How to Improve the Safety of Your Retail Workers
Posted by Adam Clarke – Operations Manager
Everyone should feel safe while they’re at work. Whether they work in a cosy office or a bustling warehouse environment, employees should always be left feeling assured by the safe working practises you’ve put in place, while effective health and safety training will raise awareness of potential hazards in the workplace and what controls or standards are required to be used.
For those working in retail, however, it seems as though this level of safety and security is often hard to come by. According to the latest figures from the British Retail Crime Survey—conducted by the British Retail Consortium, —115 shop workers are subject to violence at work.
The survey found that 80% of retailers have seen an increase in violence in the last year, while the growing use of knives is certainly providing cause for concern. Perhaps even more concerning, however, is the discovery that these attacks are becoming increasingly violent, with only 20% of businesses satisfied with the resulting police response.
When you consider the other common safety risks in retail, such as slips and trips or lone working risks, employers have an increasing awareness of their responsibility to improve the safety and wellbeing of their shop workers and keep them better protected. Here are some suggestions on how:
Identify the Biggest Dangers
The retail sector has always been full of potential risks and hazards. For example, the manual handling involved with stock management can often result in minor injuries but significant lost time, while the responsibility of locking up at night can make workers a target for criminals. For those working at night, dealing with expensive goods or carrying large amounts of cash, these risks can become greatly exacerbated.
After all, the latest Home Office figures show that the number of shoplifting offences rose by 25% between 2013 and 2017 and the trend continues, and it’s usually employees who find themselves in the way of potential thieves and threatening customers. If you hope to improve the safety of these workers, then you’ll need to identify the biggest risks and then take steps to better control them through risk assessment and health and safety arrangements at a strategic and then local level. At a strategic level a clear violence and conflict management policy statement which is communicated to managers and employees helps set the ‘Tone from the Top’ and provides a level of confidence for all employees. Posting the statement in the store helps customers understand the organisation’s position. Local assessments help ensure that day to day arrangements such as cashing-up and working alone are clearly defined for employees safety.
According to the same British Retail Crime Survey, last year retailers spent an eye-watering £1.9 billion on crime prevention and losses, amounting to around 20% of the total profits made by the retail sector in that period. However, with shoplifting rates continuing to rise, many of these costs are completely unavoidable, since modern businesses simply have to invest heavily in security. What employers need to balance off is a willing and untrained employee who want to ‘have a go’ but put themselves at unacceptable risks.
Besides, just under half of the above figure was a result of retail crime and so, with the proper security measures in place, you could actually stand to save significant amounts of money in the long-run but it is a balance. More importantly, tightening security might also help to keep your employees much safer and protect their wellbeing, since thieves and shoplifters will typically be deterred by the sight of a CCTV camera, physical security or a Security Industry Authority (SIA) guard.
Of course, the measures you decide to implement will ultimately depend on what the shop or outlet sells and the amount of risk involved. If you’re selling expensive jewellery or desirable technology good, for example, then you may want to look into controlled secure access, goods in secured display cabinets, removing goods on show, shutters, panic buttons and intricate alarm systems, while sellers of less valuable goods may assess these features wouldn’t be necessary unless experience and an assessment of risk shows otherwise. Either way, improving your store’s security is an effective way of keeping your employees much better protected as well as the goods they are selling.
Although you might be fully aware of the risks and dangers involved with working in your shop or outlet, that doesn’t necessarily mean your employees know how to identify those same hazards or understand the expected behaviour or the organisation’s policy, arrangements and controls. Through comprehensive, relevant and approved employee training, however, you can make all employees how to spot the signs of danger in the workplace, as well as showing them how to manage better control situations and reduce risks.
If you’re serious about improving their safety and wellbeing, you need to make absolutely certain that all managers and employees are familiar with emergency arrangements, how to put the store into lockdown if required, deal with the escalation in threat, how to call on local support and contact the authorities for assistance. In the event of an attempted robbery, it’s essential that employees understand local procedures and have had good conflict management skills through training since this could help them defuse any potentially violent or escalating situations.
Our online IOSH approved Conflict Management course is designed to teach employees how to manage, cope and de-escalate situations, as well as providing them with a thorough understanding of how to recognise violence, harassment and bullying in the workplace. Sign up your shop workers today to make sure they have the skills required to stay safe, or contact a member of our team to learn more about our other IOSH Approved health and safety courses developed by charted practitioners who understand what you need to meet your legal obligations.