our everyday life

Workplace Safety for Dealing With the Public

by Scott Morgan, studioD

Safety in any job goes beyond warning labels and the proper handling of materials. Employees who interact with the public face several potential threatening situations, from the dissatisfied store customer attempting to return a shirt to the client who wants to meet you at a remote location for the first time. When dealing with the public, caution and calm are the watchwords.

Know Your Job's Dangers

Jobs that involve carrying or openly exchanging cash, such as those held by convenience store clerks or taxi drivers, run a higher risk of robbery and assault than other jobs. Meanwhile, jobs that involve meeting with potential clients where nobody else is around -- such as real estate agents who show houses to people they have never met -- also have built-in risks. No matter the job, it is important to know the inherent risks. Never carry money or meet strangers alone unless there is no other option. If you must conduct business on your own, make sure others know where you are and how to stay in contact.

Jobs with Special Circumstances

Healthcare workers at all levels are exposed to infectious diseases, bodily fluids and toxic substances from patients. The proper protective gear, equipment and procedures are vital to containing diseases and ensuring you don't catch them. Establishments that serve alcohol face the risk of agitated patrons starting or escalating trouble. Many bars employ bouncers to deal with troublesome patrons. Some have also installed cameras and metal detectors to monitor patrons as they enter.

Irate Customers

Customer complaints are an important channel of communication for a business. But when customers become irate or irrational, they could potentially harm themselves, you, your business or others around them. They might trash a store or physically attack someone. When a customer gets irate, remain calm. Do not mock or goad her. Listen calmly and offer rational solutions. Focus on eliminating the anger, then, if possible, correct the issue itself so it does not trigger another incident.

Body Language

Violence usually occurs when a person feels all other options are exhausted. Knowing how to anticipate a potentially violent customer can help save you and others from a destructive encounter. Look for restlessness, muscle tension, abrupt movements or rapid breathing. Facial cues such as furrowed eyebrows or flared nostrils also are good indicators of potential aggression. If the customer seems to be acting differently from all others, he could be agitated.


The top precaution against customer violence or aggression is a properly trained staff. Training programs that teach employees how to handle volatile situations in a calm, professional manner can prevent situations from escalating -- and keep you from getting sued. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration recommends more than simply talking about security measures or reviewing policies and procedures. Instead, it recommends full training programs designed to engage and teach employees how to keep everyone safe.

About the Author

Scott Morgan is an award-winning reporter and editor who has covered central New Jersey since 2001. He has worked with the Princeton Packet Newsgroup, US 1 Publishing, "Unique Homes Magazine" and Community News Service. Morgan also serves as a professional speaker and teacher. He holds a bachelor's degree in humanities from Thomas Edison State College.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images