The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns customer-based businesses: Prepare your employees to face people who don’t want to follow COVID-19 restrictions and may become violent.
The threat to retail, food service and other service employees is real.
A man has been charged with shooting an employee after being asked to wear a mask in a cigar shop in Pennsylvania.
That’s just one example.
The CDC has provided these recommendations for these employers and their employees:
- Don’t argue with a customer if they make threats or become violent.
- Don’t attempt to force anyone who appears upset or violent to follow COVID-19 prevention policies.
- Report perceived threats or acts of violence to your manager.
Employers should also provide training to employees about dealing with these situations, according to the CDC.
Training should include cues that are warning signs of possible violence, such as when a customer:
- speaks loudly or swears
- has clenched fists
- breathes heavily
- has a fixed stare, or
- is pacing.
When responding to a potentially violent customer, employees should:
- pay attention to the person and maintain non-threatening eye contact, and
- avoid threatening gestures such as finger pointing or crossed arms.
Other actions employers can take to prevent coronavirus-related workplace violence:
- Post signs that let customers know about policies for wearing masks, social distancing and maximum business occupancy
- Include these policies on your business website (here’s Walmart’s policy)
- Create a policy to respond to workplace violence
- Establish a safe area (such as a room that locks) where employees can go if they feel threatened
- Assign two workers to encourage customers to follow COVID-19 guidelines, if staffing permits, and
- Install security systems (cameras, panic buttons) and train employees how to use them.
More than 30 states require mask use.
The Retail Industry Leaders Association has called for uniform mask mandates in all 50 states.