The High Street is Evolving: Manage Your Liability Risks

Posted 14/12/21

The British high street has been evolving for some time. Pre-pandemic, consumer behaviour was already changing, resulting in a shift towards online shopping. Although the full impact of the pandemic is yet to be seen, figures recorded by Local Data Company show 17,532 closures in 2020. It also reported 7,665 store openings; this resulted in a net loss of 9,877 outlets, the worst annual decline in more than a decade.[1]

Nevertheless, with more people working from home and shopping locally, there are opportunities for retailers. On the whole, flagship, city-centre high streets and shopping centres saw a more significant decline in chain stores compared to more local markets. 

However, consumers expectations are increasing. Many now expect free delivery, access to free Wi-Fi and authenticity from high street retailers. So, for retailers that manage to retain their place on the high street, these demands put more pressure on operating costs, especially for smaller retailers.

While you're focused on responding to increasing costs, consumer expectations, and the long-term success of your business, making health and safety might not be one of your top priorities. However, failing to manage these risks can have seriously damaging consequences to you and your business.

What are Retail Health and Safety Risks? 

Compared to other sectors, retail stores are assumed to be low-risk. However, there are still many risks you need to be aware of and protect against. 

With varying size and layout of retail stores, product displays and high levels of customer footfall, accidents are likely to happen. The types of risk vary, depending on the store itself, but certain types of recurring claims are made against retail stores.

Claims generally fall into two categories:

  1. Claims received from employees such as:
  • Slips and trips.
  • Falls from height.
  • Manual handling.
  • Workplace transport.
  • Injuries caused by equipment or tools.

In the UK, it's a legal requirement to have employers liability in place if you employ staff.[2] Employers liability insurance covers your legal costs and compensation should an employee make a claim against you.

  1. Claims from customers and third parties may include:
  • Slips and trips.
  • Falls on level surfaces.
  • Being struck by equipment or tools.
  • Defective premises.
  • Water damage.

Even with the most robust risk assessments and processes in place to prevent or minimise these incidents, accidents happen. Having public liability insurance will help you protect your reputation and defend against claims from a position of strength. 

How to Prevent or Minimise These Risks

Senior Management Leadership

Following the correct health and safety processes in your business is the responsibility of everyone, but your senior management should lead by example and have ownership of reviewing procedures, updating and communicating them regularly. Document and adopt actions set out from the 'joint code' published by the HSE and IoD.[3] This sets out ways for senior management to adopt effective leadership regarding health and safety within your business. You can find advice on using this guidance on the HSE website.[4] 

Appointing Competent Staff

In The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the Government outlines that most businesses need to appoint one or more competent persons to support health and safety compliance.[5] Of course, every business is different, so the "competent" person(s) will require varied skills and experience depending on your type of business.

For some retail stores, it could be as simple as an employee having:

  • An understanding of best practice.
  • An awareness of their limitations in experience and knowledge. 
  • Undertaken relevant training.
  • A willingness and ability of when to seek and use external help and advice.

Managing Your Business’s Health and Safety

Effective organisation, planning, controls, monitoring and reviewing processes are essential to prevent and minimise accidents on your retail premises. What's expected of you will again be determined by your type of business. The HSE has outlined accepted approaches in its guide, ‘Managing for health and safety’.[6]

General Risk Assessment

If your business employs five or more people, then you are required to record risk assessments. For your business to be compliant, you need to register risks and identify the precautions you need to take to prevent them. A general risk assessment is the main foundation of health and safety management.

If you’re ever faced with having to defend a claim made against you, providing evidence of having suitable risk assessments in place will be an essential part of your defence. 

To find out more about retail insurance and risks, visit our retail web page

 

The information contained herein is based on sources we believe reliable and should be understood to be general insurance and risk management information only. The information is not intended to be taken as advice and cannot be relied upon as such.

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-56378667

[2] https://www.gov.uk/employers-liability-insurance

[3] https://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg417.pdf

[4] https://www.hse.gov.uk/leadership/smallbusinesses.htm

[5] https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1999/3242/regulation/7/made

[6] https://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/hsg65.htm

 

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