Coles told The Epoch Times that the tech trial will involve 30 stores to see if it deters threats and keeps staff safe.
Supermarket giant Coles is rolling out a trial of police-style body cameras for employees to combat theft and violence in stores.
Coles told The Epoch Times that the tech trial will involve 30 stores to see how the initiative deters threats and keeps staff safe. For now, Coles says they are not looking at a national rollout.
With the majority of customers doing the right thing, Coles says the measures are meant for those who are not.
“Body-worn cameras only record once activated. If a team member feels unsafe in a situation, they can turn on their body camera and will inform the customer that they are turning it on for safety,” said Coles in a statement.
Coles says they will comply with all the relevant laws relating to signage, informing customers of the body cameras and other surveillance initiatives at the entrances of their stores.
“The safety of our team members and customers is our top priority, and we have a range of security measures in place to reduce theft from our stores, including security personnel and surveillance technologies such as CCTV.”
Coles says that the trial has been well received by staff, “who feel that the technology would benefit them if faced with a threatening situation.”
To help keep staff safe, they are also utilizing duress watches that can directly alert police about a dangerous situation or emergency.
Woolworths also conducted a trial of police-style body cameras for staff in less than a dozen stores in a bid to catch thieves and deter violent customers in 2021.
At the time, Woolworths said they saw a doubling of assaults in their stores during the pandemic prompting the trial.
A Call for Tougher Penalties for Assault of Workers
To deal with the issue of assaults against workers, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) and the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) are calling on all levels of government to implement tougher penalties.
They point to laws in South Australia that have a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment for people convicted of basic assault against a retail worker on the job and seven years when the assault causes harm. Both the ARA and SDA want to see those laws rolled out across the country.
ARA CEO Paul Zahra says a rise in anti-social behaviour, including assaults, has prompted the need for government action.
“In many states across Australia, deterrence is lacking. Aggressive behaviour in the form of assault has a severe impact on the health and well-being of frontline retail staff, but, importantly, it’s also a criminal act, and it must be treated as such,” said Mr. Zahra.
“Customer aggression has been an ongoing challenge for frontline staff. We saw a big rise in the number of customers who chose to unleash their frustrations on retail staff during the pandemic. We expected this to subside when restrictions lifted – but it simply hasn’t.”
Research carried out by the SDA found that 85 percent out of a surveyed 6,000 retail and fast-food workers had experienced abuse from customers at work.