Retail: Employee and Customer Safety

Keeping employees and customers safe in the retail sector during the COVID-19 pandemic is paramount for every business. After the lockdown restrictions were relaxed slightly, permitting non-essential businesses to reopen on 15th June, consumers went flocking back to the high street.

Huge queues formed outside just about every store, as people clamoured to get in and make up for almost three months’ lost time. However, no-one can simply go back to “business as usual” and there are new rules that retailers must abide by in order to allow their shop to open.


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New retail guidelines

The government issued its updated guidelines on 14th June to reflect the changing situation and keep people safe in retail environments. Shopkeepers are advised to maintain existing safety procedures, such as washing the hands frequently, providing hand sanitiser and cleaning the premises thoroughly – and more often.

Most shops are placing hand sanitiser or hand-washing facilities at the entrance to reduce the risk of virus transmission through touch. Additional advice suggests calculating the maximum number of customers who can reasonably follow two-metre social distancing within the store and outdoor areas, taking into account the total floor-space and busy areas such as checkouts, entrances and exits.


Safe ways to queue

The latest guidelines recommend limiting the number of customers in the store at any one time and suspending or reducing customer services that can’t be carried out without contravening social distancing. Customers are also being encouraged to shop alone when possible.

Shopkeepers should study how customers walk through the shop and whether there are any congested areas. Altering the layout or introducing a one-way system might help to reduce congestion. Retailers are also using outside areas for well-organised queues to limit the number of customers in the store at any one time.

Car parks have become common areas for queues, with staff deployed to make sure customers are safe and to monitor the number of people going in and out of the store. Social distancing must be maintained in the queue and some businesses have marked out two-metre distance lines on the floor to help.

The staff ensure queueing customers are protected from traffic by routing them behind barriers. Disabled and elderly shoppers’ needs must be taken into account and some shops have a policy of allowing them to jump the queue so they don’t have to stand outside for too long.


Penalties for rule-breakers

If a shop breaches the COVID-19 safety regulations, it can face closure or a fine. Police and local authorities across the UK are taking the lockdown very seriously when it comes to retailers failing to conform. In Leeds, six businesses have been forced to close by the council after breaking health and safety rules.

Leeds Council said in a statement the legislation was in place to “protect public health and save lives”. When business operators refused to cooperate and continued to break the law, the council would “take appropriate enforcement action”.

The latest police data revealed 523 fines had been issued across England since the lockdown measures were first eased on 13th May, although these included penalties for individuals as well as businesses. Reported incidents relating to shops and supermarkets have actually fallen by 79% in this period, despite more shops opening on 15th June.

In order to manage customer numbers efficiently within your shop and to avoid overcrowding, Automatic Access is providing the COVID-19 queue management system. A “traffic light system” that integrates with an automatic door to control the number of customers who can enter a shop at any one time, the FlowControl system effectively enables social distancing, without staff intervention, thanks to pedestrian counting technology.


Once the maximum number of people in the store has been reached, the entrance door is deactivated automatically, so nobody else can enter until someone leaves. FlowControl complies with health and safety regulations and doesn’t affect escape routes.

For more details on our specialist services, email Automatic Access at or give us a call on 0330 4410 666.