The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance on Monday for employers and employees in retail, services, and other customer-based businesses on how to respond to violence related to COVID-19 prevention policies.
The CDC recognized policies may include requiring employees and customers to wear masks, social distancing rules, and allowing a certain amount of customers in the establishment at one time.
The agency defined workplace violence as “violent acts, including physical assaults and threats of assault, directed toward persons at work or on duty.”
The guidance lists a variety of ways employers can prevent workplace violence, some of which include posting signs letting customers know about prevention policies, assigning employees to a team to encourage prevention policies, and installing security systems.
The CDC urged employers to provide training on warning signs.
“As part of training, employees often learn verbal and non-verbal cues that may be warning signs of possible violence,” the CDC said.
It added, “Verbal cues can include speaking loudly or swearing. Non-verbal cues can include clenched fists, heavy breathing, fixed stare, and pacing, among other behaviors.”
The CDC advised employers to also train employees on how to respond to violence appropriately.
“Responses range from paying attention to a person and maintaining non-threatening eye contact to using supportive body language and avoiding threatening gestures, such as finger pointing or crossed-arms,” the CDC said.
The agency created a list of steps employees should and should not take in response to violence.
The CDC encouraged employees to attend training, report perceived threats or acts of violence to their managers, and be “aware” of and “support” coworkers and customers in the event there is violence.
The agency told employees not to argue with a customer if they become violent and to avoid forcing anyone who is upset to comply with prevention policies.
Since the onset of the pandemic, there have been more than 5.7 million coronavirus cases in the United States alone and over 178,000 deaths.