Almost a year into the global pandemic and with cases still on the rise, maintaining high hygiene standards and practicing social distancing measures is more important now than ever, especially for high traffic environments such as supermarkets. Following on from our latest article discussing sectors with the highest coronavirus infection rates, it’s commonly known that while supermarkets are essential and remain open during lockdown, they are one of the few places where people are most likely to be exposed to the virus. Due to high traffic touchpoints such as self-service tills and baskets, combined with continuous number of people in and out each day, supermarkets can be a breeding ground for germs that can make infection spread.
With that said, keeping customers, workers and visitors safe is the most important factor and it’s a paramount that supermarkets do not lose sight of proper hygiene practices or ease safety measures as they could run the risk of putting everyone who enters the store at risk of the virus. Improving hygiene and implementing extra precautions is vital to not only prevent infection of covid-19 and other illnesses, but to provide peace of mind to shoppers and supermarket workers that our stores are safe environments, not just for now but for the future.
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How to Keep Supermarkets Safe for All
While it’s not surprisingly that supermarkets have been shown to be high risk, with the vast number of touchpoints and an environment not designed for social distancing measures, it’s easy to see why it’s become one of the places people are nervous about visiting. The Grocer stated that nearly a third of shoppers said they were scared by the risk of contracting coronavirus in supermarkets with 24% now feeling anxious navigating the aisles. This has led to a huge shift and accelerated the move towards online food shopping. Since the pandemic began, there have been over half a million new shoppers added to the online grocery sector, which equates to more online shoppers in 2020 than in the last 5 years. There’s no doubt that the pandemic has changed the way we shop, but does this mean supermarkets aren’t safe?
Even with the successful vaccine roll-out, many of us will still be cautious about going out and returning to ‘normal,’ in the future so it’s vital that supermarkets take the necessary precautions to ensure high levels of hygiene in order to regain customers trust and provide peace of mind that they are a safe environment to interact in for both customers and staff. We mustn’t forget that, while the Prime Minister recently said that covid-19 will always be round to some degree, keeping supermarkets safe doesn’t just protect shoppers and workers from covid but other illnesses too such as influenza and the common cold. Keep reading as we share our top hygiene tips for supermarkets to ensure they are hygienic, safe spaces for all.
Implement Changes to the Working Patterns
Where possible and to avoid outbreaks in the workplace, implementing shift patterns or creating distinct groups could help to minimise contact and keep it to as few as people on shift as possible. While supermarkets are still essential during lockdown restrictions, minimising the number of workers mixing with each other could help to reduce the risk of transmission between staff. This may include continuing to have a staggered break policy to avoid workers congregating in staff rooms or smoking areas.
Government Guidelines suggest that all retail businesses encourage staff to use the NHS Test and Trace service to keep a record of your staff’s shift patterns and allow the service to identify and notify you as soon as you come into contact with a positive case to stop the spread.
Maintain Social Distancing
It’s important to follow and maintain social distancing rules around the supermarkets wherever possible; this includes all areas of the business including entrances, exits, break out rooms and washrooms. While maintaining 2m distance in some of these areas is challenging, putting guidance posters or social distancing floor mats in place could raise awareness for customers and workers to maintain 2m apart and reduce the chance of getting too close.
Maintain Hygiene and Keep the Workplace Clean
Implementing additional hygiene measures and protocols is vital to keeping supermarkets a safe space for everyone who visits. It is recommended by the UK Government that supermarkets have daily, weekly and monthly cleaning schedules in place to wipe down surfaces and equipment between uses. Areas to prioritise include:
- Self-checkouts to ensure they are disinfected and safe to use for the next customer.
- Trolleys and baskets
- Handheld devices
- Card payment machines
- Fridge and freezer handles
Weekly and monthly cleaning schedules should be put in place for thorough cleans using cleaning concentrates or stronger cleaning chemicals. Adequate waste facilities should also be provided to allow staff and customers to dispose of single use face coverings and PPE where necessary.
It’s vital to keep these high traffic touchpoints regularly cleaned to ensure a clean and safe space to prevent cross transmission caused by customers or workers touching potentially contaminated surfaces. Many supermarkets are setting up sanitising stations to provide hand sanitiser in multiple locations across the shopfloor, in addition to washrooms however these are often cheap hand sanitiser bottles that may become unhygienic to customers over time. For more permanent long-term solutions and for sanitisers that look more attractive on display, consider investing in proper hand sanitiser dispensers. Hygiene servicing companies often include servicing and will come and refill the dispensers when empty saving you the job (and time) of having to replace yourself.
As good hand hygiene is the first barrier to infection defence, you may want to also display posters alongside hand sanitisers, and to encourage proper routines amongst staff and customers. Download our free Hygiene Guidance Posters to encourage proper hand hygiene in your facility.
Communicate & Provide Clear Guidance
To make sure all workers understand the new procedures in place around the store to prevent the spread of infection, it’s important to provide clear, concise and regular communication to employees. Without proper communication or training provided for workers either before returning to work or while on shift, they may fail to understand the new safety measures, putting customers or other workers at risk of catching illness.
For additional measures, it may be worth displaying hand sanitising posters or helpful training materials around the workplace will ensure workers front and back of house are reminded of the safety measures in place.
By ensuring workers are fully educated on the latest guidelines, it’ll provide your customers with peace of mind and reassurance that the store is a safe environment. Download the ‘Staying COVID-19 Secure’ notice poster to show your business has followed the Government guidance.
7 Shopper Tips to Encourage Safe Shopping in Supermarkets
While supermarkets remain open during lockdown restrictions, many customers are left feeling scared and anxious when it comes to visiting their local supermarket each week for their weekly shop in the fear they may be exposed to the virus. However, with the right hygiene practices in place and by following certain rules you can ensure your shopping experience is not only safe and hygienic but a stress-free experience. We’ve put together a list of tips to follow when visiting the supermarket so you and other shoppers can remain safe.
Despite supermarkets being essential, it’s worthwhile staying up to date with government guidelines and your local supermarket in case there have been recent changes to restrictions or operating hours. Before visiting the supermarket, make sure you aren’t experiencing any symptoms of the virus, if you are unwell follow government guidelines and stay at home.
Shop Smart & Avoid Peak Times
Shop early to avoid peak times that could compromise social distancing rules, by shopping early you’ll be able to get the items you need in a clean, less-crowded environment.
There have been many changes to supermarket guidelines following the latest government advice from updated operating hours to implementing one-way systems to keep a minimum distance between customers at all times. Other supermarkets are only allowing a certain number of customers in at a time. Before you head out to the shops, be sure to check your local supermarket’s guidelines to stay up to date.
If you are at higher risk of catching the virus, check in with your local supermarket to find out their special hours for people who are vulnerable and try to shop during those hours.
Always Wear A Face Mask
Evidence shows that wearing a face mask when inside can help to reduce the spread of droplets containing the virus as we breath and therefore reduce the spread of infection.
The need to wear face masks when out in public spaces, inside shops and restaurants became mandatory for the UK and from recent changes, most supermarkets are turning people away who aren’t wearing a face covering so it’s important to wear a mask when inside a shop.
Practice Hand Hygiene
It’s important we keep our hands as clean as possible and avoid touching our face when we’re in the supermarket. Carrying personal hand sanitiser around with you is the most effective and convenient way to clean your hands when out in public spaces. To ensure your hands are clean, sanitise before entering the supermarket and on the way out. Most supermarkets have started providing sanitiser for customers but it’s always good to bring your own just in case. Even after the pandemic, practicing effective hand hygiene is one thing that should remain.
If you choose to wear gloves, it’s important to understand that even with gloves on there is a still a risk of transferring germs between surfaces so it’s just as important to hand sanitise the gloves while you’re wearing them and safely dispose of them after use.
Disinfect the Shopping Trolley & Basket
To ensure the shopping trolley is clean and safe to use, it’s a good idea to wipe down the trolley handle and/or shopping basket handles before use. Most supermarkets have been advised to increase their cleaning protocols and sanitise & disinfect basket handles and shopping trolleys after each use, ready for the next customer. Guidance on this can be found through the UK Government’s latest regulations for shops and branches.
Keep Your Distance & Be Considerate of Other Shoppers
Many supermarkets are marking out one-way systems or directional signs to ensure people are socially distancing when in the store as in combination with face coverings this can drastically reduce the chance of transmission from person to person. While shopping, be mindful of other shoppers and remain 2 metres distance away from anyone you do not live with whilst in the supermarket.
Use Touchless Payments Where Possible
If possible, try to use touchless payment at the checkouts to avoid using cash that could have been contaminated or touching the card payment keypad. If you need to handle money or pay using the keypad, have hand sanitiser to hand and disinfect your hands right after paying to kill off any bacteria that you may have come into contact with
Wash your Hands with Soap
As soon as it’s possible to do so, you should wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to disinfect your hands completely. While hand sanitiser of 70%-90% alcohol is effective at reducing the germs, the most effective way to remove and fully eliminate germs from our hands is with soap and running water.
Supermarket Hygiene Solutions from the Experts
As experts in building healthy spaces, Citron Hygiene can support your organisation to deliver a safe and hygienic environment for all those who come and go to your store. With over 45 years’ experience, we can be your stable partner to ensure great hygiene can be delivered both now and in the future. To find out how we can help, book a free consultation with our hygiene experts.