The Top 5 Health and Safety risks in retail

The Top 5 Health and Safety risks in retail Safety Forward

Hazards exist in every workplace, and with the retail industry employing over three million people in the UK alone, a safe and secure workplace environment for all retail employees is imperative. Although retail is a relatively low risk environment in comparison to some industries, there are some prevalent top 5 health and safety risks which need to be addressed to keep employees and customers safe, and to know how to prevent accidents or injuries.

Working at height

Working at a height is a common occurrence in retail as jobs often include moving and storing goods, often using ladders to assist with these tasks. Falling from a height can cause serious injury and retailers need to ensure that they’ve trained their employees in safe-ladder use. Ladders need to be checked for defects, the area they’re deployed in must be free of obstacles or unsafe surfaces, and they need to be securely positioned. In some cases, a colleague’s assistance will be required.

Slips, trips and falls

Slips, trips and falls account for about a fifth of all reported accidents in the retail sector, largely due to the high volume of footfall and also of particular relevance to retailers who stock large quantities of liquid, such as supermarkets. Hazards can also include wet or polished floors, food or liquid spills, worn or frayed carpets or uneven flooring.

Once the potential risks have been identified which may contribute to a slip, trip and fall, assess the risks and establish what is the likelihood and consequence of the slip, trip and fall occurring. It’s then time to implement control measures to eliminate, or if unable, then reduce the risk as much as reasonably practicable.

Manual handling

In the retail industry, manual handling tasks may include packing and unpacking stock, stacking shelves, taking cartons on and off pallets, hanging up clothing on racks, moving mobile racks, moving trolleys and cleaning floors and shelves. Most injuries in the retail industry result from manual handling activities and strain injuries occur through sudden overexertion or continuous overuse. Back injuries can result in some of the most serious types of strain and too much strain on your back can lead to long- term damage.  Musculoskeletal injuries affecting upper limbs, neck and lower limbs are more commonly reported injuries resulting in long term damage.

Employers must assess manual handling risk and control manual handling activities ensuring they provide instruction and training for manual handling tasks.


The most common fire hazards in a retail store are electrical wiring and outlets, lighting, gas lines, and potentially flammable products including chemicals, paper and boxes. Other risks include lightning, vandalism and arson. To reduce fire hazards employer’s should:-

  • Have designated fire exits and escape routes with clear signage
  • Keep fire exits clear at all times
  • Install fire alarms and emergency lighting and test them regularly
  • Provide fire safety training for all staff, ensuring they are aware of evacuation procedures and the location of fire-fighting equipment and assembly point
  • Install fire extinguishers and check them monthly – make sure they are within easy reach
  • Inspect and maintain sprinkler systems


Workplace transport and machinery

The main transport and machinery hazard within the retail sector will usually be in warehouses and factories where goods will be unloaded and moved around. Vehicles, machines and handling equipment should be capable of safely performing properly planned work activities and they should be inspected daily, and faults should be repaired promptly. Also check that drivers of lift trucks and loaders are protected from falling objects and that loads are stable and secure within retail storage facilities.  Any employee operating workplace transport must be adequately trained in their operation.

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