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Government publishes reopening guidance

The government has published new safety guidance for stores preparing to reopen from 1 June. 

Yesterday prime minister Boris Johnson announced a provisional 1 June date for non-essential retailers to begin a phased reopening.

The government has now published new guidance on how retailers can safely approach reopening to the public.  

Retailers have been told to make every reasonable effort to comply with social distancing. Where this is not possible they are advised to take mitigating measures including:

  • Reviewing store layouts
  • Screens or barriers to separate people from each other
  • Side-to-side or back-to-back working (rather than face-to-face) where possible
  • Staggering the arrival and departure times of employees to avoid overcrowding 
  • Additional parking or bike racks to encourage employees to travel to work without using public transport
  • Reducing movement around stores with the encouraged use of radios or telephones for communication
  • A one-way flow system through stores with floor markings and signage

Staff should also be grouped into shift patterns or pairings to reduce contact as much as possible. Meetings should be limited and break times should be staggered with packaged meals provided to avoid opening staff canteens. Handwashing facilities and cleaning materials should be made readily available. 

To manage customers, retailers are encouraged to: 

  • Define the number of customers that can reasonably follow 2m social distancing within the store
  • Limit the number of customers in-store and encourage them to shop alone
  • Have more than one entry point in larger stores to reduce congestion 
  • Use floor markings and signage to aid social distancing
  • Use contactless payment where possible
  • Suspend or reduce customer services that cannot be undertaken without breaking social distancing guidelines
  • Use outside space for queuing where possible 

The use of fitting rooms is to be carefully considered and only used where necessary. They should be cleaned frequently and items that have been tried on should be managed, possibly through a delay in returning to the shop floor. 

Retailers should limit customers handling of merchandise through different display methods or rotation of high-touch stock. When handling returns these should be ‘no contact’ where possible with goods taken to designated areas.

Returns should also be kept separate from displayed merchandise to reduce likelihood of transmission. 

The government has said that shopping centres should take responsibility for the regulation of the number of customers in centres. Customer restaurants and cafes should remain closed until further notice apart from where offering food to be consumed off-premises.

Stock and other deliveries should also be reduced in frequency where possible with revised pick-up and drop-off collection points and procedures.

Steps to improve cleaning include an increase in waste facilities and more frequent rubbish collections, provision of hand sanitiser in multiple locations and toilets, signage to promote hygiene standards and enchased cleaning of the store and busy areas. 

An extra £14m has been made available to the Health and Safety Executive to support businesses in making stores and workplaces safe for employees and the general public. 

The government advises that additional PPE beyond what you usually wear is not beneficial. Workplaces should not encourage the precautionary use of extra PPE to protect against COVID-19 outside clinical settings.

Sectors such as manufacturing have also been urged to return to work from today under the government’s new “Stay Alert” messaging. 

For manufacturing safety guidelines include reducing visits of external contractors where possible, creating distinct groups of workers to reduce the number of contacts each worker has and providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for employees. 

Full guidance for stores and manufacturers have been published online here. There is also a downloadable sign to display in store windows that have followed the guidance. 

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