Do you know the risks?
As an independent business owner, you have done what many have only dreamed of; you have taken the plunge and decided to set up and successfully run a business. Whether you’re selling products or providing a service, your livelihood is one of passion and hard work.
You knew the risks when you decided to go it alone and the risks that being a business owner entails, but do you know about the everyday risks that could potentially damage or destroy your business?
No, why would you? You are too busy running your business, making sure you have enough stock and that your customers or clients are happy. You may not know or have even thought about these types of risks until they happen.
“The chances of that happening are very slim”, “I highly doubt that will ever happen”, they say.
But when things do happen, the responses are usually, “What were the chances of that?” or “I didn’t see that coming!”
At The Retail Mutual, we want you to know the risks so that you can be one step ahead in protecting your business. Rather than getting specific and identifying every single risk that could occur within your premises. To help, we have pulled together the top 10 risks that can cause more than financial stress and worry.
Based on data from our claims team, here are the top ten risks that could impact your business:
- Slips and trips
- Water damage
- Manual handling
- Stock storage and handling
- Faulty electrics
- Workplace hazards
- Viruses, germs, and sickness
- Poor or low maintenance
1 – Slips and trips
Somebody slipping up or tripping over while they are on your premises is one of the most common causes of an injury or accident. We have all lost our footing or found ourselves off-balance, then the next thing we know, we have gone flying and landed on the floor. But if the cause of a slip or trip is due to an obstruction in your business then it could result in a Public or Employers’ Liability claim. Make sure you keep things clear, and well maintained before someone hits the deck.
2 – Fire
Fire is a destructive force of nature and all it needs is a single spark to get going. This is why it is important to mitigate against fire risks, which can be found throughout your business. Anything could be a fire starter depending on the type of business you have. For example, electrical fires can occur from overloading plug sockets and extension leads. If you run a business where you cook food or provide a takeaway service, then working with heat and fire directly can cause risks.
Even outside forces can be a fire risk, such as an easily accessible letterbox or keeping your rubbish bins close to your building, which could be tempting to an arsonist. Make sure there are plenty of preventative fire measures in place such as having fire extinguishers to hand or installing a sprinkler system, and if there is ever a fire then make sure you get your customers and staff to safety.
3 – Crime
We are not saying specifically crime that happens in a shop or armed robberies; it’s any crime that could occur within any independent business on and off the high street, from shoplifting, vandalism and threatening behaviour to armed robberies, ram raids and smash and grabs. It’s a good idea to install as much added security as you can, such as shutters, barriers, CCTV cameras and an alarm system. It’s important to put your safety and the safety of your staff before your business; there is no need to be a hero.
4 – Water damage
Water is meant to be good for you, but there are occasions when it can be too much to handle. Water damage is on the rise, and with an increase of rainfall, flooding can be a continuous worry. But it’s not just flooding that can cause water damage; any escape of water can cause serious long-term damage to your business premises. Pipes can burst if they are not properly maintained or as a result of changes in temperature, especially freezing conditions. What begins as a drip could soon become a monsoon pouring through your ceiling and it will take more than a mop and bucket to clean it up.
Make sure all pipework is maintained regularly by a trained professional and if you live in a high flood area it is worth investing in flood defences.
5 – Manual handling
Up, down, left, right, twist, turn, push, pull, lift, drop, bend and stretch. No this isn’t an exercise routine, but it might feel like one. Working in a high street business can be a physically demanding job and depending on your business type you may have to deal with taking in deliveries, stacking shelves, maintaining stockrooms, lifting heavy objects, working at heights or working in awkward positions, for instance if you are cutting or styling hair. If any of these are not performed correctly or safely it could result in bruising, pulled muscles or joints, broken bones or in extreme cases even death. As an employer, if you fail to supply the correct equipment to enable your staff to do their job or create an unsafe working environment, you could find yourself facing an Employers’ Liability claim.
6 – Stock storage and handling
We are not talking about how much stock you have at any one time but about the potential accidents or incidents that could occur because of your stock.
Think about where you keep your stock. Is it safely stacked so that it can’t topple over and is it correctly stored so that it’s not blocking walkways or doors, creating a trip or fire hazard? Stock can also cause accidents outside the stockroom, such as trolleys and boxes blocking aisles while shelves are being stacked on the shop floor or discarded packaging causing a trip hazard.
Stock on display is not without its own risks. It can be a temptation for smash and grab crime while your business is closed. Certain items left in direct sunlight can also pose a fire hazard if they overheat. Stock can even be a risk when not on the premises, with many goods being stolen in transit each year. Without stock, how can you run your business? So, think about the best way to protect your stock.
7 – Faulty electrics
Wires, leads, plugs, plug sockets and electrical goods can cause more than a nasty shock. Items such as chillers can break down if not properly maintained, which not only results in a loss of stock but can also form puddles of water on the floor and creating a slip hazard.
Overloading or failing to clean dust away from electrical outlets could also be a potential fire risk. Beware of using plug-in heaters during warm months or fans during the summer, as these can overload your electrical supply and cause a fire or create a trip hazard due to wires and trailing leads if they are not safely secured.
Then there is electricity itself. If wires are frayed, an electrical device is not working or lights are flickering, don’t be tempted to poke around your fuse box. Always get advice from a trained professional and carry out regular PAT testing.
8 – Workplace hazards
This might sound quite broad but that is because there are so many hazards, depending on your industry. For example, if you work as a hairdresser or in the catering trade, you will be handling sharp objects which could cause cuts and other injuries. Carrying out regular risk assessments will help you identify the specific hazards that could occur in your business.
9 – Viruses, germs, and sickness
If you work in catering then you must adhere to strict food safety standards to prevent food poisoning or the passing on of viruses. For example, if you have been sick then you cannot handle food products for at least 48hrs.
Regular cleaning has always been important to help stop the spread of germs, bacteria and other diseases, especially within the catering and beauty industries, but since the outbreak of COVID-19 it has become more important across every sector to do what we can to help stop the spread of Coronavirus. Obviously, thorough cleaning and maintaining good hygiene standards go a long way in minimising the spread of infection and the government has provided comprehensive information and guidance to help businesses control the outbreak.
10 – Poor or low maintenance
Make sure the tools and equipment you use regularly on your business premises are properly looked after, cleaned, repaired and replaced when necessary. Old or well-used tools or electrical goods can become faulty and pose a risk without you realising, so it might be worth looking to replace them if you have had them for a long time.
Think about the building (if you own it); when was the last time you checked the roof for slipped tiles or loose mortar along the ridgeline, especially after extreme weather conditions? Carry out regular maintenance and prep for the changing seasons to take account of extreme temperatures and challenging weather conditions.
We recently launched The Retail Mutual’s ‘don’t take the risk’ campaign encouraging business owners not to ignore risks but to weed them out and deal with them head-on. As part of our service to independent business owners, we have created a free, in-depth risk assessment guide to help you identify, resolve and reduce risks with the purpose of making your business safer for you, your staff and your customers.
Download your free risk assessment guide below!
At The Retail Mutual, we deal with the claims that occur as a result of these risks every day. Some accidents can be easily avoided with a little care and foresight, but others can happen despite the best of intentions. Our business cover solutions have been developed to help protect you against the particular types of risk that high street businesses can face.