How to manage a coronavirus outbreak in your store

Who would have guessed bricks-and-mortar stores could be some of the most unsafe workplaces in the world? But given the pandemic and the sheer amount of different people constantly walking in and out during the day, the reality is that shops are now a potential hotspot for the spread of coronavirus. 

In this day and age, it makes good business sense for retailers to have a containment plan, should an outbreak occur. In May, McDonald’s closed 12 stores in Victoria due to an infected truck driver and potential close contacts and employees who had worked specific shifts during and after the truck driver’s delivery did not return to work for 14 days. They were also advised to get themselves tested. Five days later after the stores had been deep cleaned, the sites reopened with staff from other McDonald’s stores.

In response to these difficult conditions for retailers, SafetyCulture’s iAuditor app helps businesses update and distribute their best practice rapidly, with real-time visibility into effectiveness across their stores. Using a simple checklist, retailers are able to ensure they keep both their employees and their customers safe.

In the event of a coronavirus outbreak, retailers should consider these helpful tips from Alistair Venn, SafetyCulture COO, when creating a management plan for a coronavirus outbreak. 

Ensure that everyone in the business knows what to do

You have likely discussed containment plans at the executive level, but could you confidently say that your shopfloor staff would know what to do if they found out a customer had tested positive for coronavirus?

“Your plan is ineffective if you don’t have a very good implementation plan to ensure that everyone is ready and comfortable to act on it,” points out Venn.

Follow guidelines and checklists

Safetyculture has a library of more than 100,000 checklists crowdsourced from accredited organisations including the World Health Organisation, WorkSafe and the National Retailers Association to help businesses in the event of an outbreak. These step-by-step lists take employees through a range of tasks, from identifying the areas that the affected person was in contact with to reviewing whether to close the store.

“What happens if a pilot is flying and a light starts flashing? The first thing they do is pull out their checklists and go through specific checks in order to mitigate a very dangerous situation,” says Venn. “If you got a phone call to say there was an infected person in the store, a lot of people would scramble and not know where to start. We can help them.” 

Disinfect high-contact areas immediately

For retailers, the number of visitors are far higher in a bricks-and-mortar store than in a regular office space, so make sure that you isolate the area, shut the front doors and make sure no-one else is coming in. 

Then, clean high-contact areas as quickly as possible, from checkout counters and door handles to handrails and changerooms, then gradually work your way around the store.

Make it easy for your teams to follow instruction

According to Venn, the companies who are responding well to the current situation are reviewing their operations and making it easy for anyone within the organisation to take action if/when required. This also includes using the same language that your team uses in the business, so it resonates with them and it’s simple to follow in a stressful situation.

Visit SafetyCulture’s COVID-19 toolkit hub for all you need to get safely back to business, from the physical requirements to reopen to the new checks and procedures required on an ongoing basis.

For more details on how to create a reopening action plan, here’s a checklist from the National Retailers Association to check out.

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