Health and Safety, Policies and Procedures

Health and Safety Policies – Staff Safety in Customer-Facing Spaces

Health and Safety Policies to Protect Staff

In today’s customer-facing environments, there is an increasingly unpredictable nature when it comes to individuals behaviour. 

Shopkeepers in the service industry and other customer-facing businesses must deal with many individuals, from aggressive shoplifters to disgruntled customers, and tread on thin ice as potential conflict situations can arise unexpectedly. 

This article looks at the significance of conducting thorough risk assessments and having business policies that align with Health and Safety guidelines, how to implement effective measures for avoiding violent incidents, and shed light on the escalating issue of shoplifting in the UK.

Valuing and Ensuring Safety in Customer-Facing Environments

In the face of potential threats or conflict situations, it’s pivotal that employees trust their instincts. 

Engaging with potential shoplifters, for example, should be an option only if the circumstances assure safety. 

If an encounter escalates into a hazardous situation, keeping safe by maintaining a reasonable distance, politely excusing oneself, and tactfully alerting the manager or the security team could make a significant difference in averting a volatile confrontation.

To highlight the importance of prioritising staff safety measures, an incident involving an underage customer trying to procure alcohol from a retail store is a perfect example. 

The worker refused the sale, owing to age-restriction policies, resulting in the customer reacting violently and the worker being knocked to the ground. 

However, the retail employer promptly implemented new measures to manage violence and aggression efficiently.

Among the measures implemented were keeping alcohol in secured cabinets, providing clear and bold signage about age-restricted sales and the operation of CCTV cameras, clever shop layouts for increased visibility, installation of tall and wide till counters complemented with protective screens, and delivering de-escalation training to workers. 

Recognising and Asserting an Action against a Rising Shoplifting Epidemic 

Small independent shops, often the heart of local communities, are increasingly at the receiving end of a worsening shoplifting epidemic. The issue is so grave that it has led them to seek intervention at the level of MPs and the police.

To add urgency to the scenario, Kate Graham, Operations Director at Co-op, went public with a dire warning. The stores have descended into “anarchy”, driven by a steep rise in retail crime. UK stores have registered an alarming 35% increase in crime rates over the past year. 

The figures detail more than 900 staff members physically assaulted on duty. Moreover, the Scottish Grocers’ Federation corroborates this grim retail landscape as all its affiliated members have confirmed experiencing theft incidents daily.

Ensuring Effective Measures against Shoplifting

In the wake of an escalating shoplifting epidemic, a collective of retailers, including John Lewis, has pledged to fund a specially dedicated police operation.

Known as “Project Pegasus”, the initiative will employ the retailers’ CCTV footage and data analytics to comprehensively understand shoplifters’ modus operandi.

However, the adverse effect of shoplifting isn’t confined to mega-retailers alone. 

Marty Scott, a 57-year-old employee at Halfords, bore the brunt of a brutal assault. Subsequently, Halford’s management contended that Scott had violated store policy, thereby being responsible for his injuries. 

The Integral Role of Human Resources in Fostering Workplace Safety 

Human Resources (HR) personnel are critical in filtering aggressiveness and violence. HR is instrumental in formulating strategies that endorse a safety culture while ensuring health and safety guidelines adherence. 

It is key to recognise that employees are legally responsible for ensuring a safe and healthy workplace environment for their colleagues and customers. 

Ensuring staff members abide by health and safety policies is crucial to maintaining a compliant and secure work environment.

The crucial issues of customer aggression and the safety of customer-facing workers necessitate immediate attention.

By enforcing effective policies, providing training and cultivating a safety culture, and advocating respect towards staff, we can ultimately achieve a secure, safer work space for everyone.

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