What are the most common injuries in the workplace within the retail sector?

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The most common workplace injuries in the UK differ from sector to sector. It is critical to understand the cause of the most common injuries, posed by working in the retail sector. By understanding the most significant health and safety risks, businesses can assess the risks and implement effective policies and procedures to reduce them.

What are the most common injuries in the workplace within the retail sector?:

  • Slips and trips
  • Manual handling
  • Violence
  • Working at height
  • Workplace transport

Slips and trips

Slips and trips are the most common injury risk in retail, and affect staff, visitors and customers alike. Wet floors, spillages, damage to flooring, and trip hazards all contribute to these risks in your business. Develop an effective cleaning plan, considering when and how cleaning is carried out, as well as selecting the right cleaning products and equipment, will help to control the risks. Your risk assessment should include any changes to the cleaning process when wet weather means smooth floors become slippery, as customers enter and move around the store. Keeping on top of flooring maintenance is also important, with any issues reported and rectified quickly.

Manual handling

By moving retail stock and display equipment around, the risk of back pain and musculoskeletal disorders from manual handling in retail is high. A risk assessment must be undertaken, considering the necessary tasks, the capacity of individual employees, the loads involved, and the general work environment. While manual handling should be kept to a minimum, where it is necessary, control measures should be put in place. Where relevant, equipment, such as trolleys and roll cages, should be provided. Get the team involved in the risk assessment and agree control measures together. This will improve the success of risk reduction efforts. 


Unfortunately, retail employees are on occasion at risk of violence as they work. HSE defines this as: ‘Any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work’. This may include physical violence, or verbal abuse, threats and intimidation. A risk assessment must be carried out to determine whether violence to staff is a risk in your business. Control measures must be put in place to reduce the risk. Developing policies and procedures for dealing with violence, and ensuring staff are properly training, will reduce the risks to staff, customers and visitors.

Working at height

A further risk for retail employees is working at height using steps, or a ladder. This may be in a stockroom, or on the shop floor for restocking, cleaning or visual merchandising. Ensuring equipment is in good working order will help avoid accidents and injuries. Staff should be trained to conduct a pre-use check. A pre-use check should include assessing the equipment for damage, checking the feet for any dirt, or substances that might reduce grip, and an assessment of the flooring, as well as any other hazards in the area of use.

Workplace transport

Workplace transport poses a further risk to staff, customers and visitors. The highest risk is in larger retail operations with busy goods-in departments, warehouses and where heavy goods are moved on the shop floor. A risk assessment must be carried out, and specific regulations for lifting operations and equipment must be followed. The risk assessment should consider traffic routes around the site and provision for keeping pedestrians separate, driving surfaces, speed of traffic, traffic management, site safety training and information for visitors, as well as inspection, maintenance and repair of vehicles used on site. 

Workplace health and safety risks in the retail sector

According to the latest UK HSE Health and Safety Statistics 2018/19, the wholesale/retail trade (including repair of motor vehicles) has a workplace injury rate of 2,220 per 100,000. This is a significantly higher rate of workplace injury for those working in the retail sector, compared to an all-industry rate of 1,710. This increased risk can be significantly reduced with effective health and safety risk assessments, policies and procedures in place. The development of a collaborative workplace health and safety culture among businesses operating within the retail sector will further reduce workplace health and safety risks.

Check out our how to mitigate retail health and safety risks through culture

How we can Sure Safety Consultancy help?

With extensive experience in the retail sector, Sure Safety Consultancy delivers consultancy, training and trusted advice covering workplace health, safety and fire. Our team can deliver a fit for purpose health and safety solution for your retail business. If you would like to hear more about our services, please contact us by email or call us on 029 2086 8802.