CDC Recommends Businesses Install Security Systems, Provide Safe Areas to Limit Coronavirus-Related Violence

Author: Michael Cardman, XpertHR Legal Editor

September 2, 2020

New guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and other customer-facing businesses advice about how to limit violence toward workers who may be enforcing policies and practices meant to help minimize the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

There have been widespread reports of violence directed at employees and customers resulting from businesses taking coronavirus-prevention measures such as mask requirements, social distancing and limits on the number of customers allowed on the premises at one time.

Among other things, the CDC recommended that employers:

  • Install panic buttons, cameras, alarms and/or other security systems, and train employees on how to use them;
  • Identify a safe area for employees to go to if they believe they are in danger (for example, a room that locks from the inside, has a second exit route, and has a phone or silent alarm);
  • Assign two employees to work as a team;
  • Offer options to help customers minimize their contact with others, such as curbside pick-up, personal shoppers, home delivery and alternative shopping hours;
  • Inform customers about their prevention policies through posted signs and updates on their websites; and
  • Train employees on threat recognition, conflict resolution, nonviolent responses and more.

The CDC highlighted warning signs of possible violence, such as speaking loudly or swearing, clenched fists, heavy breathing, a fixed stare and pacing. "The more cues shown, the greater the risk of violence," the guidance states.

Workplace violence has been a grave concern for employers even before the coronavirus pandemic. Employers that haven't done so already should take actions to prevent workplace violence such as adopting a workplace violence-prevention policy and training supervisors.