7 Steps for Managing Hazards as Stores Re-Open

7 steps for managing hazards as stores re-open

Re-opening shuttered stores promises to renew the life of our communities, but for owners and managers it brings a fresh set of health and safety challenges. “How do we keep customers and employees safe from COVID-19 while providing access to goods and services — and gainful employment,” says WSPS Senior Account Manager Jack Minacs.

To give businesses a head start on re-opening safely, WSPS has devised a business resumption checklist. With the retail sector in mind, Jack highlights some of the steps captured in the checklist.

    1. Assemble a business resumption team and chain of command so that decisions are made and implemented by multiple people having different functions and responsibilities.


    1. Identify and assess contamination and infection hazards, and use the results to create a plan for preventing and controlling infection. Involve the joint health and safety committee(s) or worker health and safety representatives, and include how you would respond to an outbreak of COVID-19 in your workplace. While personal protective equipment (PPE) may be the first control that comes to mind, keep in mind elimination, engineering and administrative controls. (See our Post-Pandemic Business Playbook for examples of pandemic related hazard controls.)


    1. Maintain an open flow of communication with customers via storefront signage and email, website, social media messages from your senior leaders so that customers understand what precautions you’re taking on their behalf and what to expect when visiting your store. “This could reduce uncertainty, build customer loyalty, and help prevent friction between customers and employees,” says Jack.


    1. Maintain an open flow of communication with employees. Let them know they’re valued, explain what you’re doing to keep them safe (e.g., cleaning guidelines, safe work practices, training, etc.), and define their role in reducing risk.


      • Manage the transition from closed to partial or full service by
        promoting online ordering and curbside pick-up, and limit the number of customers who enter at one time.


      • reviewing processes that normally require employees to work close to each other. What changes can you make to assure physical distancing while maintaining or even enhancing productivity?


      • controlling the number of employees and customers in your store.


      • staggering shifts and break times.


    1. Evaluate the controls you put in place to ensure that they’re working and not creating a new hazard — or exacerbating an existing hazard. “Make it easy to be safe, such as providing a convenient place for customers to dispose of sanitizing wipes in the parking lot,” says Jack. Review with employees what’s working and what isn’t working, and identify possible alternatives together. “Grocery stores have served as models of adaptability, applying and adjusting controls from week to week.”


  1. Protect your employees’ mental health and wellness. In addition to being a stressful time for everyone, some employees may be fearful of returning to work. WSPS has extensive mental health resources to help employers support their workers as they return to work.

This article was prepared by Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS), helping Ontario businesses improve health and safety for over 100 years. For more COVID-19 related information and guidance documents, visit wsps.ca or contact WSPS at customercare@wsps.ca.

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