The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA) report that more than 85% of surveyed members have experienced verbal abuse from a customer in the last year [2018], 15% have experienced physical customer violence, and 11% sexual harassment or abuse. Sadly, this trend is increasing with many staff suffering from the effects of what has now become ‘the norm’ in many businesses. As an employer, how can you protect your team from these experiences and ensure that your workplace is a safe and enjoyable place?

Just because somebody has a complaint or raises their voice, does not mean they are necessarily aggressive. A customer becomes aggressive the moment their behavior becomes unreasonable, or unpredictable.

The National Retail Association is encouraging all retailers to work towards a no tolerance approach to aggressive behaviour and consider the point at which, the customer is no longer right and is no longer welcome in your store/business.

Read more about our commitment to a retail and fast food industry free from abuse and violence >



Check back soon for posters for your workplace to encourage positive customer interactions.



The information at these links, will give you strategies to help you and your team deal with negative and aggressive behaviour and reduce the occurrence.

Safe Work Australia

Work Safe Queensland

Good example of policy for handling aggressive clients (PDF)

Webinar – 1 hour on handling and preventing workplace violence

Work Safe Victoria

Commerce WA – PowerPoint presentation that can be customised to suit your business on how to deal with aggression in the workplace

Commerce WA – Risk assessment tool for aggression in the workplace

Developing a policy to prevent aggression in the workplace (PDF)


During an incident a range of actions may be taken including:

  • using calm verbal and non-verbal communication
  • using verbal de-escalation and distraction techniques
  • listen and try to understand
  • offer solutions
  • seek support from co-workers
  • asking the aggressor to leave the premises
  • setting off the duress alarm
  • calling the police
  • implementing the internal emergency response
  • implementing the external emergency response
  • retreating to a safe location.


SA Government

Commerce WA

WA Police


Supporting your team to recover from these incidents is vital and is part of your workplace health and safety. The links below show where you and your team can access support to deal with the consequences of aggressive and disorderly behaviour and where and how it can be reported.

Work Safe Queensland – Preventing and Managing Risks to Work-Related Psychological Health

Customer violence and aggression can be reported to the SDA – click here.

Contact our team

Retailers have a wide range of pressures and obligations in terms of providing best practice information and resources to keep their teams safe and prepared. The National Retail Association offers training and assistance in preparing teams for serious incidents or emergency events such as managing an active armed offender, dealing with aggressive behaviour or reporting suspicious activity. Contact us for more information.

David Stout

David Stout

Director Policy National Retail Association
David is a highly-respected senior executive across a wide range of retail sectors including corporate affairs, operations, customer insights, finance, procurement, risk and regulation, stakeholder engagement, community and supply chain.  He is favourably regarded as a bipartisan and ethical operative in best practice across retail and corporate industry, regional and urban councils, local and state governments, and is currently involved in multiple advisory groups / committees.