As retail environments go, the garden centre presents some particular challenges. While it’s easy to think of it as akin to every other shop in the retail park, the fact is that workers here might find themselves dealing with potentially hazardous equipment and materials.
It’s true that working in a garden centre, statistically speaking, isn’t as dangerous as many other lines of work (not least of them gardening). But those operating garden centres still owe a legal duty of care to their workers, and to visiting members of the public, too. This makes implementing an effective health and safety strategy especially important.
What are the risks?
Garden centres are legally obliged to devise a health and safety policy, and to keep it regularly updated in light of new developments. If you fail to live up to this requirement, then you might find yourself vulnerable to legal action.
Claims of this sort are normally brought when the victim of an accident can establish that they might not have suffered harm if the company had acted in a responsible manner. For example, a garden centre near Colchester was in 2017 instructed to pay more than £100,000, after a member of staff suffered breathing difficulties after being made to clean up spilt gardening chemicals.
Workers in garden centres might be asked to regularly move around heavy loads. This might not present any difficulty immediately, or even after months and years of repeated efforts. But eventually, improper handling practices can lead to severe physical injury. Pick up enough bags of fertilizer, in other words, and it’s more or less certain that you’ll develop back trouble.
It’s the duty of the employer in this situation to establish rules over what kinds of stock can be moved, and what equipment should be provided in order to remove the strain. Providing a little bit of training in best lifting practices might help to protect workers in the long term.
Of course, if stock is being moved around using machinery, then another potential hazard is generated. And the solution is much the same. Staff should be provided with the training they need to operate machinery, like forklifts, as well as to avoid them. This can be made easier by mandating high-vis clothing, and by offering training in best practices.
Garden centres are places where chemicals are naturally going to be stored and moved. Having procedures in place for the handling of these chemicals can help firms to avoid the legal problems described in the case we’ve already mentioned.
It’s imperative that everyone knows what to do in the event of a fire, especially in a workplace with potentially flammable goods on sale. Regular drills and risk assessments can help to minimise the danger, as can a robust onboarding process.
Slips and falls remain the most common sources of injury. Putting in place yellow warning signs near any clean-up, and equipping staff with the right footwear, can help to drive down this source of injury.