Firms must prepare vulnerable staff for robberies

JOHN ANTHONY
Last updated 05:00 26/07/2014

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Armed robbers are targeting small retailers as larger business beef up their security systems.

Next year, when a new Health and Safety Reform Bill is due to be passed, employers will have even greater responsibility to ensure staff have been provided with adequate training and resources to cope with an armed robbery.

Security and safety training experts say because many large organisations such as banks have taken their robbery prevention training in-house and heightened security, smaller businesses with readily available cash are being targeted.

New Zealand Security Association director of training Stewart O'Reilly said robberies were also being committed by younger, more unpredictable criminals.

Many employers did not provide robbery safety training until after the business had been attacked, he said.

When confronted with an armed robbery staff should co-operate fully, obey instructions, move normally, listen carefully and report observations to police.

Dundas Street employment lawyer Blair Scotland said the Health and Safety in Employment Act required employers to take all practicable steps to provide a safe work environment for employees.

Employers must identify hazards and potential hazards in the workplace and then isolate, eliminate or minimise them, he said.

If armed robbery was identified as a risk then providing training to help employees to deal with that should be provided, he said.

Failure to do so could result in harsh penalties including a fine of up to $500,000 or a term of imprisonment in the event of an armed robbery. Under the new Health and Safety Reform Bill the fine could be up to $3 million, he said.

Robbery prevention and safety skills training company Risq New Zealand offers half-day training seminars for between $200 and $300 per head.

Managing director Bruce Couper, who has worked in the industry since 1991, said many businesses ignored the risk of armed robbery. They either could not afford training, did not see a need for it or would rather take matters into their own hands, he said.

The number of robberies was not necessarily increasing, but the threat was still real, he said. "It's not a problem that's going away."

Risq training seminars cover topics including the ability to remain calm under pressure, what offenders expect during a robbery, what actions reduce the risk of harm and how to make premises an unattractive target.

ROBBERY SURVIVAL

The golden rules are: Remain calm. Co-operate fully. Obey instructions. Move normally. Position yourself for safety. Listen carefully. Observe and report to police.

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Your safety is the most important thing.

Source: New Zealand Security Association

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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