We are all still coming to terms with the chaos of the COVID-19 outbreak, but with lockdown coming to an end for most states, vaccine passports becoming mandatory, and different mask wearing rules, it is important that staff and employers know the best steps to take to ensure safety at work and avoid conflict.
Workplace violence is not new to us, but the COVID-19 pandemic has increased people’s fear and introduced a further set of flashpoints for conflict and aggression.
Add to this confusion, uncertainty, practical hurdles, and communication difficulties (vaccine passports, masks, etc) and we have the fuel for frustration and conflict that can escalate in a blink of an eye especially if not handled sensitively.
Over the next few weeks we will be sharing advice on:
● What workplace violence is and the proactive measures you can take to stay safe
● Top tips for de-escalation
● Recognising and overcoming COVID flashpoints
What is workplace violence, and what are proactive measures you can take to stay safe?
Violence and aggression from members of the public can create long-lasting damage mentally and sometimes physically. That is why it is important to understand the signs of conflict so that you can prevent the situation from escalating.
There are three types of work-related violence that people may experience:
BEING VERBALLY ABUSED
Such as being sworn at, insulted or shouted at.
Being intimidated or threatened with violence against you, either by words or gestures.
Physical assault such as being pushed, shoved, grabbed, spat on, scratched, or having objects thrown at you.
There are proactive measures you can take to keep you and your colleagues safe while at work. Firstly, you should find out what scenarios your employer expects you to deal with should something happen. Companies should have strategies and policies in place that outline how staff should deal with people who choose not to wear masks, or how best to check vaccine passports and what measures staff should take if people are not complying.
If you are required to handle a situation where conflict could occur, you need to be aware of the risks. To support this we have created a simple model (POPS) to remember, which aims to help staff to stay safe:
What do you know about the person or other people present?
Could they be angry, confused, intoxicated, or behaving suspiciously?
Could they be vulnerable?
Are there any objects in the room that could be used as a weapon?
Consider your immediate environment:
Are you going to be out of sight of your colleagues at any point and become isolated?
Do you have a place of safety to retreat to?
Can you call for help if something were to happen?
Consider other risk factors that could be present.
Is this a new situation or one you have experienced before?
Who is available for support or to hand over to if the situation escalates?
Do you engage or disengage from the situation?
Proactive measures to remember to keep you safe:
● Be familiar with the policies and procedures in place
● Deliver excellent customer service
● Treat everyone with respect and dignity
● Be observant and inform your supervisor about any concerns
● Develop positive relationships with your peers in the community, such as other retail businesses. Consider your support network e.g. the police.
For more advice on dealing with conflict as we come out of lockdown check out our other articles: