The annual Retail Crime Survey for 2019 makes for depressing reading. Each year, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) surveys retailers to gauge the extent and impact of crime in the sector. The 2019 report covers the 12-month period to 31 March 2018. Violence and abuse continues to be one of the main concerns highlighted from the survey, as statistics continue to rise year on year. In 2018, roughly 42,000 violent or threatening incidents were reported across the retail sector. This averages over 115 attacks on retail-sector staff each day of the year. And for retail lone workers, the risks are disproportionately higher.
Retail sector violence: the extent of the problem
Retail staff are often confronted with difficult and often violent situations with the general public. The motivation for this violence can be manifold. Sometimes, it’s intentional use of violence to assist with theft; these instances, including armed robbery, are often the most violent. In other instances, people respond with verbal abuse or violence to age-related sales challenges, including those required by law (such as sale of alcohol or cigarettes). Often, the perpetrator is intoxicated, be that by drugs or alcohol.
The survey showed the total number of instances of abusive behaviour exceeded 100,000 in 2018 for the first time. But such incidents are generally under-reported, and often not to the police, so the figure is probably higher. There is also an increasing trend towards incidents becoming more violent and frightening, according to the BRC.
Retail 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-staffed. 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. For retail lone workers, the negative impact of violence on their mental health and wellbeing can be massive.
How retailers can reduce workplace violence
Retail-sector employers have a huge responsibility to ensure their retail lone 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.
Given that many people in the sector are lone workers, it’s especially important to tackle these problems head-on. There are a number of ways in which employers can improve general safety for retail lone workers:
Provide compulsory training on managing conflict and dealing with difficult customers.
Install more CCTV cameras.
Encourage staff to report all assaults and incidents of violence or verbal abuse, no matter how small they may seem.
Build close relationships with local emergency services.
Deploy and actively use a lone worker protection system such as Safe Hub
Safe Hub mitigates risks for retail lone workers
The surest way to protect retail lone workers is to implement a lone worker safety solution. With our Safe Hub system, Lone Worker Solutions offers comprehensive protection for retail lone workers. Whether it’s triggering a Red Alert for help in an emergency, or responding to automated welfare checks with Safe Check, the lone worker is in charge. We have a range of devices and apps which are ideally suited for retail lone workers, including the sector-leading SOS Fob which due to its small size and range of accessories, can be worn prominently or discreetly as required (SOS Fob shown below with the belt/pocket clip, wristband and ID badge holder).
Our clients in the retail sector include Sainsbury’s, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this week. Here’s to the sector becoming safer for retail lone workers during this anniversary year.
For the Retail Crime Survey 2019, visit https://brc.org.uk/media/404253/brc-annual-crime-survey-2019.pdf
Contact Lone Worker Solutions and the Safe Hub team today
Call: +44-(0)161 885 2122
Post by George Stavrinidis
George is Chief Executive Officer of Lone Worker Solutions (LWS). He believes passionately that everyone should be protected and supported at work. George supports LWS clients to make sure they enjoy the most effective relationship with the team and maximise the effectiveness of their deployment of Safe Hub.