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Whilst working in retail, employees can face a range of challenges towards their personal safety. With a high risk of receiving verbal and physical abuse as frontline staff, coupled with risks posed by lone working in warehouses and as delivery drivers, the retail sector is crying out for more support to be shown for staff, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Person paying with credit card at a local retail shop

According to the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW), 15 retail workers are assaulted on an average day in Scotland, with 1 in 3 workers facing threats and 3 in 5 workers being abused according to yearly statistics

In 2020, the British Retail Consortium’s Retail Crime Survey also highlighted the worrying statistic that 424 shop workers face physical and verbal abuse each day, whilst Usdaw’s 2020 survey of 2,729 shopworkers across the UK found that 88% experienced verbal abuse, 60% were threatened by a customer and 9% were assaulted. All of these harrowing statistics emphasise the urgency of support required in the sector. 

In this article, we will highlight the key challenges facing retail workers and highlight the steps management can take to help implement increased personal safety measures. 

424 shop workers face physical and verbal abuse each day.

British Retail Consortium, 2020

15 retail workers are assaulted on an average day in Scotland

Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, 2021

88% of shop workers experienced verbal abuse in 2020

Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers

Top risks to retail workers

Woman working at pharmacy and wearing coat

Increase in violence and abuse 

In supermarkets, smaller convenience stores, pharmacies, petrol stations and other retail environments, the risk level for employees has doubled with tensions surrounding the pandemic. With mandatory mask policies and social distancing, employees are being asked to enforce new rules that the general public aren’t happy with, resulting in increased verbal and physical abuse.

Unfortunately, retail workers aren’t new to these risks. Before the pandemic, workers were exposed to risks posed by shoplifters, they received backlash for refusing to sell age-restricted goods and also had to deal with anti-social behaviour. 

Behind the scenes, retail workers who support home deliveries also face the same challenges. Recent news reports have highlighted increased attacks on delivery drivers across supermarket and takeaway deliveries, highlighting that extra measures must be adopted to protect workers from violence and theft. 

Side view of male worker lying on the floor in warehouse

Increased risk of accidents 

As the retail sector shifts to adapt to social distancing guidelines with reduced staff, retailers must consider the impact to employee health and safety. 

With more scattered shifts, working more hours alone and opening/closing stores alone, retail workers are at increased risk of experiencing accidents with no one around to help. These risks are especially prominent in back stock rooms and loading docks. 

Measures you can adopt to improve employee safety in retail

In order to combat the different personal safety challenges retail employees face as part of their role, employers must implement a range of measures to protect staff and ensure their safety. 

security cctv camera in supermarket building

Improving store security 

One method that retailers can adopt is improving store security. By adopting increased surveillance and increasing attendance of police and security staff on premises, employees can feel more reassured of their safety. 

When considering security measures such as CCTV, it is important for retailers to regularly review their systems and monitoring partners to ensure that footage is clear to further protect staff. By having a proactive monitoring system in place, signs of danger, such as abuse or shoplifting, can be mitigated quickly by security teams. 

Revising retail risk assessments 

With an influx of workers now considered as lone workers, coupled with increasing statistics surrounding violence and abuse, retailers are advised to review and update their protocols and risk assessments to ensure there is sufficient guidance and protection in place for employees. 

Click here to download our free risk assessment toolkit to get started.

Introducing lone worker safety tools 

When a retail worker is working alone, they may find it beneficial to have a lone worker safety device on hand to alert another team member or an emergency contact that they are in danger. 

By introducing a lone worker safety device or app, lone workers in retail environments can be safeguarded against slips, trips and falls, the dangers of underlying health conditions that may cause an employee to collapse, as well as the danger that arises from physical and verbal abuse from shoppers. 

Features of a lone worker safety device

By providing lone workers with a lone worker safety device fitted with an SOS button, accurate GPS monitoring, fall detection and other features that help reassure lone workers of their safety, you can improve staff confidence whilst working in retail. Devices like our Lone Worker App and the Chaperone Device are particularly appealing for retail outlets as they can be shared between multiple members of staff to suit shift working.

With these features built into one app or device, and connected to a 24-hour Alarm Receiving Centre, retail workers can summon help with one button press. 

How Safe Shores Monitoring helped Sewell On The Go protect their lone working employees

Disclaimer: the information provided in this article is for general guidance only and is not legal advice. This article is not a substitute for Health and Safety consultancy. For legal advice, you should seek independent advice .

To find out more about Safe Shores Monitoring and out mission to Protect, Assure and Respond to all lone workers and their requirements, please click here.