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I work in a liquor store where often times I am the only employee. Today a customer acted aggressively and said he wanted me to come outside with him (presumably to fight). He was also swearing at me. I told two managers and they didn't care. I asked to pull the video surveillance so we can ban the customer for the store but they said this usually doesn't happen. When this happened there was another coworker scheduled to be on, but he was in the storage room. Also we are supposed to have a panic button but it was broken and removed.

Does an employer have a responsibility to provide a safe work environment to the extent of doing something about aggressive customers?

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    This sounds like a question where you need a lawyer in your jurisdiction rather than an internet board. There are always specific circumstances which apply.
    – o.m.
    May 16 at 9:05
  • @o.m. "This sounds like a question where you need a lawyer in your jurisdiction rather than an internet board". Of course not. Anyone with a bit of exposure to legal research can address the OP's question and direct him to a readily verifiable source. The "need" for lawyers even for something like this is an overstatement. "There are always specific circumstances which apply". The OP's scenario is clear enough for a reasonable person to identify that it is within scope of the BC Occupational Health and Safety Regulation. May 16 at 10:56
  • @IñakiViggers, statements like "yes, the employer has a responsibility" are easy. What to demand and how is less obvious, especially if the employer has a legal department and the employee has no lawyer. What if the employer does a "risk assessment" and finds that the shop is no more or less at risk than any other shop?
    – o.m.
    May 16 at 12:34
  • @o.m. "statements like "yes, the employer has a responsibility" are easy". And that is exactly what the OP asked. "What if the employer does a "risk assessment" and finds that the shop is no more or less at risk than any other shop?" The employer still has to address the matter effectively. The Regulation is not in terms of workplace being riskier than elsewhere, but in terms of threatened, attempted, or actual exercise of physical force to cause injury to workers. Also the panic button being broken & removed evidences disorderly conduct and/or managers' disregard of the risk it implies. May 16 at 12:47
  • @IñakiViggers, in my experience when employees ask for workplace improvements which are going to be costly, it helps to have sprecific precedents and regulations at hand. Maybe I'm naive, but I expect that the employer does have a risk assessment on file, possibly even updated in the not to distant past, and now the employee wants the employer to upgrade that ...
    – o.m.
    May 16 at 14:03
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Does an employer have a responsibility to provide a safe work environment to the extent of doing something about aggressive customers?

Yes. Your description reflects that the employer's/managers' recklessness or gross negligence is in violation of the British Columbia Occupational Health and Safety Regulation.

Sections 4.27 et seq of the Regulation require the employer to assess and eliminate/minimize the "risk of injury to workers from violence". The statutory definition of violence "includes any threatening statement or behaviour which gives a worker reasonable cause to believe that he or she is at risk of injury".

Likewise, section 2.8 provides that "contravention by the employer [or supervisor] will make that employer liable for any penalty prescribed by the Workers Compensation Act" (brackets added to consolidate items (1) and (2) of the statute).

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  • @casablancaeggplant BTW, if you bring this up with the employer, make sure it is by email. That is for evidentiary purposes in case you need to escalate judicially or otherwise. May 19 at 19:57

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