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Anti-mask confrontations have gotten so bad, the CDC says retailers should install panic buttons

Concerned about workplace violence, the CDC has tips for employees dealing with people who won’t listen to rules about masking and social distancing.

Anti-mask confrontations have gotten so bad, the CDC says retailers should install panic buttons
[Photo: Arturo Rey/Unsplash]

Attention, retail and service industry workers: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now has your backs when it comes to customers not covering their faces.

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Concerned about workplace violence, the CDC has released a list of tips for employees dealing with people who refuse to listen to stated rules about masking, social distancing, and the number of individuals allowed inside at a time.

Among the suggestions are:

  • Offer minimal-contact options, like curbside pickup, home delivery, and alternative shopping hours.
  • Post policies in stores and on the business’ website, so customers know what’s expected of them.
  • Train employees to recognize threats and possible violence (such as talking loudly, heavy breathing, and pacing) and resolve conflict nonviolently (like nonthreatening eye contact and no finger pointing).
  • Install a security system, like panic buttons and alarms.
  • Assign employees to work in teams of two, if possible.
  • Designate a place for employees to go if they’re in danger, such as a room that locks from the inside or has a second way out.

Social media has plenty of cellphone videos of irate customers verbally or physically attacking employees in department stores, groceries, gas stations, restaurants, and similar businesses. Many have gone viral, showing snippets of threats or merchandise destruction.

Tips for employees include:

  • Report threats, violence, and other such incidents to your supervisor.
  • Support coworkers who are in an escalating situation.
  • Don’t argue with customers, and if need be, go to the designated safe area.
  • Don’t try to force customers who seem upset or violent to comply with the company’s policies.
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