Manager of Leyland Morrisons urges shoppers to "get on board" with mask wearing
The manager of a local Morrisons supermarket is urging shoppers to "get on board" with its new mandatory masks policy to help keep his staff safe.
David Paris, who manages Morrisons in Leyland, said the supermarket's decision to enforce mask wearing is "essential" to protect his staff from the latest surge in coronavirus infections.
From Monday (January 11), the supermarket said shoppers who refuse to wear masks offered by staff will not be allowed inside its stores, unless they are medically exempt.
Mr Paris, 58, has welcomed the new rule, saying it is a "huge relief" to himself and his 210 staff, who are dealing with thousands of shoppers each day.
Speaking to the Post, Mr Paris explained why the ban on maskless shoppers is so important.
He said: "To put it into perspective, imagine if you are a key worker in a hospital where you might be dealing with a couple dozen patients a day.
"You're in close contact with people, but it's essential work and you accept a certain level of risk. Both of my children are keyworkers. One is a police officer and the other works for the 999 emergency service, so I appreciate the risks that frontline services are taking in regards to the virus.
"Now think of how many people my staff deal with on an average shift. We have around 3,000 customers each day. And they are essential to keep this country moving.
"If you're working on the check-outs on a busy day, it is relentless. You're serving hundreds of people. Despite all the precautions we take to protect our staff, the sheer numbers of people that supermarkets are dealing with each day is immense.
"If we can do anything extra in our power to help keep staff safe, then we will. And making masks compulsory in store is a simple and effective way of ensuring our staff feel that bit safer when they come into work."
"The safer our workforce is, the safer the supermarket is," adds Mr Paris. "Everyone benefits. This isn't just for our protection. Everyone should feel comfortable and confident when they come to us for their shopping.
"No-one, especially our older and more vulnerable customers, should have to feel that they are putting themselves at risk when they do their shopping.
"They should have all the confidence in the world that they are entering a safe environment, which is what we have worked so hard to ensure since the pandemic began.
"This new rule will help reassure everyone that we are taking all the steps necessary to keep them and their families safe."
Mr Paris said managing Morrisons during the pandemic has been the "single biggest challenge" he has faced in his management career.
He says one of the most pressing problems he has to deal with is staff absence.
"I've been working for Morrisons since 1978 and I've worked 43 Christmases," said Mr Paris, "but this is without doubt the single biggest challenge I've ever faced as a manager.
"At the moment, if any of my staff have any symptoms - whether it's just a snuffle or itchy throat - they're asked to go home and they're off for 10 days. It's a managerial nightmare.
"If we can get them a test and it comes back negative, then sometimes we can bring them back sooner. But we're dealing with record numbers of staff absences because we just can't take the risk.
"It's a constant battle to keep the supermarket moving, to keep the shelves full and our warehouse operating day in, day out. Every time someone is off with even the mildest of symptoms, their colleagues are asked to pick up the slack.
"It's hard for everyone and that's why it's so important for our customers to get on board with this new mask policy, keep their distance from each other in-store and make use of the sanitation stations provided."
But what about those shoppers with disabilities? Mr Paris says customers who are exempt from wearing masks for health reasons can always ask for the free 'sunflower lanyards' available at the customer service desk.
These help staff to discreetly identify those who are not required to wear masks and help in enforcing non-compliance.
Mr Paris added: "I understand why some shoppers who are exempt might not want to draw attention to a disability, and may be reluctant to ask for a lanyard.
"But I can assure those customers that our staff will always be discreet. Just approach a member of staff for a quiet word, there'll be no fuss, and we'll get you sorted."
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