The retail sector is the largest private sector in the UK, employing more than 2.9 million people in 2018 and with a total sales value of £381 billion. Retail roles and organisations are extremely varied, with some workers operating in huge chains like Tesco, or sole traders operating from small shopfronts. It’s easy to forget that many of those working in retail often work alone.
Lone workers in retail often handle desirable goods and cash, putting them at risk of theft and assault. Additionally, working with the public in any capacity, as retail staff do for much of their day carries with it the potential for incident. It’s important to remember that on large sites, workers are often alone for prolonged periods of time, classifying them as lone workers under worker union Unison’s definition: “a worker whose activities involve a large percentage of their working time operating in situations without the benefit of interaction with other workers or without supervision.”
Risks can include:
Physical and verbal aggression from customers and other members of the public.
Accident and injury, slips, trips and falls
Handling of heavy materials, whether on shop floors, in warehouses, or during delivery
Danger of theft or intrusion on retail sites, particularly out-of-hours
Attacks to personal and company property
It’s easy to assume that retail workers are always with others but this is often not the case - consider how managers often open up or close down alone, or how staff might be out of sight and mind of others on a large site. Organisations have a duty of care for all their staff, and a responsibility to identify and safeguard their lone workers.
In fixed retail locations, employers also have a responsibility to deter acts of theft, aggression or violence from the public and create a working environment that is conducive to keeping lone workers safe on the job.
Failure to adequately protect lone working retail employees either on or off your premises can result in severe penalties. Beyond the moral cost of an accident or incident of theft or violence, large fines, damage to your reputation and even criminal charges can result from a failure to uphold these responsibilities.
With such a varied assortment of lone working roles and working locations, retail organisations need a practical, thorough approach to employee safeguarding. Be sure to provide a lone working policy that staff across your organisation have access to. Everyone from warehouse workers to sales staff need to understand their rights, liabilities, and have a set of best practices and rules to follow.
Conduct training to help prepare lone workers across your retail organisation for the risks and difficulties they might face while working alone, particularly when interacting with the public. Giving lone workers the tools they need to defuse situations and be situationally aware is integral in promoting good health and safety practice.
Finally, consider putting in place a solution to simply and intelligently monitor, safeguard and empower all your lone working staff - whether they are working alone in the warehouse or in a small concession - to do their best work safely.
Robust management tools
Safepoint helps you meet health and safety requirements and legally safeguard your retail organisation for the future. Manage your lone workers simply and effectively, and make informed safety decisions in real-time.
Smart, effective protection
Safepoint offers smart protection for lone workers. Your employees can request help in case of emergency and the app alerts Guardians in the event a task duration expires. Your lone workers are safeguarded wherever they are.
Visibility and real-time updates
Safepoint shares vital safety information including GPS location, battery life and signal strength, instantly keeping Guardians and lone workers updated. Data is only shared during an active task so lone worker privacy is maintained.
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