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Body of Evidence

September 17, 2021 by Chris Allcard, Lone Worker Services Director

With the wearing of face coverings now compulsory in shops across England and Scotland, retail staff are at risk of receiving abuse when challenging non-compliant customers. Chris Allcard, lone worker services director at Reliance Protect, explains why the use of body worn cameras offers a welcome source of protection.

The coronavirus pandemic continues to affect every aspect of our lives and the retail experience is no exception. With shoppers in England and Scotland now required to wear face coverings, are shop workers expected to encourage and even enforce their use in stores – something that carries with it an increased risk of verbal and physical abuse?

Fine art

Although anyone refusing to comply could be fined up to £100 it is clear that enforcement is beyond an already stretched police service. In what he obviously considers to be a hot potato, Ken Marsh, chair of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said it was ‘absolutely absurd’ to expect police to enforce the new rule and retailers need ‘to step up to the plate and take some responsibility’.

The retail sector has been quick to respond, as this comment comes at a time when violence against shop workers is at an all-time high. A Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw) survey showed that in the month up to 14th April, 62 per cent of respondents were verbally abused, 29 per cent threatened and four per cent assaulted. Not only does this suggest that retail staff are under increasing danger while carrying out their duties, it should be noted that the negative publicity surrounding incidents can affect customers visiting the shop and damage the retailer brand.

Candid camera

Once considered a niche technology primarily used by the police and other emergency services, body worn cameras are increasingly popular within the retail sector. In most cases they act as a strong visual deterrent and help diffuse a potentially volatile situation.

The reason is simple – people tend to be far less aggressive if they know they are being recorded. Good working practices maximise the benefits of adopting body worn cameras.  For example, posters and signage highlighting that staff are wearing such technology and staff advising potentially hostile people that they are recording a situation if it starts to escalate.

Leading specialist technology providers can also integrate body worn cameras into a broader security infrastructure. For example, integrating them with CCTV, access control and even manned guarding can create a solution where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. On top of all this, the video generated from body worn cameras can highlight training requirements, evaluate protocols and improve best work practices.

Investors in people

Violence at work can have devastating consequences on the physical and psychological health of those affected, and retailers can’t afford to ignore the issue. There are numerous reasons why investing in personal safety makes sense. As well as keeping them safe, it is also worth noting that morale and productivity improve when employees realise that the company they work for takes their health, safety and wellbeing seriously by investing in equipment such as body worn cameras.

If you’d like to speak to someone at Reliance Protect to find out how we can help you get the best from your Lone Worker protection solution, please contact: protectsales@reliancehightech.co.uk or give us a call on 01977 696649.