Supermarket body cams to stop spiralling staff abuse
Woolworths staff are being equipped with body cameras like police officers to stop spiralling rates of customer abuse.
The cameras were quietly introduced at Berala, Kempsey and Rosehill supermarkets two weeks ago after the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association found 85 per cent of retail staff had been subject to verbal, physical or sexual abuse.
The appalling behaviour of shoppers during the height of the pandemic - including brawls over toilet paper and screaming at staff over toy giveaway Ooshies - fast-tracked the trial, which is also taking place at eight other stores nationwide.
"We're trialling team safety cameras in a small number of stores to see if they can help prevent assaults and abuse of our team members," Woolworths director of stores Rob Moffat told The Saturday Telegraph.
"This follows a doubling in reports of assaults in our stores in 2020.
"Nobody deserves to be abused at work, so it's important we look at new measures to help keep our team members safe. These cameras are used widely in retail across the US and UK, and have been effective in reducing the rate of reported incidents."
The cameras will be turned on if a supervisor is concerned about a threat to team safety. Audio will not be recorded. Woolworths has placed signage in each store to inform customers of the trial.
The company says any recordings will be stored securely on Australian servers and access to the footage will be limited to a small team of Woolworths security experts and law enforcement agencies.
"The first weekend of the trial one of our members said they saw a significant reduction in the number of reportable incidents," SDA NSW secretary Bernie Smith said.
"They said a couple of times someone appeared as though they would get abusive but their eyes went to the camera and then they stopped."
SDA surveys across the retail, warehouse and fast-food industries found one-quarter of employees were physically or verbally abused regularly. From 12 to 14 per cent of staff have been subject to physical violence and sexual abuse, which range from comments to sexual assaults and other vile behaviour.
Employee Jasmine Sakoua, 20, said the cameras made her feel "a lot more safe at work and it gives me more confidence to do my job".
"It does make me feel frustrated and upset because at the end of the day, we're just here to serve customers," she said of incidents where she had been spoken to poorly. "It's not fair that customers do this to us.
"Sometimes they don't understand that we are just like them."
A Coles spokeswoman said the company "does not use this technology, and has no plans to".
Originally published as Supermarket body cams to stop spiralling staff abuse