Businesses operating in the retail sector should not be discouraged by the suggestion that they will have to deal with rafts of complicated health and safety legislation, the specialist in the field Bibby Consulting & Support has said.

The company was responding to a survey by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers  that claimed shops were the third most likely location for workplace injuries after factories and building sites. The association urged retailers to get better at preventing injuries and accidents, especially to their employees. And it disagreed with Lord Young’s claim that shops were low-risk workplaces that could get by with more basic risk assessments than at present and with simplified advice and support on managing risks. Also, the shopworkers’ union USDAW claimed that by classifying shops as low-risk workplaces the government was suggesting they were places “where you don’t have to worry about health and safety legislation”.

Michael Slade, Managing Director of Bibby Consulting & Support, disagrees. He says that while the retail sector ranges from the small corner shop through the high street store taking regular deliveries to the largest outlets where fork lift trucks operate, most of the sector is not particularly high risk and can be managed with some straightforward actions and advice.

“You’ve got an unpredictable spectrum of risk in a shop, especially where members of the public are concerned,” he says, “so it would be unwise to put all of them into one risk category. Generally, retail is a lower risk sector than many others. However, whatever the risk level, retail does have the characteristic of public access – so there are implications for employees and others.”

For the vast majority of shops and stores that use Bibby Consulting & Support’s risk management services, risk assessments can be done effectively using straightforward daybooks which help to break the whole process down into manageable tasks.

The daybooks enable retailers to carry out individual checks on such factors as the status of fire exits, the availability of hazard warning equipment, or the general procedures in place for wet floors. Companies also receive all the training they need to carry out their own risk assessments. Says Michael Slade: “We do a lot in retail and we know it is not difficult to manage risk in this sector. It’s just that shop managers are usually maxed out and it isn’t every area manager’s top priority. Our approach is to get the message across to them that while the risks aren’t particularly serious they do need managing but the whole process is pretty straightforward.

“What is crucial in the retail sector is influencing or changing the behaviour of management teams. Usually we see retailers with risk assessment systems that are unsuitable and insufficient rather than too complex. We understand the sector well so we make it as easy as possible for retailers to meet their health and safety requirements.”

Slade adds: “When retailers are faced with what they perceive to be too much to do in terms of compliance, some of them reach a point where they won’t do any of it and then their business is at risk of failure. So we work with them and help them realise that by doing a little bit each day in a controlled manner ultimately everything gets done. No health and safety law will get in the way of a business if it is interpreted correctly.”

Bibby Consulting & Support

Katy Vaughan, Head of Marketing

Tel: +44 (0) 8453 100 600


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