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Spills in retail centres – what you need to know

shopping centre

Do retails centres require spill kits? To answer this question, let’s, as an example, look at a major retail centre, or any area where the public visit in volume and public areas are managed by the (centre) management. In retail terms, risk management is a very complex animal. There are many different risk areas in which the retail centre risk manager must be vigilant and pro-active. I won’t try to address them all, since that would be a book, not an article.Let’s look at liquid spills.Every retail centre (other than online or virtual centres) will have substantial areas of public space. Plenty of room for crowds of shoppers to window shop, browse, park the kids (and husbands), hold special events or eat. Then there is the retailers’ areas. The myriad of stores that so fascinate the habitual shopper.

Many major retail centres are fully under cover these days as well. Massive buildings that are built with safety in mind. Proximity alarms, fire alarms, sprinkler heads and emergency planning are all a part of the risk management for the centre. When there is a change of tenant (shop) within a retail centre, there is generally a refit to ensure the standard of the centre is kept modern and attractive to shoppers.

But things go wrong sometimes. Within retail centres the list of potential ‘incidents’ is long and varied.  Sprinkler heads sometimes fail for a number of reasons, including building activity, fault or simply age. One major consequence of the sprinkler head failure is water on the floor. From a risk management perspective, this is a slipping danger for anyone who happens to be in the area at the time. Working it through, people slipping is a bad thing.

So how does the risk manager mitigate the risk of slipping in the event of a spill?Generally the idea would be to try to contain the spill, to limit or stop its flow, and clean it up as quickly as possible to prevent any accidents caused from the slippery conditions. Signage will help, to warn the public, but the effects can be dire. If the spill occurs on an upper level, the natural flow of water can effect every level below. The common areas can become like a skating rink.

To contain the spill a risk manager could apply water absorbent booms from a spill kit (assuming they have spill kits in their emergency rooms or on each level). But these booms will become saturated quickly and the water will flow again. The spill kit should be equipped with floor sweep, pads and wipes as well. The floor sweep can be used to absorb liquid and create a barrier for the flow of water. But that, too, will eventually become saturated and ineffective if not used correctly. All centres should have spill kits as standard equipment for risk management. But there is another item that can help significantly.

In conjunction with the use of the spill kits, the risk manager should have products to divert and/or contain the liquid to prevent it from taking its natural course. This can help keep the spill to a confined area. This can be achieved using weighted containment booms that can be deployed quickly and easily in areas of risk to divert the spill and contain it until the clean up crews arrive with the vacs.  These weighted containment booms are generally made from PVC (maybe with a protective outer fabric) with handles for carrying. They should have enough weight to enable them to settle on the floor, yet be light enough to enable easy carrying within the centre.

I would recommend all centres have spill kits located in easy proximity of all floors so staff can access the kits 24/7, plus have a supply of re-usable weighted containment booms to amplify their spill management strategies. By deploying the weighted containment booms initially, then using the spill kits to remediate the spill, the risk manager can be confident that are taking a positive step toward the risk management stratgies for the retail centre.



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