As lockdown restrictions start to lift – albeit at different rates across the UK – there is continuing updated advice coming out of the UK Government and devolved administrations about how to work safely.
In England, updated advice to businesses has been released to help businesses get back to work and protect their staff. This includes information for shops – and this new guidance relates to all shops including essential retailers which have been open throughout the lockdown.
What all the new guidance documents are doing is helping businesses to put safety first – for staff and customers/clients by assessing risk to minimise potential transmission. All the guides require businesses to carry out a risk assessment and this means pet shops and other pet businesses which have remained open to support them also need to ensure they have done this.
Firstly, don’t panic. The guidance states this is not about creating lots of paperwork and red tape. If you are self employed or employ less than 5 people you don’t need to write it down. And you’ve probably already done it! If you have been operating with a particular policy on how your shop is running eg restrictions on customers, cleaning regimes, handwashing, one way systems, screens at the counter etc – then you’ve assessed the risk within your shop and acted upon it, you just probably haven’t called it a ‘risk assessment’.
However, we would urge you to either read this guidance yourself or delegate a member of staff so that if there is any new advice you can incorporate it into what you do. Then you can download this certificate to display in your shop which confirms you have assessed the risk in your premises. You should start to see these going up in shops around you and it’s all about trying to build confidence in returning customers.
As other shops open from 15 June you may experience greater numbers of shoppers visiting your premises so it is worth reviewing what you are doing and making sure everything is as sharp and up to date as it can be. We’d suggest you have a fresh look at all your signs, your website and social media to make sure what you are telling customers is up to date.
You might need to think about whether you will have more ‘browsers’ in your shops and what happens if they handle goods and rethink your returns policy to accommodate this. If you have a clear policy about this then that’s good but the guidance does give this information about what to do with ‘handled’ goods.
5.5 Handling goods, merchandise and other materials
Objective: To reduce transmission through contact with objects that come in the store.
Steps that will usually be needed:
- Encouraging increased handwashing and introducing more handwashing facilities for workers and customers or providing hand sanitiser where this is not practical.
- Limiting customer handling of merchandise, for example, through different display methods, new signage or rotation of high-touch stock.
- Putting in place picking-up and dropping-off collection points where possible, rather than passing goods hand-to-hand.
- Staggering collection times for customers collecting items, with a queuing system in place to ensure a safe distance of 2m.
- Setting up ‘no contact’ return procedures where customers take return goods to a designated area.
- Encouraging contactless refunds, where possible.
- Storing items that have been returned, donated, brought in for repair or extensively handled, for example tried on shoes or clothes, in a container or separate room for 72 hours, or cleaning such items with usual cleaning products, before displaying them on the shop floor. Materials used for cleaning can be disposed of normally.
- Providing guidance to how workers can safely assist customers with handling large item purchases.
- Considering placing protective coverings on large items that may require customer testing or use, for example, furniture, beds or seats. Ensuring frequent cleaning of these coverings between uses, using usual cleaning products.
- Cleaning touchpoints after each customer use or handover. For some examples, such as rental equipment, and test drive and rental vehicles, interior and exterior touchpoints should be considered.
The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy did run a webinar to go over the new guidance and you can view it here.
While non-essential shops remain closed in Scotland the devolved administration has launched guidance to help them start planning for when they can open. As in England we suggest Scottish pet businesses that have remained open review what is being advised, particularly around the risk assessment. You will no doubt already have done this work to be operating at the moment but guidance is constantly changing so it’s a good idea to refresh your thinking, particularly as that could mean more visitors to your shop when restrictions begin to lift. Find the guidance for Scotland here.