The British Retail Consortium released their annual Retail Crime Survey results last month, revealing an evident rise in violence against staff across the sector.
Due to the nature of their roles, retail staff are often confronted with difficult and often violent situations with the general public. Violence and abuse continue to be one of the main concerns highlighted from the survey, as stats continue to rise year on year. In 2018, roughly 42,000 violent or threatening incidents were reported.
There is also an increasing trend ‘towards incidents becoming more violent and frightening, with an increasing willingness to use weapons to intimidate even for relatively small amounts’ (BRC). As well as having the potential to cause injury, such incidents have a huge impact on an employees mental well being with many victims suffering from emotional harm, PTSD and anxiety and depression following an attack.
- 115 colleagues attacked every day including weekends
- Over 42,000 reported violent incidents across the industry
- The total number of abusive behaviour has reached 100,000 for the first time
- 32 incidents per 1,000 workers
Why are the statistics so high?
According to the BRC, there are 3 main triggers behind the use of violence towards staff;
- intentional use of violence to assist with theft
- as a response to -age-related sales challenges (including when required by law)
- by intoxicated (drugs and/ or alcohol) criminals
The most violent crimes tend to be related to armed robberies. However, verbal abuse is incredibly common and rarely reported as shoppers regularly take out their frustration on staff.
Examples of retail violence
Shopowner Ravi Katharkamar was recently murdered during an armed robbery in Pinner, North-West London. The victim collapsed inside the shop at 6:00am and was sadly pronounced dead just 45 minutes later.
In 2016, Imtiaz ul Haq was brutally attacked by Matthew Wheelan in what was described as a “cowardly and frenzied” attack. The incident occurred around 6:30pm at a Costcutter store in Flintsbury, when Imtiaz ul Haq was stabbed repeatedly by the attacker after he had attempted to rob the shop, sustaining serious injuries to his neck and head.
Doctors who treated the victim afterwards commented that they had never seen someone survive injuries as serious as Mr Haq’s. The suspect was said to have been high off of alcohol and drugs when the incident happened.
Unfortunately these are not uncommon occurrence. There have been several similar stories in the last year;
- Shop worker killed by teenager in London after refusing to sell him Rizla, tobacco rolling paper
- Two female shopkeepers were left traumatized following two seperate violent robberies in Lanarkshire.
- Woman threw bleach at a shop worker in Scotland when asked to leave, having attacked two other shopkeepers the following year.
- A member of staff was attacked with a tv aerial in Burton Menswear during an attempted robbery.
- Shopworker attacked with pepper spray and assaulted in unprovoked attack.
How can retail staff be kept safe from workplace violence
With these shocking new findings employees have a huge responsibility to ensure their retail workers are kept safe during threatening incidents. By law, employers need to frequently assess employee safety policies and act on any areas that are recognised as dangerous.
There are many ways to help minimise the risk of workplace violence for retail staff but here are a few of our suggestions;
- Provide compulsory training on managing and defusing difficult customers
- Implement CCTV cameras
- Encourage staff to report all assaults no matter how small they may seem
- Build close relationships with local emergency services
- Implement panic alarms and a lone worker monitoring solution
Lone workers can be particularly vulnerable to violence and armed robberies due to being seen as an easier target. In fact, assailants have often admitted targeting certain shops due to them being single manned. The ability to focus on a single employee means that they are more likely to be successful in getting away before the emergency services are alerted.
StaySafe lone worker monitoring
StaySafe offer an easy to use solution for the retail sector that ensures lone workers always have a way to signal for help in an emergency. A panic button can be triggered discreetly at any time, while beginning a session spanning the length of a work shift, ensures that employee safety is monitored throughout the day. Missing a check-in during a shift or failing to end a session, will send an alert to an employer or monitoring centre.
If confronted by an attacked, the lone worker can enter a duress PIN which will appear as if the app has been disabled when in actual fact an alert has been raised in the Hub.
Monitors are able to listen in on the situation when an alert is triggered, and the appropriate services will be dispatched to the employee to ensure their safety.