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5 Ways Retailers Can Help Maintain Workplace Health and Safety for Employees

Safety measures you can put into place today to protect your employees and customers.
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Want to know how you can minimise risk in the workplace when it comes to Coronavirus? Here are some workplace and health and safety measures you can put into place today to protect your employees and customers.

This article is for educational purposes and does not constitute legal or medical advice. For specific advice applicable to your business, please contact a professional.

Employees at grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, and other essential retail operations have been amongst the many dedicated people who are at the frontlines of the current pandemic.

To protect employees and customers alike, essential businesses have implemented multiple workplace health and safety measures based on Australia’s federal regulations roadmap and COVIDSafe resources. However, requirements around protective workplace health and safety measures vary by state.

Extensive safe work practices will not only help keep your employees healthy but will also build trust between you and your most valuable asset: your customers.

Here are a few safety tips for employees you can put into place today to protect both your employees and customers now and as more and more businesses start to reopen.

Clean and sanitise everything, often

The World Health Organization says the COVID-19 virus can live on plastic and stainless steel surfaces for up to 72 hours. Which means a cleaning protocol is one of the most important health and safety procedures in the workplace that you need to be adamant about.

To prevent transferring germs, establish a rigorous cleaning protocol for customer-facing and high-touch surfaces. Clean credit card terminals, styluses, and the surrounding area after each customer. If you have the supplies, consider providing wipes to customers and giving them the opportunity to do it themselves to reduce worker exposure.

Workplace health and safety cleaning protocols should also extend to employee-only areas. Clean workstations, monitors, keyboards, touchscreens, and related equipment any time a new person uses them. Also, remember to clean shopping carts and baskets after each use. To further increase workplace safety and prevent contact with the virus, many stores are prohibiting reusable bags.

In addition to cleaning surfaces, another very important health and safety procedure in the workplace is hand washing. All employees should scrub their hands with soap and water or use hand sanitiser frequently. Give employees several short breaks to do so.

Encourage contactless payments

A recent Mastercard survey revealed that more than four in five (82 percent) Australians use tap and go to make payments every week. And 33 percent were annoyed when a store did not offer tap and go as a payment option, which indicates customers want a fast way to check out with fewer touchpoints.

With touch-free and remote payments, the credit card or device never leaves the customer’s hands. They simply tap and go. With a point-of-sale system designed with contactless payments in mind, businesses of all sizes can create a touch-free checkout environment. Payments that are contactless help increase workplace health and safety for both your employees and your customers.

Create a barrier

A part of many grocery stores’ and other businesses’ safety training plans is installing plexiglass shields between cashiers and customers. Also called sneeze guards, these clear shields can help to protect employees from virus-containing respiratory droplets while allowing face-to-face interaction.
Even though there’s a thick, clear barrier between customer and cashier, the transaction process remains as smooth as ever. A small cut-out window allows card readers to pass through, and barcode scanners can work through plexiglass

Create a buffer

Safe Work Australia recommends stores maintain 1.5 metre barriers between customers and employees to adhere to workplace health and safety guidelines. To help customers keep their distance, mark spots on the floor 1.5 metres away from cashiers. Do the same to encourage customers to stay at least 1.5 metres apart from one another in queues. Signage to remind customers to follow the 1.5 metre rule will help reinforce social distancing measures.

To make it easier for people to practice social distancing and adhere to safe work practices, limit store capacity to 50 percent. As people wait to enter, make sure they stay spaced 1.5 metres apart. Consider marking the ground with waiting areas around two metres apart to help customers maintain the right distance.

As customers enter your store, give them hand sanitiser or a wipe as they enter. Direct customers to different areas of your store as they start shopping to reduce crowding.

Depending on the nature of your business, it may make sense to forego face-to-face interactions temporarily and move to curbside pickup or delivery. If you aren’t selling online yet, you can create an online store that syncs with your inventory to help manage delivery, pickup, and shipping options.

Should you require masks for everyone?

The current advice from the Australian Government Department of Health is that ‘most people will not benefit from wearing a face (surgical) mask’. However, as an employer you can direct workers to put on coverings or masks that cover their nose and mouth (although not N95 or surgical masks, which should be reserved for healthcare workers and medical first responders). Wearing face masks and coverings may help protect employees from contracting diseases if a symptomatic customer visits your business.

If you do decide that masks are one method on how to minimise risk in the workplace, then it is your responsibility to provide masks for your employees. Review laws in your city to determine what’s required for your business.

For the foreseeable future, retailers will need to go the extra distance in regards to workplace health and safety to protect both employees and customers. Establishing strong workplace safety infection prevention protocols now is the smart thing to do for your employees and the community at large.