A guide to risk assessments for retail businesses

07 Jul 2020

Risk assessments; we’re told they have to be done for a retail business, but what are they for, what should they include and how often do they need to be done? Here we look at the key aspects of completing risk assessments.

What is a risk assessment?

A risk assessment is the process of identifying and analysing events that could potentially happen in your business which would have a negative impact on an individual or individuals.  They usually use a sliding scale or a red, amber, green code to establish the level of risk They’ll also include a written explanation of what will be done to prevent the risk from happening, and what to do if it does happen.

Who do they protect?

As part of your duty of care, your assessment should consider any individual who may visit the premises or be affected by the activity, including yourself, staff, customers, delivery/service people etc.

By minimising risk to individuals in your business, they benefit your business by reducing the risk of financial implications attributed to workplace accidents, like fines or legal action. They also show your staff and your customers that you care about them and their needs.

As the business owner, it’s your duty to ensure these risks to those around you have been reasonably assessed and action has been taken to prevent them from happening.

Why do we need to do a risk assessment post-lockdown?

With new regulations now in place as a result of coronavirus it might be tricky to know for sure that you’ve considered them all and acted appropriately. A risk assessment that’s specific to re-opening your shop after lockdown will give you a checklist of new things you now need to consider. Things like social distancing signage, if the building will have degraded during the extended closure or avoiding spreading the virus should be considered.

If someone visits your shop and is later found to have the virus, contact tracers could be told your shop was visited. If the shop is covid-secure, that could be enough to minimise the risk of all your staff being told to self-isolate. If you are not covid-secure, you may be advised to send your staff home to be safe.

How will this help reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus?

The risk assessment should encourage you to create a plan for what to do if you come in to contact with someone suffering from coronavirus. This should extend to what to do with any contaminated products, surfaces and materials, and how to prevent spreading it to staff and others.

Do they need to be recorded?

If you have less than five employees the risk assessment doesn’t have to be written down BUT we would advise you make a record for various reasons;

  • As evidence of the risks you considered
  • As a reminder of any actions that should be taken
  • So other people can access it should they need to
  • So you can keep a track of when it was completed
  • So you know when a review is due (see section below on how often they should be carried out)
  • So you can easily make changes if something in your environment changes

For most businesses it does not have to be too complicated. The record should be as simple and straight forward as possible and should use language that everyone will be able to understand.

How do I carry out a risk assessment?

It could be as simple as making a note of the risks in your business and what you’re doing to prevent them. However, help is available should you want a template as a starting point. For example, we have one that relates to the coronavirus here. Though Bira Legal, Bira members also have access to other retail risk assessment templates too.

What are the common risks for retailers?

The most common risks for retailers in response to coronavirus, which should be covered in your risk assessment, could include:

  • Degradation of the building during lockdown
  • Lack of key staff
  • Contact with persons suffering from coronavirus
  • Staff spreading the virus to fellow employees and customers
  • Contact with contaminated surfaces
  • Contact with contaminated materials

How often do they have to be reviewed?

Risk assessments should be reviewed every three years OR when there are changes to the business. For a more specific coronavirus-related assessment you may find that changes to the wider situation, like improvements in infection rates or local/national second-spikes, may create the need for you to review your risk assessment regularly.

Click below to go to the Retail Risk Assessment (you will need to be logged in as a member of Bira)

 Download the Risk Assessment template 


Not a member? Click here to sign up for just £205!

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