Standard Operating Procedures for Retailers during COVID-19
Retailers who are re-opening following the COVID-19 related containment measures that led to their closure can follow these protocols to support the development of their COVID-19 Safety Plan. The health and safety of employees, customers, and communities should be the top priority for retailers. It is imperative for retailers to adopt the following recommended operational procedures in order to slow the spread of the virus. Retailers should ensure that they prepare in advance for this so that they can serve the critical needs of their customers by quickly and thoughtfully adopting a wide range of practices, including those related to their supply chains, stores, and employees.
This guidance outlines key steps to put in place for physical distancing and good hygiene practice in your premises. All the food safety and sanitation requirements for food premises should be adhered in accordance with the Environmental Health Department (EHD) Food Hygiene Regulations. This document sets out guidance on how to work safely. It gives practical considerations of how this can be applied in the workplace. Each business will need to translate this into the specific actions it needs to take, depending on the nature of their business, including the size and type of business, how it is organised, operated, managed and regulated. Each business will need to carry out an appropriate COVID-19 risk assessment for their business and identify areas which need to be addressed.
Guidance for retail employers
- Encourage workers to stay home if they are sick.
- Provide a place to wash hands and alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 70% alcohol.
- Maintain regular housekeeping practices, including routine cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and equipment in accordance with EHD cleaning guidelines.
- Practice sensible social distancing, maintaining six feet between co-workers and customers, where possible. For example, some worksites have already begun to demarcate six-foot distances with floor tape in checkout lines. Workplaces where social distancing is a challenge should consider innovative approaches, such as opening only every other cash register, temporarily moving workstations to create more distance, and installing plexiglass partitions.
- Use a drive-through window or curbside pick-up.
- Provide workers and customers with tissues and trash receptacles.
- Train workers in proper hygiene practices and the use of workplace controls.
- Allow workers to wear masks over their nose and mouth to prevent them from spreading the virus.
- Encourage workers to report any safety and health concerns.
Store layout and customer occupancy limits
- Determine the occupancy limit for your store and post it at the entrance to the store. Your occupancy limit should be based on the size of your store and incorporate social distancing for employees and customers. This will naturally require a reduction in the occupancy rates.
- If possible, rearrange the store layout to support physical distancing. Consider limiting the products and services or store-front space available until restrictions are removed. Consider the use of tape markers on the floor to designate areas and directions to move throughout the store.
- Evaluate and rearrange specific areas of the store where it may be a challenge to practice physical distancing, such as waiting areas, fitting rooms and check out areas.
- If rearranging an area is not possible, establish procedures to follow physical distancing practices, such as posting maximum occupancy limits and restricting entry.
- Add one-way arrows to the floor or shelving of aisles, so that customers move in one direction down aisles. This minimizes the need for customers to pass each other in aisles and makes it easier for customers to physically distance.
- Ensure customers keep moving through the aisles and avoid congestion at the ends of aisles.
- Encourage people who stop at the ends of aisles to make space for others to move out of or into an aisle.
- If it is not possible to maintain social distancing with clients, consider the use of face coverings. Face coverings can reduce the spread of droplets from the wearer, but may not prevent the wearer from inhaling the droplets of others. It is therefore important to ensure that customers are wearing face coverings as well as the workers to ensure protection for both parties.
- Consider creating cohorts of workers who work together and who do not interact with other cohorts. This will assist in reducing transmission throughout the workplace in the event that a staff member becomes ill.
Welcoming customers into the store
- Place signs near entrances informing customers not to enter the store if they are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. Ensure signage is placed at a location where it is visible, draws attention and is readable. Consider posting signage in other majority languages or provide pictograms.
- Encouraging customers to use hand sanitizer or handwashing facilities as they enter the premises to reduce the risk of transmission by touching products while browsing.
- Encouraging customers to avoid handling products whilst browsing, if at all possible.
- Encouraging customers to shop alone where possible, unless they need specific assistance.
- Reminding customers who are accompanied by children that they are responsible for supervising them at all times and should follow social distancing guidelines.
- Ensure customers understand the protocols in place at the store. Consider posting requirements at the entrance to the store, as well as posting these to the company website, social media, or through email communications.
- Use physical queue line controls such as crowd control cones or floor markers at entrances.
- When possible, monitor the number of customers entering and leaving the store. Once the maximum number of people for a store is reached, allow one person in for every person that leaves.
- If possible, separate incoming and outgoing customer flow.
- Ensure that any staff that are expected to manage line-ups of customers are trained in COVID-19 protocols. Ensure that they have support and strategies for dealing with customers who may be unwilling or who are unable to understand the approach to managing volumes.
- Do not hand out any coupons, samples, testers, or flyers.
- Delivery drivers should be reminded to maintain social distancing and not enter the warehouse unless necessary.
- Coordinate access for contractors at the workplace and remind them of the social distancing requirement.
Stocking shelves and product displays
- Consider stopping or reducing stock shelving and product display arrangements during the store operating hours. Where stocking or product display arrangements are needed during operating hours, define safe practices for workers. Consider closing aisles while restocking or placing a sign asking customers to stay 2 metres (6ft) apart.
- Place signage and information for customers asking them to follow store policies on touching merchandise.
- Workers should wash their hands before and after they are finished stocking or rearranging shelves or product displays.
- Establish hygiene practices which address the needs of the workplace which includes the requirement to wash or sanitize hands after coming into contact with public items.
- Consider stopping, reducing or modifying your customer interaction, demonstration, and assistance practices to reduce contact intensity and number of contacts.
- To minimize physical contact with customers, offer online or telephone orders with delivery or pick up services as alternatives to shopping in person.
- Encourage customers to consult your product catalogue using your website or virtual catalogue to find product information if available.
Any retailers serving food or beverages should follow EHD requirements.
- Remove unnecessary or decorative objects from inside of fitting rooms.
- Fitting rooms are separated by barriers, limiting the risk of transmission between rooms. However, you may consider closing every other fitting room to reduce the overall number of people in the changing area.
- Determine the protocols for cleaning fitting rooms.
- Refrain from handing out tokens or placards to customers with the number or items to try on. Consider other options, such as writing the number of items on a whiteboard on the door.
- Ask customers to leave unwanted items in a designated location, including hangers.
Payment and till area
- Provide physical barriers, such a plexiglass, if the social distancing requirement cannot be maintained. Ensure the barriers cover all areas where the customer is expected to move around while interacting with the cashier. Allow only one customer (or customer and companions, e.g. children) at a check-out at a time.
- Encourage cashiers to step back from customers when customers use card readers if the card-reader cannot be relocated 2 metres away from the cashier. Contactless payment such as the use of cards should be encouraged.
- Encourage the use credit cards and loyalty cards wherever possible and have customers scan or tap their cards and handle the card readers themselves. Encourage tap payment over pin pad use.
- As some customers will need to pay with cash, establish hygiene practices that include washing or sanitizing hands after handling cash Ensure that cash is placed on the counter to avoid contact with hands. Place alcohol-based hand sanitizer near pay stations.
- Curbside pick-ups or staff-assisted purchases (e.g., large items or building materials) should be done with prepayment, a means of identification, and ensuring the customer stays in the vehicle while the worker loads the items.
- Have customers hold their ID so it is visible and allows identification for controlled products.
- If reusable bags are accepted at a retail store, the store should consider asking customers to pack the bags themselves.
- If workers handle or pack goods into reusable bags they are expected to practice frequent handwashing.
- Adjust practices for delivering the package to a person to ensure physical distancing is maintained. For example, if possible, drop packages at the door or outside buildings and avoid contact with other people.
- Communicate that a delivery has been made by phone call, text or email and avoid touching any surfaces, such as a doorbell.
- If possible, adjust practices for proof of delivery so that in-person signatures can be avoided and online confirmation of receipt of package can be used instead.
- Place disinfecting wipes and alcohol-based hand sanitizers in delivery and dispatch vehicles.
- Clean and disinfect tools and frequently touched surfaces within the vehicle and between deliveries or installations.
- Assign a delivery vehicle to one worker only, if possible.
Travelling sales representatives or service providers as part of a retail operation
- When possible, consider stopping or reducing sales person or service providers’ travel by replacing it with virtual sales or service meetings.
- Develop and train workers on travelling safe practices for hand hygiene, and surface cleaning while travelling, when visiting clients, and before and after meals.
- When travelling cannot be avoided, contact the Ministry of Health for further advice.
Sanitation and Hygiene
- Enhance and adhere to the premise’s sanitation plan and schedule, and ensure staff are practicing proper hygiene. This includes frequent hand washing, coughing or sneezing into an elbow rather than a hand or the environment, and avoiding touching one’s face.
- In every workplace, increasing the frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning.
- Using signs and posters to build awareness of good handwashing technique, the need to increase handwashing frequency, avoid touching your face and to cough or sneeze into a tissue which is binned safely, or into your arm if a tissue is not available.
- Providing regular reminders and signage to maintain hygiene standards.
- Enhancing cleaning for busy areas. Providing more waste facilities and more frequent rubbish collection. Providing hand drying facilities – paper towels.
- Setting clear use and cleaning guidance for washrooms to ensure they are kept clean and social distancing is achieved as much as possible.
- Ensure washrooms are always well stocked with liquid soap, paper towels and toilet paper and that warm running water is available. Antibacterial soap is not required to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- Make disinfectant wipes and trash bins available for wiping shopping carts, bulk water systems and other high-touch surfaces and for disposing of used wipes.
- Place hand sanitizer with a minimum of 70% alcohol in dispensers near doors, pay stations and other high-touch locations for customer and staff use. If alcohol-based sanitizer is not available, do not substitute an alcohol-free sanitizer.
- Increase the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces such as check-outs, bagging areas and carts or hand baskets, ideally between each customer and use.
- Employees who handle cash must wash their hands with soap and water frequently and before preparing food.
- Operators and employees who choose to use gloves, must ensure thorough hand washing before and after each change of gloves. Gloves must be changed regularly. For example, gloves must be changed after visiting the toilet, eating or other activity according to store hand washing policy, and particularly after handling wet/leaking products. Hands should also be washed even when wearing gloves.
- Post signs advising customers who arrive with cold, influenza, or COVID-19 like symptoms to return home and use a delivery service instead.
- Ensure staff with cold, influenza, or COVID-19 like symptoms such as sore throat, fever, sneezing, and coughing remain at home.
- COVID-19 guidance to retail food and grocery stores (BC CDC)
- Recommendations for malls, shops and stores (BC CDC)
- Workplace guidance for sector employers and employees (Government of Canada)
- Resources for retailers (Retail Council of Canada)
- Retail safety and COVID-19 (Work Safe BC)
As the COVID-19 situation continues to develop, the Ministry of Health will provide updates if any additional precautions are recommended.