That role includes raising awareness of threats, having robust evacuation procedures in place and assisting traumatised staff should an incident happen.
Members of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health’s (IOSH) Retail and Distribution Group also heard that they must be aware of the growing threat of cyber crime at a meeting held at Ashfords LLP in London.
Group Chair Abigail Miller shared her experiences of dealing with security threats during her career in retail. These included colleagues receiving anthrax letter bombs.
She said in one organisation staff had opened a letter which contained white powder. Though it turned out to not be anthrax, staff who were involved were left traumatised.
“Safety and health professionals in the retail and distribution sector, and other sectors, have an important role to play when it comes to security threats,” said Abigail. “They should take it into account when they are doing risk assessments.
“And when an incident does take place it has an impact on the safety and health of staff. Some issues that I have dealt with in the past still get to me now. Being able to deal with post-traumatic stress is one very important factor.”
Delegates heard that attacks against organisations in the retail and distribution industry are wide-ranging. They can include marching animals into a store in protest but can also include more severe attacks, such as placing needles in food and firebombing premises.
James McFarlin, a security specialist from Ashfords LLP, who provides security and risk assessments for global companies, said that firms can be targeted for a number of reasons, such as the products they sell, their links to particular countries and their business history.
He told delegates of the need to ensure that all staff at the firms they work for are aware of risks and what is expected of them.
Ian Mansfield, a former counter terrorism officer, said safety and health professionals can play a vital role by ensuring protocols are followed, for example having an evacuation point in a suitable location.
The meeting, held on Tuesday 29 September, also heard that cyber crime, for example hacking, is a threat that OSH professionals need to be aware of when doing risk analysis.
Stewart James, a partner at Ashfords, said that while cyber crime falls more into the realm of computer experts, when control systems fail it can lead to incidents which can potentially cause human injury.
He said: “It is now one of the top threats that we as a nation state face. The biggest threats are the people you work with, your staff. These are the people who let these threats into your systems. This can be through breach of internal policies or just plain ignorance, meaning people are using computer technology who don’t necessarily understand its powers or understand its weaknesses.”