For most, the Christmas season is a time for generosity, tasty foods and good cheer. However, many criminals take advantage of this time of year to commit heinous crimes, taking advantage of lone workers, low-staffed shops and empty homes.
During the holiday period, the UK sees a spike in theft-related crimes throughout the country. These crimes range from home burglaries and petty theft on the street to armed robberies in shops. These types of robberies are especially worrisome for retail employees who are often working alone throughout this period.
According to the Telegraph, in 2016 robberies during the Christmas period increased by 20% from 2015/2016 to 2016/2017. There have been several high-profile cases of shops being the target of thieves during the Festive period. On Christmas Eve in 2017, an M&S located in Dulwich, South London was robbed at gunpoint, leaving frightened employees to hand over bags of cash to the perpetrators.
Lone workers in the retail sector encounter various risks in their day-to-day tasks, which include opening and closing the shop, dealing with violent customers and handling cash and expensive merchandise. These types of risks are not confined to the Christmas period and can involve serious consequences for employers overlooking their Health & Safety responsibilities.
According to Statista, 2017/2018 has seen an increase in robberies from 59,314 in 2016/2017 to 77,103 occurring in England and Wales. The Association of Convenience Stores Crime Report for 2018 also estimates there is an average of 13,437 incidents of violence each year, 39% of which result in injury to shop employees.
Understanding the severity and volume of crime against lone workers in the retail sector is imperative for employers in ensuring their employees are safe and sound during not only the holiday period but also all year long. In 2014 McColl, a convenience store operator in Merseyside was fined £130,000 for endangering employees in incidents that occurred between 2011-2012. These robberies resulted in physical injury towards the victims involved, including a shop manager who received a concussion.
Section 2 of the Health and Safety Work Act, 1974 alongside Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, 1999 require employers to perform risk assessments for lone workers, including those in the retail sector. This particularly important for employers to follow during the Holiday period.
Lone Worker safety systems, such as StaySafe, allow employers to equip their workers with the tools necessary to respond during times of crisis. StaySafe’s panic button allows employees to trigger a panic at any time, even when they have not started a session. The app also allows employees to trigger a duress alert, allowing the employee to act as if they have switched off the system if under pressure from an attacker. However, instead of actually turning off the system, the app sends an alert back to the online hub/monitor to inform them that the employee is under threat from a human attacker.
StaySafe used alongside, CCTV, trained staff and external security can help protect your employees not only during Christmas but year-round.
Please visit the following sites for more information about lone worker risks in the retail sector:
- StaySafe: Easy to Use Lone Working App
- Association of Convenient Stores 2018 Crime Report
- Health & Safety Executive: Managing Work Related Violence in Licensed and Retail Premises
- Health & Safety Executive: Working Alone – Health & Safety Guidance on the Risks of Lone Working