‘It’s crazy’: Calls for stores to close as staff fear for their health

Retail workers say they are "scared and desperate" and are begging for businesses to stop in-store trading amid fears for their health during the COVID-19 crisis.

Employees have told of customers openly coughing in store, coming too close to a pregnant worker and revealing that although they were meant to be in quarantine they were out shopping because they "needed a break".

JB Hi-Fi stores still remain open during the coronavirus pandemic, causing angst for a number of its employees. Credit:Patrick Durkin

The retail workers union said it had been in contact with major stores nationwide as they fielded concerns from staff working during the outbreak.

A JB Hi-Fi employee, who didn't want to be named,described the company's decision to keep doors open as "crazy".

The employee said many customers had "no regard for staff".

"Yesterday, a family of four came into our store and coughed openly … multiple times and then continued to touch multiple items while the children ran around without restraint," the employee said.

People lining up at an Officeworks store in mid-March, as they prepared to begin working from home.Credit:Daile Cross

The union said they were encouraging JB Hi-Fi and other businesses to put in additional measures, including plexiglass screens at counters and gloves and personal face shields for staff.

Workers at other stores said they felt that while their employers were trying to address health and safety, customers were not abiding by social distancing.

"They walk right up to me as I back away, they pay with cash and touch everything, sneeze and wipe their nose on their hands and touch things," said one supermarket worker. "I have to keep reminding people to space out at the register."

A pregnant woman who works in a popular furniture store said "the amount of people who come too close to me is insane".

"Every day me and my child's life is on the line so ignorant people can shop for things that are absolutely not essential."

Other major electronic stores have also been busy as people stock up in order to stay home.

An Officeworks spokeswoman declined to comment on whether it has had complaints from workers about health and safety issues.

However in a statement earlier this month, the company said it had taken steps including banning the use of cash and in some stores limiting how many people can be inside at one time.

Consumer electronic retail store The Good Guys also did not respond to a request for comment but have introduced similar measures in store.

Safe Work Australia has advised large retailers to calculate their floor space and set an upper limit on customers who may be inside the premises at one time. They've also been told to mark floors to enforce social distancing, use separate doors for entry and exits and to go cashless.

Large retailers have also been advised to consult with workers about the risks of working and to rotate tasks to ensure minimal contact with customers.

Sign up to our Coronavirus Update newsletter

Get our Coronavirus Update newsletter for the day’s crucial developments at a glance, the numbers you need to know and what our readers are saying. Sign up to The Sydney Morning Herald’s newsletter here and The Age’s here.

With Simone Fox Koob

Source: Read Full Article