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CDC: Panic Buttons Top the List For Protecting Employees

More than ever before, workers find themselves at risk of threats and assault as businesses work to implement and maintain policies

In March of 2020, as news of the COVID-19 pandemic swept across communities around the world, fear, and uncertainty spread at an equally alarming pace. Wherever we turned, we were inundated with the mention of “unprecedented times” and the “new normal.” We understood, even then, that the normalcy of everyday life -- which many of us once took for granted -- was no longer guaranteed. The light at the end of the tunnel was not yet visible, and, for many of us, this uncertainty was nearly paralyzing. Since then, Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ has seemingly taken over, with much of the population focusing almost solely on the base of the famous pyramid: physiological needs (food and clothing) and safety (job security).

While this isn’t a particularly surprising social shift, it has placed business owners in select sectors in an increasingly precarious position. Specifically, certain industries, including hospitality and retail, are now facing an influx of pandemic-related crimes and violence against workers due to COVID-19 policies and frustrations.

A Pandemic Within the Pandemic In May of 2020, after a Florida security guard was tragically killed after a disagreement with a shopper, experts came forward to confirm this concerning trend of customers becoming more aggressive to frontline workers, especially those in retail, healthcare, or hospitality environments. "In 30 plus years of studying retail and crisis situations, we have never seen a situation of customers being so rude to hourly employees," said Larry Barton, a professor of crisis management and public safety at the University of Central Florida, in a statement to Business Insider. To this effect, in August and September of 2020, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) updated its COVID-19 guidelines to better inform retailers and service-based businesses (many of which were considered essential and employed frontline workers) to prevent workplace violence associated with COVID-19 regulations. The CDC noted that now, more than ever before, workers might find themselves at risk of verbal or physical threats and assault at the hands of customers as businesses work to implement and maintain COVID-19 prevention policies. “These threats and assaults can come from customers, other employees, or employers,” explained the CDC. “Based on a 1996 Current Intelligence Bulletin, threats and assaults can happen in any workplace, but may be more likely to occur in retail, services (e.g., restaurants), and other customer- or client-based businesses.” Making Staff Safety a Priority Considering the hands-on, often isolated nature of hospitality work, hospitality workers have become increasingly vulnerable to this emerging issue. Fortunately, the CDC has provided a list of recommendations for businesses hoping to better protect their staff and, perhaps unsurprisingly, panic buttons are at the top of that list. According to these guidelines, best practices for maintaining staff safety in the pandemic era include, but are not limited to:

  • Provide employee training on threat recognition, conflict resolution, nonviolent response, and on any other relevant topics related to workplace violence response

  • Install security systems (e.g., panic buttons, cameras, alarms) and train employees on how to use them

  • Identify a safe area for employees to go to if they feel they are in danger (e.g., a room that locks from the inside, has a second exit route, and has a phone or silent alarm)

  • Put in place steps to assess and respond to workplace violence. The response will depend on the severity of the violence and the size and structure of the business. Possible responses may include reporting to a manager or supervisor on-duty, calling security, or calling 911

Now, more than ever before, businesses -- especially those within the hospitality sector, such as hotels -- must take a closer look at the staff safety structure they have in place. Implementing staff safety buttons (or better yet, a dedicated staff safety platform that utilizes BLE/Wi-Fi hubs for real-time location data) along with enhanced safety training, the use of safe areas, and clearly identified emergency response procedures can effectively protect employees from customer violence.

Just as businesses have a responsibility to prioritize public health and the safety of their customers, they also have a responsibility to prioritize their staff’s health, safety, and well-being. For more information on TraknProtect’s best-in-class staff safety platform, click here.


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