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CDC guidance aimed at protecting retail, service workers from COVID-related customer violence

Photo: DragonImages/iStockphoto

Washington — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released guidance intended to help employers in the retail and service industries protect workers from violence that may occur when they ask customers or co-workers to comply with store policies aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19.

“Workers may be threatened and assaulted as businesses try to put into place COVID-19 prevention policies and practices (e.g., mandatory use of masks, social distancing, and limits on the number of customers allowed in a business),” CDC says. “These threats and assaults can come from customers, other employees or employers.”


Among CDC’s tips for employers:

  • Offer options such as curbside pickup, home delivery for food and groceries, and alternative shopping hours to limit customer contact with others and promote physical distancing.
  • Post signs informing customers about policies on wearing masks, physical distancing and maximum facility occupancy.
  • Advertise COVID-19-related policies on the business’ website.
  • Educate workers on threat recognition, conflict resolution, nonviolent response and other topics associated with workplace violence response.
  • Be mindful of threatening or violent situations, and support workers and customers as matters escalate.
  • If staffing allows, assign two workers to encourage customers to adhere to COVID-19 prevention policies.
  • Establish a safe area for employees who feel they’re in danger, such a room that locks from the inside, has a second exit route, and has a phone or silent alarm.

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