Working in environments where the public and cash are in the same vicinity exposes employees to a broad range of potential violence. The most common type involves customer aggression, but retail employees must be prepared for anything through employer safety training meetings.
Shoplifting and robbery are also common, accounting for roughly 35% of workplace violence. Employers must have training for their employees in place with specific instructions and policies for the different types of workplace violence they could experience.
Work shifts in retail stores can put employees at risk for robbery or other potentially violent scenarios, especially when opening or closing the store. Establishments open 24 hours a day increase the potential of workplace violence, putting employees at risk when working in the dark of night. Washington State has additional requirements for all retail businesses operating between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.
Employees should be aware of their surroundings and understand what “normal” operations should look like so that when things don’t look or feel right, they can act according to company protocols. For example, if an employee finds themselves confronted by a robber, they should remain as calm as possible and give the perpetrator what they demand. They should also explain their movements before making them. For example, an employee might say, “I need to reach down and get the key to the drawer,” so the perpetrator understands that the employee is complying with their demands.
Employees’ lives are always more important than merchandise or money.
After the perpetrator has left the premises, the employee should immediately call 911 and remain on the call until the emergency dispatcher says it is okay to hang up. They should survey the store to ensure no other employees or customers require medical help as soon as possible. They should then write down as many things as they can remember about the perpetrator and the scene. If a retailer doesn’t have a witness reporting form, they can use the form WR has published for this very purpose, which is available for download from our retail theft webpage. The employee should be sure to make a copy or snap a photo of their statement with a smartphone so the original can be turned over to law enforcement.
It is worth employers setting aside time to review store opening and closing policies and ensure employees are trained and prepared for any type of crime incident or violent confrontation.
Additional retail crime guidance information can be found on WR’s website, including our new resource document, Organized Retail Theft: Guidance for Retailers.
Other related resources:
SAFEME has a Workplace Violence module that makes a great safety meeting topic.
RS Safety Library has a section on Working Late and Violence to help you on this topic, pertaining to this L&I Rule.
Rick Means, Director of Safety and Education, is available to help members with safety. Contact Rick at 360-943-9198, Ext. 118 or [email protected].