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Making safety priority when furniture shop opens

19th Jun 2020
Making safety priority when furniture shop opens

Trade Furniture Warehouse, Greyhound Lane, Streatham, London

Ahmed Rajab

TRYING to run a business in the time of the Covid-19 is akin to a nightmare, according to Waheed Ahmed. His “Trade Furniture Warehouse”, in Greyhound Lane, Streatham, has been officially closed since the lockdown.

In normal times the furniture shop, always busy with customers, was festooned with billboards advertising deals of the day. All manner of households and office furniture was staked inside its large showroom and overflowed outside.

Trade Furniture Warehouse is a limited company with three employees, including Ahmed, its Director.

The retail business has been operating from the same premises since 1995 specialising in furniture for the rental market. It was a popular spot for customers, particularly landlords, looking for reasonably priced new and clean second-hand furniture.

These days the retail shop looks pitifully sad and abandoned. Its shut doors, a sign of the times, evince horror in Ahmed’s mind.

The lockdown has directly affected not only him and his customers but equally worrying for him, also his two fellow employees. They have all been forced to stay at home and have not been able to go to work.

“It’s been tough since the lockdown with no customers and, hence, no income coming in,” says Ahmed. If we don’t have customers, we don’t have an income, as simple as that.”

However, the announcement by the Prime Minister that, with the fall in the UK’s rate of infection, non-essential establishments such as Ahmed’s will be allowed to open their doors on June 15 has given hope to the furniture retailer.

“That’s good news. But obviously the way we do business will have to change. It will not be business as usual,” says Ahmed cautiously.
The retailer’s main concern is for the health and safety of his employees. My first duty of care is to them,” he says.

“I have to make sure that they are protected and do not catch the Coronavirus from the outside.” Ahmed says that this will not be the first time for him to take such measures for the safety of his employees and customers.

“Even before the lockdown when the Coronavirus started spreading we took precautions. We wore masks in the shop. When we next open, in addition to us wearing masks, we will also have tape on the floor for social distancing. The tape will show where exactly the customer should stand.

“We will also provide masks to our staff and they use public transport as some live far away. We will also restrict the number of customers in the shop to one or two at a time,” says Ahmed.

To further minimise physical contact between shop employees and customers most payment will be done online or by cards.

“And, of course, in the event of cash payment, there will be social distancing between the customer and whoever will collect the cash.

“Luckily, we are a small business and we are not as big as Sainsbury’s or Tesco, for example with hundreds of customers coming through their doors so our challenges are not as huge as theirs. Nevertheless, our health and safety safeguards will be applied vigorously. Social distancing is important.

“To avoid the risk of customer-to-customer infection or customer-to-employee, I will ensure that we wipe all the furniture touched by customers.

“We also ensure there are sanitisers for customers to use when they enter and leave the shop. Of course, our staff will be provided with them too.”
Will he insist on his customers wearing masks in the shop?

“I’m not sure what the Government guidelines will be on retail business but if they tell us to ask our customers to do so then fine. We’ll definitely provide masks for our staff. If the Government says that customers need to wear them as well prior to coming in then we will insist on them doing so.”


Working safely during Covid-19: the 5 steps

The Department for Business, Energy & Industry Strategy has created five main steps for businesses to take to ensure safety during the Coronavirus pandemic. Businesses should:

1 Conduct a Covid-19 risk assessment that:

Is in line with Health & Safety Executive guidance

Involves consulting with workers or trade unions

Includes sharing the results of the risk assessment with your workforce and on your website


2 Develop cleaning, hand washing & hygiene procedures by:

Encouraging people to follow the NHS guidance

Providing hand sanitiser around the workplace, in addition to washrooms

Frequently cleaning & disinfecting objects/surfaces that are touched regularly

Enhancing cleaning for busy areas

Setting clear use & cleaning guidance for toilets

Providing paper towels or electrical dryers


3 Help staff work from home by:

Discussing home working arrangements

Ensuring they have the equipment, for example, remote access to work systems

Including them in all necessary communications

Looking after their physical & mental wellbeing


4 Maintain 2 metres social distancing, where possible by:

Placing signs stating social distancing rules

Avoiding sharing workstations

Using floor tape/paint to mark a 2-metre distance

Arranging one-way traffic through the workplace if possible

See visitors by appointment only if possible


5 Where people cannot be 2 metres apart, manage transmission risk by:

Assessing if the activity is essential

Keeping the activity time involved short

Using screens or barriers to separate people

Using back-to-back or side-to-side working when possible

Staggering arrival and departure times

Further safety guidance will be published by the Government as more businesses can reopen. For more info or updates click here



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