The average person would probably agree with the statement that retail work is relatively safe. Retail workers don’t get exposed to dangerous chemicals like those working in industrial facilities, nor do they need to work in dangerous environments, like construction professionals and fishermen.
However, dealing with the public means that there is constantly a possibility of injury for retail workers. In recent years, statistics support the assertion that customers are an increasingly serious risk factor for retail professionals.
Where the danger comes from in retail
Obviously, workers are exposed to violence and possibly deadly weapons during robberies and even organized shoplifting incidents. While shoplifters may not carry weapons because they simply try to exit the store without paying, they might knock someone over or even strike them with a vehicle while fleeing.
Increasingly, workers also experience violence or aggression from unhappy customers. Those infuriated by the price of certain items or unable to return a prior purchase may take out their frustrations on an individual worker. There has also been a rise in mass shootings in public spaces like grocery stores in recent years.
The FBI has reported that the rate of assaults against retail workers has risen more quickly than the overall rate of assaults across the country. The overall assault rate from 2018 to 2020 increased by 42%. Grocery workers saw a 63% increase in assault cases during that time, while convenience store workers saw a shocking 75% increase.
Many retail workers fear for their safety in this hostile environment. Some have even started fighting back. In Colorado, for example, retail workers belonging to a union recently negotiated the right to fight back when customers turn violent as part of their agreement with local employers, which usually focuses on wages and similar job concerns.
Violence can lead to workers’ compensation
Any retail worker directly harmed by a patron or a criminal while on the job may have the option of filing a workers’ compensation claim.
They can potentially receive health benefits for their injuries and possibly any trauma that affects their ability to work. They may also qualify for disability pay of up to two-thirds of their average weekly wage while they are unable to work because of their injury. Workers may also be able to pursue a civil claim against the criminal if police identify the person involved in the incident.