Re-opening retail safely with smart technology

30th March 2021
Lanna Deamer

Under plans set out by the Prime Minister, UK shops, hairdressers, gyms and outdoor hospitality and other non-essential retail outlets will reopen on 12th April in England. Although a welcome move for many, the reopening doesn’t come without significant safety concerns and rules in place to limit COVID-19 transmission. In this article, Matthew Margetts, Director of Sales and Marketing at Smarter Technologies looks into some of the ways in which smart technology can help retailers reopen safely. 

No mask, no entry 

Customers and staff are required to wear face coverings in any indoor space. Instead of employing security or access control staff, you can use smart cameras to check for the presence of a mask as well as take the temperature of people wanting to enter the building. If someone isn’t wearing a mask or has a high temperature, the camera can be linked to access control mechanisms to deny entry to that individual. 

Monitor social distancing 

The 'return to retail' may see people queuing for services and products they have been unable to access for the last few months. However, maintaining social distancing remains paramount, and managing footfall will be essential for retailers. 

Smart occupancy monitoring sensors installed around buildings can take the guesswork out of managing a facility’s maximum allowed occupancy. Real time data can alert managers to areas that are becoming overcrowded, allowing them to take the appropriate measures to avoid situations that are not conducive to social distancing. 

Air on the side of caution 

It’s always been the law for employers to ensure that there’s an adequate supply of fresh air (ventilation) in enclosed areas of the workplace. Due to the airborne coronavirus pandemic, monitoring and ensuring air ventilation and quality has become an ever more important priority for building managers. 

As part of your business’ risk assessment, you’ll need to identify areas of your workplace that are poorly ventilated and take steps to improve ventilation to reduce the risk of aerosol transmission. One of the easiest ways of assessing air quality risks is to use smart air quality monitoring sensors. For example, using a carbon dioxide (CO2) monitor will help you decide if ventilation is poor in an occupied area. 

Water safety 

After three months in lockdown, many business premises may not have been used for a considerable period of time. One of the dangers of a stagnant water system is that it could become a breeding ground for harmful Legionella bacteria. Legionella bacteria can cause Legionnaires disease, a potentially fatal pneumonia-like illness.

Although COVID-19 precautions are a priority for many reopening businesses, building owners, managers and landlords need to be aware that it is their legal duty to reduce the risks of exposure to Legionella bacteria and make sure that their water supplies are safe.

Water industry guidance requires that building managers run all taps individually for at least two minutes or until it is clear and feels cool to the touch, flushing all appliances before use and emptying storage cisterns and filling them with fresh water. Along with flushing systems, ongoing Legionella risk management includes taking the temperature of water from storage and outlets at regular intervals to ensure that the temperature of the water system is not favourable to the bacteria. The business must keep records of risk management measures for at least five years.

Managing Legionella risk manually is a time-consuming and resource-heavy process. For this reason, many businesses are turning to automated flushing and temperature testing units. Connected to a central management dashboard via the Internet of Things (IoT), these units conduct automatic temperature checking and regular flushing of water systems.

If the unit detects a temperature within a certain range, the system will send an instant alert to the relevant manager to remedy the situation. Another benefit of automated testing is that it removes the need for manual record-keeping since all data is recorded in the cloud. 

These are just a few examples of how smart technology is helping people stay safe, and ensuring that businesses are able to remain operational. If you haven’t looked into going smart ahead of lockdown reopening measures, it may be time to start! 

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