Involving and Co-ordinating Health and Safety in Retail Openings

In my experience as an RSPP, I am often contacted a few weeks before an opening to set the dates immediately following to conduct inspections.

The inspections aim to verify arrangements and draft the necessary documents within appropriate timescales before it is too late, which would result in costly failures.

Point 1 – Sharing the Executive Project

Once the architects and designers have completed the executive project (and perhaps made 3D renderings), this should be shared with the H&S representatives so that local consultants can view it and:

1. Report any discrepancies to the legislation that may have escaped architects and designers (often international firms are not necessarily aware of local health and safety regulations, which are sometimes more restrictive)

Modern Shopping Mall2. Define the structure of the future Local Unit Prevention and Protection service; to identify in advance how many fire or first aid workers will be needed and the duration requirements for training:

a. HR is to specifically request the necessary training certificates during the preliminary interview with the candidates. Requesting that the candidate produces the certificates during the selection interview ensures that the person takes action to obtain a copy from the company where he is currently working.

This will reduce the likelihood that any “bad relationships” generated upon resignation and hinder the recovery of the documents.

Each recovered certificate is a direct and indirect saving.

b. Optimally plan training activities, perhaps allowing the use (at least for the online training parts) of downtime that sometimes exists between hiring and entering service.

Point 2 – The Pre-opening Interference

In the days immediately preceding the opening, the newly hired staff work inside the store in the set-up operations when several contractor firms (electricians, IT technicians, interior designers, etc.) are still involved. Together with the refits, this phase is perhaps the most dangerous of the entire life of a store and the most critical to manage.

Architects, engineers, and surveyors in charge of the management and supervision of the works manage the construction site’s safety (drafting PSC, POS and taking care of the other general aspects) for the companies directly involved in the construction. Still, they do not intervene in the management of the Health and Safety of the shop workers.

An injury in the pre-opening days can lead to a delay in opening and, in the absence of the necessary documentation, hefty penalties at the moment of maximum media exposure of the Brand.

H&S must be activated as soon as the first day of access to the site by those who will later be employees of the store.

Point 3 – The Hand Over

H&S representatives must also be present at the time of the hand over, in which one or more technicians “instruct” the staff on the use of the plant, machinery and equipment present.

Retail Health and SafetyCoordination with H&S managers at this stage ensures that managers, often newly hired and in a “storm” of information, do not lose critical information on the operation of the store.

As a health and safety consultant, I have seen situations in the past where the company had “escaped” the presence of nitrogen-saturated fire extinguishing systems that remove oxygen from the warehouse after a certain number of seconds from the activation of the fire alarm.

Another situation that happened is the total irreversible opening (there was no closing system) of the ceiling smoke evacuators of the sales area during a rainy day, simply because the managers unaware of this consequence had not rushed to silence the ” false alarm”.

Finally, as is often in the hand over phase, fundamental documents are issued, such as Declarations of Conformity, plans and diagrams of the plants, SCIA practices, etc.

Involving a competent function of H&S ensures adequate acceptance of the documentation and that any shortcomings are immediately reported and managed.

Hand over and risk management from interference in the opening will be the subject of two of the following articles.


To conclude, you must involve the H&S functions in the Approval of the final project, Pre-opening and Hand over phases.

This ensures a reduction of risks for workers, for the company’s profit (avoiding subsequent re-processing and optimising the processes that start from the opening) and protecting the Brand in a moment of maximum exposure, without adding particular consulting costs.

This article is the second in the Health and Safety in Retail Openings series by our health and safety consultants in Italy and follows on from the Introduction to the Management of Health and Safety in Retail Openings.