a robbery
Retail crime and security measures

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, 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
Guide To Health & Safety & Fire Safety For Retail Stores 11

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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, with major retail prosecutions for fire safety breaches including Asda, Poundland and B&M Retail Ltd.

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
Guide To Health & Safety & Fire Safety For Retail Stores 12

Simplifying Health & Safety Management

While health and safety management is a serious consideration, it doesn’t have to warrant a high level of expense. Once risk assessments have been carried out and procedures and checklists have been created, many of the ongoing checks can be performed easily and quickly by a store manager.

Whether you have a single retail outlet or a chain of stores, you will need to appoint competent personnel to manage your health and safety obligations. While some organisations choose to employ a health and safety officer, an alternative is to work with a specialist workplace risk management company; providing you with access to professional consultants, the latest information, technology and risk management software.

How WRM Can Help

Workplace Risk Management (WRM) are experts in risk management services and health and safety. From our offices located throughout the UK, our consultants offer a technology-based approach, using the latest tools and our custom designed online software to provide clear and concise health and safety advice and risk assessments for our clients.

Our services help clients develop and maintain safe working environments and meet legislation, while saving time and money. We could even help you reduce your insurance costs, with one of our clients recently reporting savings of £3,000 through improved health and safety management.

Why Choose Us?

At WRM, our sole interest is to protect your business and brand while covering you against false claims. As a family company with over 20 years of health and safety experience in the retail sector, we are passionate about what we do and are committed to helping our clients save time and resources.

WRM is staffed by health and safety professionals. We provide excellent support and training. When you engage the services of WRM, you will:

  • Enjoy peace of mind because we will do all the work for you
  • Be in full compliance of all health and safety standards
  • Save time and resources because we will lay everything out for you such as what you absolutely must do, what you should do, and what you could do

And that is why we make things as simple as possible because overly complex reports and systems will lead to nothing getting done.  

The WRM team can handle everything for you, including:

  • Conducting risk assessments
  • Running accident investigations
  • Conducting fire assessments
  • Compiling RIDDOR reports
  • Training tailored to each employee’s job

To make things even easier for you, we have developed a versatile software application that allows you to:

  • See all your sites, as well as subcontractors, accidents, relevant documents and what training might be necessary
  • Log accidents and incident files such as doctor’s notes, return-to-work interviews and RIDDOR reports
  • Provide different access levels to different employees
  • Break tasks down into clear actions that are easy to follow instead of a large and complicated document
  • Track the completion of different tasks
  • Use a dashboard to see any overdue items, incidents, accidents and so on
  • Record all documents, polices, procedures and risk assessments in one central location
  • See and manage any inspections that are due
  • Monitor what training is necessary and what needs to be renewed
  • Generate daily, weekly, monthly, or annual checklists to ensure you are in full compliance
  • Access a wide range of bespoke reports

As our software is modular, our clients enjoy the flexibility of simply picking and choosing the features they need. Once you start working with WRM, you will never again have to worry about being compliant with health and safety regulations. You’ll have the peace of mind you need to focus on running your business effectively, knowing you and your employees are in the best and most qualified hands possible.

Contact Us For All Your Health & Safety Needs

Thank you for downloading our guide. If you would like to know more about health and safety and fire safety in retailing, please get in contact.

We would be pleased to provide you with a free 45 minute assessment, where we will come to your premises and assess your current health & safety and fire safety set-up. This will identify any areas of non-compliance, improve processes and advise you on any areas you would like further clarification on for your store.

To find out more, please get in touch with one of our friendly, knowledgeable team today. We look forward to assisting you.