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Continuing your business safely:

COVID-19 considerations for retail businesses

Good risk management practices in protecting your people and your business will continue to be crucial as restrictions, regulations and guidance change, with each phase of the pandemic inevitably creating new and different challenges.

Where activities are either scaled up or scaled down there can be increased risk of:

  • fire / explosion
  • machinery / plant damage or breakdown
  • injury
  • water damage
These may be caused by a variety of factors including delayed maintenance cycles, frequent start up / shut down periods, changes in procurement and human factors.
Your business operations and activities may continue to change; for example due to keeping an increased level of stock, introducing different processes or procedures, changes in shift patterns and staffing etc. Where these changes introduce new hazards or exposures, risk management measures should all be re-assessed and adapted. This may include:
  • safe systems of work / working procedures
  • training
  • cleaning / disinfection / sanitisation
  • fire and security protection systems
Reviewing your existing plans and actions will continue to be critical and provide for a safe working structure in which you can continue to operate. 
If, however, you’re unable to maintain a safe working environment, then those operations should be postponed until corrective measures can be put in place.
The following provides a checklist of key considerations to safely continue your retail operations:

Observe and enforce COVID-19 workplace restrictions in line with government regulations and guidance, including  those relevant to:

  • Travel to work;
  • Driving at work;
  • Welfare provision;
  • Cleaning, disinfection and sanitisation;
  • Social distancing;
  • Floor markings;
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE);
  • Staggered working hours and breaks;
  • Digital rather than paper use;
  • Ventilation;
  • Face coverings.

Regulation and guidance requirements vary across the UK nations. Guidance is available from:

UK Government including COVID Secure guidance, and Public Health England

Welsh Government and Public Health Wales

Scottish Government and Health Protection Scotland

Northern Ireland Government

Health and Safety Executive (HSE)

Information relating to testing and vaccinations can be found on our testing and vaccination page and further information can also be found via the above referenced government websites.

Continue to review your risk assessments and actions to ensure these remain relevant to the operation of your business and that you are taking all the appropriate measures to ensure a safe working environment (remember any employees working offsite, at home and at 3rd party premises, including those providing delivery services for example), including safe systems of work / working procedures.

Where your business operations and activities have changed, then new risk assessments should be completed and the results and consequent actions shared with your employees (including any temporary and agency personnel) , customers, other visitors, contractors and other occupants or users where premises are shared. 

The direct impact of COVID-19 and associated regulation and guidance will continue to be relevant to any decisions you make around the potential for transmission in the workplace, including those with symptoms not attending the workplace and isolating, ventilation, social distancing, enhanced cleaning, disinfection and sanitisation, hand washing and hygiene, the use of face coverings and testing.

You will also need to consider the associated impact of COVID-19 as part of your risk assessments and safe systems of work / working procedures:

  • Do you have employees out of the business or the potential for increased absenteeism that could leave you with skills and operational gaps? Do contingency plans address this issue?
  • Is there a need to upskill existing employees? If so, who does it, how do you confirm it’s been done and ensure that those upskilled are competent and understand their responsibilities?
  • Are all employees aware of safe systems of work and control measures identified through risk assessments for the tasks they are being asked to complete / or could be asked to complete?
  • Are arrangements for supervision adequate?
  • Is lone or isolated working accommodated? If it is, has an appropriate policy, risk assessments and safe systems of work been implemented, communicated and tested? Are arrangements in place for regular review? Further guidance can be found on our lone and mobile workers page.
  • Where absenteeism has the potential to increase workloads, has this been considered as part of the risk assessment process, ensuring that tasks can still be completed safely and without additional risks to the health and safety of employees or contractors for example?
  • Do risk assessments and safe systems of work consider maintenance activities in respect of your premises, machinery, plant and equipment and vehicles?
  • Machinery interventions (servicing, maintenance, setting and cleaning for example) present particular challenges, with supervision or arrangements for machinery isolation and lock-off (including guarding) often sighted to play a part in accidents and incidents. Are relevant employees and / or contractors therefore aware of all the arrangements for machinery isolation and lock-off? Further support can be found on our machinery guarding and intervention page.
  • Have emergency arrangements including response procedures been considered as part of the review process, including for example first aid and fire warden coverage? These should be periodically reviewed to verify they are up to date and ensure there is adequate coverage for assigned positions on all shifts. Further support can be found on emergency procedures

Additional support on this topic can also be found on our risk assessments and safe systems of work pages

Fire, security and COVID-19 specific precautions should continue to be reviewed, with changes implemented and / or enhancements made where necessary to maintain an appropriate level of protection.

Specific considerations may include:

  • The adequacy of fire and intruder alarm detection, CCTV coverage and guarding;
  • The adequacy of arrangements for social / physical distancing and other COVID-19 mitigation measures etc., including through work planning to avoid close working, reducing movement around the site, managing breaks and welfare provision / use (including customers), the use of vehicles and plant / machinery / equipment, customer deliveries, receiving / returning goods, careful management of site meetings and training delivery, improved signage, physical barriers (if considered appropriate), for example screens in customer service / shop till and checkout areas, and personal protective equipment provision / use.
  • IT and cyber security
  • Maintaining separate entry and exit points if possible;
  • Continuing to limit the number of customers permitted within the premises at any time;
  • Maintaining clear signage outside and inside of the premises to explain the social distancing measures that customers should follow;
  • Maintaining appropriately marked one-way systems to help with social distancing, where possible;
  • Making regular in-store announcements reminding customers of social distancing and hygiene expectations;
  • Encouraging cashless purchases;
  • A no-contact returns procedure;
  • Encouraging drivers to stay in their vehicles where this doesn’t compromise their safety and existing safe working practice (e.g. prevention of drive-aways).
  • Maintaining physical barriers / screens at till / checkout etc. areas, including appropriate cleaning, disinfection and sanitisation;
  • Continue to limit numbers using escalators and within lifts;
  • Re-stocking outside of operating hours to reduce congestion within retail  / sales areas;
  • Maintenance of suitable ventilation;
  • Keep changing room areas closed unless you can have an employee overseeing social distancing arrangements;
  • Keep children’s play areas / play equipment closed;
  • Maintain pick-up and drop-off collection points to reduce the need to pass products from hand-to-hand;
  • Continue to  restrict touch points in staff areas where practical i.e. vending machines and other canteen equipment for general employee use;
  • Maintaining procedures and safe systems of work specific to machinery interventions such as cleaning, servicing, maintenance and repair;
  • Continued support (practical and well-being) for any employees who continue to work from home.
  • Maintain careful and clear communication with suppliers specific to goods-in delivery arrangements, including timings, avoiding contact and arrangements for social distancing;
  • Scheduling goods-in deliveries to avoid the potential for overcrowding in delivery areas and interaction with customers;
  • Consider non-contact  goods-in deliveries;
  • Consider limiting those involved in loading and unloading, and where more than one person is needed, using the same pairs of people;
  • Maintain  safe working procedures for customer deliveries and / or click and collect services, where offered, with considerations relevant to online ordering, social distancing,  protective  equipment, face  coverings,  cleaning, disinfection, sanitisation (including vehicles) and hygiene remain key aspects;
  • Maintain adequate and suitable welfare facilities (including any laundry arrangements) for employees and visiting drivers, providing, for example, areas for safely changing and storing clothing and personal protective equipment.
Further support can be found on our health & safety risk assessment, safe systems of workfire risk assessmentescape of water and cyber security pages. See also external guidance provided by the HSE and Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE).

Ensure inspection, testing and maintenance procedures for your site(s), plant, machinery and equipment remain in place and up to date. Allow sufficient time in your planning to recommission and / or service plant that may have been dormant or operating at reduced capacity in line with all standard operating procedures (SOPs), manufacturer’s guidelines and established planned preventative maintenance arrangements.

Specific considerations may for example include:

  • Statutory requirements (e.g. air receivers and compressors, vehicle tail lifts, fork lift trucks etc);
  • Utility services;   
  • Machinery guarding and interventions;
  • Adequacy / safety of storage racking;
  • Loading / unloading equipment;
  • Waste management machinery, such as compactors;
  • Management of legionella related risks;
  • Emergency back-up systems and safety equipment;
  • Adequate ventilation;
  • Vehicles;
  • Providing a clean work environment;
  • Access to suitable PPE and face coverings;
  • Fire and security protection systems, including fire alarm systems, intruder alarm systems, CCTV, access control etc;
  • Ensure all protection / detection systems, including fire sprinkler / suppression systems, fire pumps, water supplies, fire alarm systems, intruder alarm systems, CCTV, access control etc., remain in service and functioning correctly.
Further support can be found in our legionella bacteria pages, equipment checklist and forklift truck pre-use checks pages and external guidance provided by the HSE.

Maintain an enhanced level of workplace cleaning, disinfection and sanitization, including customer areas. Areas for particular focus include touch points such as washing facilities, toilet flushes and seats, door handles, push plates, hand rails (stairs and escalators for example), lift buttons, keypads, trolleys and baskets used by customers, and trolleys / cages used by employees for carrying stock, IT equipment used by employees and vehicles (for deliveries for example). 

Cleaning stations at entrance and exit points and other strategic locations should be maintained, along with signage to remind customers and employees of the importance of washing hands and hygiene

Remember hand sanitisers are flammable. As well as reviewing your fire risk assessments, to keep your premises and people safe, ensure storage and use is clear of ignition sources (for example, electrical equipment, hot surfaces, smoking areas etc.) and ideally store within purpose designed flammable liquid cabinets, otherwise, steel cabinets. Further support can be found on our storage and use of flammable / explosive materials page.

Insufficient arrangements for training or gaps in knowledge are key factors contributing to accidents during the pandemic. So, continue to ensure employees have the competence and capability for the work activities to be carried out including for new processes / machinery and plant (and that you have a sufficient number of competent employees for each task), through the necessary skills, training and licensing requirements. 

This may involve the need for additional employee training programs and / or certification, instruction, information and supervision. Remember that for returning employees and / or those with new or different roles, (re)familiarization, for site and plant for example, will be a key consideration

Refer to your “return-to-work-policy” (where in place), as this will provide structure to ensuring your employees are ‘fit for work’, with mental health and well-being considered in addition to physical fitness. Mental health and well-being arising from anxiety about a return to work, or continued isolation due to working from home for example, require careful consideration. Further support can be found on our training page.

In reviewing the training arrangements and competency requirements, specific consideration should be given to the following:

Availability and responsibilities of key personnel

  • Senior managers;
  • Human Resources and Health, Safety & Environmental personnel;
  • premises / store managers;
  • Department managers / supervisors;
  • Maintenance personal;
  • Appropriately qualified technicians and plant / machinery operators;
  • Cleaning personnel (internal and externally appointed contractors);
  • First aiders;
  • Fire marshals;
  • Where relevant, secuirty personnel.

Formal induction / re-induction

  • Think about those who may have been away from the business for a period, role changes and upskilling and cross-skilling needs;
  • Include specific expectations and controls relating to COVID-19 (social distancing measures, staggered start times, cleaning and sanitisation for example) and any amendment to rules;
  • Continue to consider the specific requirements of any vulnerable workers (young persons, new and expectant mothers, any groups identified as being at risk of severe illness as a result of COVID-19);
  • Address changes in methods of work (increased or reduced home working for example) and associated expectations and challenge.    

Other training needs

  • Expired tickets, certificates and interim measures;
  • Conflict resolution / management training to address potential customer challenges in implementing COVID -19 secure measures;
  • (Re)familiarisation of the site, plant and machinery in light of employee (including any contractors) role changes and upskilling / cross-skilling. 

Training delivery

Expectations around social and physical distancing for example, are likely to continue to impact the practicalities of training delivery, including induction and toolbox talks. This should be considered as part of the risk assessment process, including available facilities, numbers that can be safely accommodated, duration, potential barriers to communication etc.

Ensure employees, customers and other partners (contractors for example) are kept informed of what’s changed or changing, your key expectations and the measures maintained or being implemented so that they remain safe and protected. Think about:

  • What needs to be communicated and when?
  • Who do you need to communicate with – the audience?
  • What’s the most effective method of communication likely to be? 
  • How do you confirm and monitor understanding?

Keep your business continuity plan under review, including supply chain resilience (stock, machinery and equipment parts and components, including software where relevant) and implement mitigation measures as appropriate, to reflect any changes to your business operation and lessons learned during the pandemic. 

Visit our business continuity page for further support.

The risk management information and guidance provided herein is not intended to be advice for any specific requirements.

Readers should seek further advice when dealing with their individual and particular situations. Allianz Insurance plc shall have no liability for any action taken as a result of and in reliance on the information contained in this document. The information contained in this document is correct at date of going to print and may be subject to change at any time.  All rights reserved