What is this?
This action card relates to the measures retail premises must take, by law, in response to the coronavirus pandemic and in particular the emergence of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
Those directly responsible for the premises, in most instances the General Manager or the owner of the business operating from the premises, are required to take reasonable measures to minimise the risk of employees and customers being exposed to coronavirus, and spreading the virus, at their premises. With the move to Alert Level 2, this now includes taking all reasonable measures to ensure that 2m social distancing is observed on the premises (including while waiting indoors to enter the premises) and that entry is controlled and social interactions in store are limited by ensuring that no more than 6 people from different households attend as a group not counting any persons under the age of 11 or any carer of a person in the group.
As a basis for deciding what measures should be taken, the responsible person must also carry out a specific assessment of the risk posed by coronavirus to provide focus on urgent risks of exposure. The responsible person will be expected to review their risk assessment in light of the emergence of any new variant and currently this includes Omicron. Given its increased transmissibility, we would expect the implementation of additional reasonable measures.
Scope for physical distancing on premises is to an extent constrained by the size of premises; however, regardless of the size of the premises, the starting point is that consideration must be given to how customers and employees could be kept physically apart and how close face to face interaction could be prevented or minimised. The risk assessment required by the Coronavirus Regulations should establish the appropriate number of people who can be present and that information should be made available publicly, such as through clearly displayed signage.
The action card highlights risks generally associated with these venues and considers what reasonable measures could to be taken to mitigate those risks.
Risk assessed reasonable measures must, without exception, be bespoke to the premises so that local circumstances and the views of workers are reflected.
This is not an exhaustive list and other reasonable measures not referred to in the suggested reasonable measures section below may be appropriate.
Enforcement action will be taken against those retailers who are found to be in breach of their responsibilities. Businesses should be expected to justify to enforcement officers their recently updated risk assessments including the additional reasonable measures they have introduced.
The requirement to control entry can be fulfilled in different ways depending on the nature of the retail premises and on any equipment available. In larger premises it is likely to mean either having a person on the door to control entry or some automatic means of limiting the number of people who enter. In both cases however, the number of people entering must be based on an assessment of the maximum number or people who can be present on the premises while being able to maintain at least a 2 metre distance between customers and employees.
The starting point for that assessment will be the floor space, however account will need to be taken of the fact that some parts of the premises are likely to be busier than others. Ventilation will also be a factor. Those responsible are encouraged to err on the side of caution in deciding on the maximum number of customers.
Small retail premises can control entry through a combination of use of signage and monitoring by staff who are inside the premises. In the smallest premises the most appropriate system of control of entry is likely to be that only one person is allowed on the premises at the time.
Where customers can see whether somebody is present on the premises this can be controlled through the use of a sign. In other circumstances signage indicating that customers should only enter when another customer leaves should be deployed. At times where the premises is quiet this could be overridden by a member of staff indicating that the customer can enter.
Specific risks in these premises
The risks associated with retail venues will vary significantly depending on the premises, but it is still important for managers and retail business owners to appreciate that the pandemic remains far from over and that they continue to have legal duties for the purpose of minimising risks arising from coronavirus.
Although variation will exist within premises the following risks will be typical:
- crowds gathering indoors at areas such as tills and collection point and forming queues outdoors waiting to enter.
- overcrowding in small spaces and poorly ventilated part of the premises, in particular in smaller premises, in narrow aisles, in customer changing rooms, staff locker rooms and stock rooms with no access to natural ventilation.
- staff and the public, particularly the more vulnerable, feeling unsafe when shopping because of non-compliance with the legal requirement to wear a face covering, by staff, visitors and customers.
- lack of social distancing
- household interactions – in excess of 6 people from different households shopping as a group, and
- crowding when promotional activities such as sales take place.
What reasonable measures should I consider taking to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus?
While it is unlikely to be possible to mitigate the risks completely in all premises, there will be measures which are reasonable to take and therefore so must be taken. The tailored implementation of reasonable measures needs to be considered in light of the size, throughput and the offer of the retail premises. The responsible person will need to think about potential unintended consequences of applying a reasonable measure. For example, does it create a pinch point or crowding?
You should consider whether the following measures are reasonable to take. The measures you take should be informed by your assessment of the risk of coronavirus spreading at your premises and tailored to your specific circumstances. The Welsh Government has produced a standard template for coronavirus risk assessments, and there are is further information available to support you provided by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
- Take all reasonable measures to ensure 2m social distancing for employees and customers is observed across the premises except with people from the same household or in groups of up to 6 people from different households not counting any persons under the age of 11 or any carer of a person in the group.
- Introduce one way systems to assist managing flow and pinch points on premises.
- One way systems might work in some settings, but not others. Often a blend of measures will be required.
- The bespoke risk assessment will identify pragmatic solutions to ensuring social distancing is observed.
- Display signs or other visual aids like floor markings, and make regular announcements to remind people of the need to 2m social distance and to wear a face covering.
- Consider changes to the layout of premises and erecting screens and /or barriers.
- Ensure shared facilities are considered when planning social distancing measures, eg. toilets and kitchens.
Limit capacity/Prevent over-crowding
- Control the entry to the premises.
- Reduce the extent to which close physical/face to face interaction will occur, in particular by reducing the potential for crowding.
- Encourage people who shop alone or in smaller groups to limit face to face interaction.
- Ensure groups of no more than 6 people from different households attend except for children under 11 or any carer of a person in a group.
- Control entry and exit points to prevent people coming together.
- Utilise staff to manage the flow of customers to checkouts if necessary.
- Spread people evenly across the venue to avoid gatherings in disproportionate numbers in one room or space.
Wearing face coverings
- Ensure that people present – both employees and customers - comply with their legal obligation to wear a face covering.
- In larger premises, consider using security personnel at entry points to manage store numbers and monitor the wearing of face coverings. This will signal an important message to members of the public that covid remains a threat. And having trained security on the front line will remove retail workers from threat of abuse.
- Face coverings are also legally required in on-site cafes and restaurants unless someone is seated at a table eating and drinking, they must be worn at all other times.
- The use of public address system announcements and clear signage as a reminder of the reasonable measures that have to be taken.
Keep your premises clean
- Thorough and regular cleaning using disinfectant in high footfall areas and in high contact touchpoints such as counter tops, tables and door handles.
- Placing hand sanitisers in multiple locations, particularly at entry and exit points and elsewhere at key touchpoints, and providing automated soap dispensers, water and paper towels in washrooms.
- Ensure any baskets or trolleys used by people on the premises are sanitised.
- Cleaning till points between staff using appropriate cleaning products
- Regularly wiping self-checkout touch screens/keypads – If these remain in operation. Ideally do this between each use.
Manage use of customer changing rooms
- Having a member of staff in place to monitor physical distance being maintained to ensure that customers feel assured of their safety.
- Using markings to avoid the creation of bottlenecks or adopting a one-in one-out process.
- Limiting cubicle use to one person at a time, except where customers require specific assistance.
- Leaving a gap of several minutes between customers using the cubicles.
- Improving ventilation where possible.
- Managing clothes that have been tried on to minimise contact between customers and staff.
Manage returns, exchanges and collection of Goods
- Setting up return procedures where customers take return goods to a designated area reflecting 2m social distancing requirements.
- Staggering collection times for customers collecting items, with a queuing system in place to increase distance between those queuing, and between other customers on the premises.
- Encouraging card and contactless purchases and refunds.
- Putting in place picking-up and dropping-off collection points where possible, rather than passing goods hand-to-handPutting in place picking-up and dropping-off collection points where possible, rather than passing goods hand-to-hand
Offer and encourage home deliveries
- Offering home delivery services, with doorstep-only deliveries as the default.
- If circumstances necessitate inside delivery, staff wearing face coverings and maintaining physical distancing
- Delivery drivers using hand sanitiser before each delivery
Look after your staff
- There is evidence of cluster outbreaks associated with employees therefore effective control measures and compliance is critical otherwise employee absences may have a significant impact on the business. This appears to be particularly prevalent amongst night shifts with reduced supervision.
- Employees to undertake Lateral Flow Tests prior to each shift to identify any individuals who are asymptomatic.
- Implementing systems to minimise contacts between staff. For example, stagger staff shifts, break times and deliveries; set a maximum number for kitchens, staff rooms, locker rooms and areas such as smoking shelters.
- Ensure employees wear face coverings or other PPE.
- Erecting physical barriers at till points and help desks using flexi-plastic to provide a barrier between those working on the tills and customers.
- Closing every other till point where till points are close together, including for self-checkout tills.
- Supporting members of staff that have symptoms, test positive or have been identified as a close contact by Test Trace Protect (and are not exempt by way of age) to self-isolate in accordance with the isolation periods as set out in the Coronavirus Restrictions.
- Self-isolating when a person has tested positive is required by law.
- Encourage staff to receive both doses of a Covid 19 vaccine and take up the booster vaccine
- Facilitating regular handwashing breaks
Help Test, Trace, Protect
- Understanding the role of the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect system has in monitoring and controlling the virus.
- Informing staff that anyone who is symptomatic, has tested positive, is awaiting a test result or has been asked to self-isolate must not enter your premises.
- Keeping records of staff and work patterns to support the NHS Wales TTP Service.
Covid transmission rates are increasing at an alarming rate.
You have a legal obligation to provide information to those entering or working at the premises about how to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus. This includes, in particular, information to all those present about their risk of exposure to coronavirus identified in the risk assessment and the measures to be taken to minimise this risk.
This should include clear communications to remind staff and customers of the risk assessed reasonable measures that are legally required and in that taking reasonable measures is a legal requirement, albeit informed by the risk assessment, which is also a legal requirement.
It is strongly recommended that this communication is carried out via regular audio announcements, such as public address system announcements, clear signage (e.g. signs, floor tape or paint) for limits on the number people present in a particular area or room or physical distancing markers.