Safety, security and other issues
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How to ensure the safety and security of your charity shop.
Health and safety
Shops need to be a safe place for both customers and staff and volunteers. Fire, manual handling and first aid are all key issues. Pathways and fire exits should be kept clear, hazardous cleaning products shoud not be used and people should be given training in health and safety matters.
The relevant paperwork must also be completed:
- a health and safety policy statement is required by law. It needs to show a genuine commitment to the health and safety of anyone who may be affected by the shop’s work, including paid staff, volunteers and customers.
- risk assessments are also a necessity: these cover policy, environmental and technological controls.
- accidents should be reported to head office and, if serious, your local environmental health officer.
For shops to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) regulations, they must be welcoming to disabled people, both as customers and volunteers. This will have an effect on both the physical layout of the shop and its ethos. You will need to think about:
- making ‘reasonable adjustments’ to the premises, such as fitting ramps or relocating a shelving unit
- consulting your disabled customers and employees, to find out what they want or need in the shop
- sending staff and volunteers on training courses, so they are aware of how and when to offer help, for example by offering to fetch goods from a high shelf for someone who is in a wheelchair and cannot reach them.
Other legal issues
Staff and volunteers will need to be aware of their other legal obligations, beyond those relating to health and safety. These include:
- consumer law: shops must sell goods that are safe, of satisfactory quality, and feature the appropriate warning labels where necessary
- electrical testing: all electrical equipment sold must first be inspected and tested, ideally by a qualified electrician
- furniture regulations: new and second-hand upholstered furniture sold must be made of appropriate material and display certain warning labels
- music licensing: a charity shop which plays music, either in the backroom or in the public area of the shop, must have a licence to do so from PRS For Music
- restricted age ratings: films and video games with age ratings may not be bought by children under the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) classification age
- smoking regulations: charity shops and their business vehicles must comply with the no-smoking laws and display the appropriate signage; these rules apply throughout the UK and Northern Ireland
- TV Licensing: shops which sell televisions or associated equipment (such as DVD recorders) must register as a dealer with the TV Licensing body and notify them of buyers' details.
Charity shops need to be able to secure the safety and security of people on the premises, money, stock and the building itself. Charity shops are particularly vulnerable to thieves and aggressive customers, since they do not have the resources of a larger store, are often staffed by volunteers and can be seen as an easy target.
Burglar alarms and security equipment such as convex mirrors or CCTV cameras should be fitted in the store. Staff vigilance is also vital, particularly against shoplifters.
In line with health and safety regulations, you should complete an incident report if staff suffer a robbery or attack, or if they have been verbally or physically threatened. This will also help to inform management of problems.
You should establish procedures to reduce internal theft. Examples include bag searches, strict controls on staff purchase concessions and the registration of valuable items.
Other issues in the running of your shop
There are many other issues involved in running a shop. You will also want to think about:
- housekeeping: maintaining a welcome and clean appearance to the shop, internally and externally
- customer care: complaints and queries should be dealt with promptly and courteously
- PR: getting your message across to local papers, TV and radio stations.
- Charity shop trading regulations (Ask Cedric)
- Trading Standards
- Scam clothing collections (DirectGov)
- Health and safety for charity shops (Association of Charity Shops)
- Disability discrimination (Equality and Human Rights Commission)
- General product safety regulations (Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform)
- Electrical testing (Institution of Engineering and Technology)
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