Lone Workers in Retail – The Risks

Lone workers in retail are under threat.

Lone working is a scary enough job but some sectors face higher threats, particularly verbal or physical violence. On such sector is retail. Earlier this year, The British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) annual Retail Crime Survey revealed a worrying spike in violence against retail staff, with the number of incidents happening at twice the rate of last year’s survey.


The Threats to Lone Workers in Retail


The latest BRC survey results were not surprising, considering that the previous year also saw a huge surge in violence against retail workers, with BRC Chief Executive, Helen Dickinson stating:


“Retailers are doing everything possible to ensure that staff members and customers are safe and protected. But this rising tide should be stemmed through even stronger cooperation between industry, the government, law enforcement and the private security industry. There is work to do to further improve collaboration between the UK retail industry and its partners, and raise standards of security and policing of these threats across the country.”


Instances of Lone Work in Retail


Most retail workers don’t actually work alone and the industry isn’t often associated with lone working, like others such as social care, housing or logistics. But there can be a lot of lone work in retail, it’s just not immediately obvious as it may happen in small instances throughout the day.


picture shows a retail environment where lone working and therfore lone worker threats exist


One immediate risk group is key holders. These are members of staff who open or close stores. Many businesses may do a risk assessment and decide that this task should be completed by two people, but when staff shortages or holidays intervene, there might not always be two people available. To a would-be criminal, this time is the perfect opportunity to try and gain access to the store. There have been several instances where this has happened and been reported in the news.


Other areas where lone working can take place include in-store staff, back of store staff, delivery drivers and distribution operators. A retailer worker may walk into a warehouse unattended, or a shop assistant may be left alone when a colleague leaves for a lunch break. These are small instances of lone working, but provide the perfect opportunity for a criminal to take action.


Why Protect Retail Workers Who Work Alone?


What is the threat?


Violence in retail, whether verbal or physical usually has two motivations; criminal activity or disputes with members of the public.


Criminal motivation isn’t usually personal and unfortunately, people who work in retail get caught up in the situation. Criminals might attempt to rob a shop and see a staff member as an obstacle, other criminals might deliberately plan an attack when they know that staff will be alone and vulnerable.


Again, this has been widely reported in the news and an especially vulnerable part of the retail sector is bookmakers. Over the past few years, there have been several instances of bookies being robbed while members of staff were on their own.


The other threat to retail workers comes from the public. Violence can erupt over something tiny and can result in verbal threats or insults and in some tragic cases violence and murder.


picture shows a man holding a metal bar in a threatening way to illustrate the risk to lone workers in the retail sector


An extreme example is the murder of 49-year-old, Vijaykumar Patel, a shop worker who was killed by a teenage boy after he refused to sell him cigarette papers. This sad incident demonstrates how the smallest thing can quickly become blown out of proportion when dealing with members of the public.


Do You or Your Employees Work Alone in Retail?


As seen, there are so many risks associated with lone working that is essential that you or your company consider your care of duty and put some steps in place to help reduce the threat of violence.


This is especially important in small shops, with low staff numbers and unsociable opening hours. Physical violence, assault, accident and injuries can happen at any time and it is important that there are procedures in place. A lone worker device can help protect staff, getting help to you or your employees in a fast, and discreet way.


Staying safe when lone working in retail can be difficult. You don’t want to treat all customers as criminals, and sometimes it is impossible to have a barrier between staff and customers. There are steps however, that can be taken to ensure your staff are safe. Why not read our 5 tips for staying safe while working in retail.


Get in Touch


If you would like to learn more about how First2HelpYou can help you protect lone workers in retail, get in touch using our contact page.


We are a full-service lone worker solution provider who can provide everything from devices, policy advice to training for lone workers.