Mandatory worming policies aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19 have made workers more vulnerable to potential abuses by customers who see this policy as a violation of their rights, experts say.
“This is really an overcharged question. It now seems that the issue of worm policy has just become deeply personal, says Andre Simons, Washington-based head of crisis and security advice at the global risk consulting company Control Risks Ltd., about the increase in attacks on workers in recent months.
While some individuals and workers may view protectors who refuse to wear masks as a threat to the safety and health of themselves and their families, others refuse to wear masks because they see the COVID-1
"That is why we see these conflicts breaking out, and why there is potential for them to continue here in the coming weeks and months," Simons said.
Dozens of assaults – and a few deaths – have occurred in public places over masking throughout the United States. Workers have also been threatened and have been deliberately coughed up by customers for pointing out worm policy.
In May, a family dollar worker in Michigan was shot and killed after he demanded a customer and her children wear masks. In early July, a New Mexico worker shot and killed a man who allegedly tried to run over him after being asked to wear a mask, and a California food security worker was charged with murder for shooting a customer he was fighting with for violation of the store's worm policy.
In recent days, the media has reported several abuses of masking. On Friday, a customer stopped a barista in Los Angeles allegedly over the cafe's worm policy, and on Sunday, a man who was asked to wear a mask in a convenience store in New Orleans shot at the workers before fleeing.
Some of the reasons for this mask backlash are cultural and some may be due to changes in worm policy from the beginning of the pandemic, says Deborah Roy, Falmouth, Maine-based president of SafeTech Consultants Inc. and president-elect of the American Society of Safety Professionals.
"In the United States, we do not have a culture of masking for public health reasons, while in other countries it is much more common," she said. "I think the initial guide to not wearing masks in the United States confused people, and that made it harder to recommend fabric face coatings." The first recommendation on masks had more to do with available supply than safety, she said.
Several retailers have issued statements asking customers to wear face coatings in their stores, but a few – including Woonsocket, Rhode Island-based CVS Health – said they will not require employees to carry out masking mandates over concerns about their safety.
"To be clear, we do not ask our employees to play the role of CEO," said Jon Roberts, CVS Health & # 39 ;s Chief Vice President and CEO, in a statement. "What we are asking is that customers help protect themselves and those around them by listening to the experts and following the call to wear a face mask."
Companies can help reduce customers' mask-related frustration by clearly stating their mask policy and visually reinforcing this policy at entrances, Simons said. "Confusion can also lead to conflict … and can, of course, lead to bloating between customers and employees," he said.
"Companies really need to be more up to date on the message," Roy said. "If someone does not want to wear a mask, you want a positive alternative for those individuals as opposed to a negative message."
Companies can, for example, offer free disposable masks to customers without them or offer customers on the curb pick-up by providing a handout with information on how to place an order from their vehicle or home if they choose, she said.
The more signs a company has and the more protective equipment they provide customers, such as disposable masks, gloves and hand sanitizers, "the less likely they are to have the negative interaction with a customer," Roy said.  On Friday, California released a "playbook" for employers that suggests that employees "avoid approaching colleagues or members of the public who do not wear a face mask in order to try to enforce any face protection recommendation or requirement." It also recommends that employers introduce a "method to call in security or law enforcement support when needed."
"Planning and preparing for what could potentially be a hostile situation will go a long way toward protecting both employees and customers," said John Dony, Itasca, Illinois-based director of the Campbell Institute at the National Safety Council.  But no matter what action is taken, confrontation may occur and employees need to know what to do if faced with aggressive or hostile customers, said Simons.
"If they feel threatened or insecure, the best policy is to postpone place security or law enforcement personnel, "he said." Unless there is an immediate threat to security, I think retail employees could really benefit from knowing and using peeling skills. "
One of the first things to remember , he said, is not to tell a customer to calm down
"It is usually seen as a directive of the hostile person," he said. Rather, employees should make sure they are lu gna and can remain that way during the conversation and talk to the angry customer in a calm voice in a calming tone.
"Rather than minimizing the issue … show empathy and understanding," Mr Simons said. For example, he suggests that employees state that they understand how important the mask is to the customer and offer a face coat if the individual shows up at the store without intending to defy any policy.
If the customer continues to engage, the employee should actively listen to the customer, summarize back to them what has contributed to their decision not to wear a mask and express their understanding of the customer's frustration and anger over the policy and situation.
"What we are trying to work to avoid here is that what is potentially a hotbed of conflict turns into a broader moment of violence," he said.
If a customer is in a facility and refuses to wear a mask, one possible strategy is to do what many stores do from a loss-prevention point of view by reporting, but not engaging, store lifters.
"Depending on the culture of the organization, it may be appropriate," Roy said. "And especially if it's a small mom and pop store that only has one or two people in the building, it can be a safer approach."
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