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Black Friday: Employee Physical / Mental Safety Must Be Front Of Mind For Employers

While Black Friday and Cyber Monday are an opportunity for employers to turn a profit after an incredibly challenging year, all steps must still remain in place to protect both the physical and psychological safety of staff in the workplace.

Data from Employsure’s advice line for small business owners shows health and safety related calls in October were at their lowest levels since May, after many months of COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions.

With the floodgates set to open across New Zealand this weekend, employers, particularly those in retail, must not become complacent when it comes to protecting their workers, and follow all health and safety protocols as they enter the business end of the year.

“Anyone who has worked in retail during the Christmas period will know the number of customers inside retail stores can grow exponentially, as can face-to-face interactions, as well as frustration,” said Employsure health and safety manager Larry Drewsen.

“From a physical point of view, to ensure the overall success in controlling the risks related to infections in a workplace, both employers and employees need to follow their infection control policies correctly. Health directions and guidelines must be followed, including the wearing of masks. Customers must check-in, entry should be staggered, high touch points should be regularly cleaned, and hand-sanitiser and PPE should be readily available.

“Not only do staff need to be trained to follow the rules, but they also need to be deemed competent enough to know what to do if a breach, accidental or not, of the policy occurs. If a business abides by the rules and is doing everything it can to stop the spread of disease, not only does it make that workplace safer for staff on long shifts, but it can make it easier to identify the source of someone who may become infected.

“When it comes to mental health, increased foot traffic, longer hours, and potential customer frustration are all factors that can put pressure on young workers. Breaks should be regularly taken, roles should be interchanged between staff, and employers should undertake a risk assessment to identify whether customer aggression is a likely hazard that could exist in the workplace.

“Expectations must be set with customers, and training staff to follow safe operating procedures so they know what to do in the event of a threatening situation is critical. Should an employee suffer psychological harm as a result of customer aggression during this busy period, employers must ensure they have access to an employee assistance program service.”

Employers should monitor the health of employees, particularly over the coming weeks, and keep track of their COVID-19 vaccination status - should they agree to disclose it. Employee management software like BrightHR includes a Vacctrak feature, which lets employers monitor who is fully, partially, or not vaccinated against COVID-19.

The pandemic has highlighted just how important correctly implemented infection control and health and safety policies can be to stopping the spread of sickness and maximising workplace safety, and this Black Friday weekend will be a real test to ensuring all staff and customers remain safe.


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