Workplace Violence: Prevention Tactics for Retail Operations and Others

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines workplace violence as any physical assault, threatening behavior or verbal abuse occurring in the work setting. Violent crime is a serious problem—especially in the retail and service industries. A recent Violence in the American Workplace survey found that 52% of working Americans “have witnessed, heard about or have experienced a violent event or an event that can lead to violence at their workplace.”

Establishing a program to address violent crime in the workplace is an important way of helping keep employees safe from such behaviors. Knowing a workplace has policies and procedures in place to guard against threats to employee safety also helps to create a more comfortable and productive environment.

Use the information below as you develop your own safety program on violent crime prevention:

Safety basics:

  • Consider having a security alarm system and/or security cameras on-site.
  • Do not open locked doors for anyone you don’t know.
  • If your facility has communication devices for employees, consider having a code word or phrase so all employees know that a robbery is in progress.
  • Install bright lights in recreational areas, parking lots and garages, and keep them in good working order.
  • Conduct regular inspections of the property to ensure door locks and security systems are working.
  • Have multiple employees on duty during high-risk periods (typically 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.)
  • Install bullet-resistant shielding to protect employees and cash areas.
  • Add mirrors to eliminate blind spots.
  • Install a panic button that automatically calls for help.
  • Work with the local police department to organize a Neighborhood Watch program to give employees and guests more security.
  • Maximize natural surveillance. Employees should have an optimal view of the entrance and interior of your business.
  • Post “No Loitering” signs outside and enforce a no loitering policy.

Don’t forget the importance of safe cash handling:

  • Don’t keep more cash on hand than is needed to do business.
  • Install drop safes and have signs in obvious places that say drop safes are used.
  • If an employee makes a daily trip to the bank, don’t make the trip at the same time each day.
  • Don’t use a bag labeled “Bank” to carry the money.
  • Don’t discuss cash-control procedures with friends or customers.
  • Conduct cash audits daily or at the end of each shift.
  • If armored cars are used, try to have them vary their schedule of pickups and deliveries. If your business has a drive-thru window and the armored car will fit, have them use this window.

In general:

  • Develop a workplace violence prevention plan. This program addresses the procedures necessary to discourage and prevent violence in the workplace.
  • Set up a crisis plan to address violent incidents. The plan can include details about how to report the incident, which key internal managers and external authorities should be alerted, how to maintain the safety of unaffected workers and security precautions to prevent future incidents.
  • Provide safety education for employees so they know what conduct is acceptable, what to do if they witness or are subjected to workplace violence, and how to protect themselves.
  • If you own the company, take a hard look at your business — physical layout, employees, hiring practices, operating procedures and special security risks.
  • Use caution with deliveries and pickups — anyone making a delivery to your workplace should be properly identified before you open the door.
  • Follow basic crime prevention principles and work with local law enforcement to protect your business.

The bottom line is that crime prevention starts with being proactive. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reinforces that employers have a responsibility for ensuring the safety of their employees — including protection from violence. It’s not always easy, and there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach, but it’s up to you to take the time to consider the potential risks at your workplace and address them head on.

If you need assistance, United Heartland is here to help.