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Retail sales - Shop workers

Work-related violence case studies

Based in Wales, Walkers TV, Radio and Music Centre Ltd is a small electrical retail company with three shops.

Walkers employ 11 people between the three shops. Most employees work at the shop counters and also deliver electrical goods or service them at customers’ homes.

All staff will, at some point, spend time working alone.

Key risks

Examples of incidents

Successful measures

Training and information

Health and safety training: all employees receive this training which includes appropriate responses to theft, the threat of violence, and handling complaints.

Customers communication: staff are advised to be non-confrontational and taught to be diplomatic when dealing with customers. For example, asking if a customer has checked the batteries when repairing a remote control is likely to insult their intelligence. Better to say ‘Can I just check your batteries?’.

Awareness, vigilance and anticipation: this is considered to be the most successful form of violence prevention and the best defence against customer threats.

For example:

Sharing information: communicate to other staff and alert other businesses in the area.

Codes on job sheets: employees can alert other staff about potentially difficult or abusive customers by writing a code word on their job sheet (eg ‘care’) or warning delivery staff to be careful when a particular customer may be unhappy.

Accident book: staff record incidents in an accident book. This helps to raise awareness of the risks to staff. It is part of the employment contract that employees report incidents of violence and abuse.

Work environment and equipment

shop worker inside Walkers storeCCTV: all three shops have CCTV. Cameras allow staff to observe the shop and detect any problems or potential incidents.

Good lighting: good visibility of employees and activities helps to deter potential troublemakers.

Telephones/call buttons: these are installed at the shop counters so that employees can alert staff in other areas of the building if they need help.

Discreet emergency panic alarm: a panic alarm installed in one shop can be activated in an emergency. It will continue to ring until it is turned off and so is very effective in alerting the need for assistance.

999 speed dial: staff in shops without a panic alarm have a speed dial function on their telephones. If pressed discretely this connects directly to the police station.

Job design

Emphasis on customer service: staff are well trained in customer service skills. This helps to minimise incidents involving angry and frustrated customers. It is company policy that customer problems are dealt with quickly, calmly and positively to avoid the problem escalating.

Doubling up for difficult jobs: if a delivery job looks particularly risky, two people may attend. There is a culture of openness in the shops so that employees do not hesitate to ask for back-up if they need it.

Mobile phones: mobile staff are issued mobile phones to make contact if problems occur.

Less successful measures

Some measures can be less effective, or have disadvantages:

Written rules: it has been found that good communication and an open culture in the company is more effective than written memos and rules.

Costly: CCTV is expensive.

No transmission: mobiles phones are out of range in some areas.

Not reported: staff do not report every incident of physical or verbal abuse to the manager, or record it in the accident book so some risks are not identified. Verbal abuse is not generally reported.

The benefits and cost

The benefits

The costs

Updated 2013-12-12