Fuel boycott raises concern for staff safety

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The safety of staff has become a growing concern following recent social-media calls for a fuel boycott of service stations.

Some customers are unhappy at what they see as high fuel prices. In response, they have used sites such as Facebook to call for an informal fuel strike. One is scheduled to take place later this month.

Although it merely asks customers to stay away from fuel sites on the nominated weekend, ACAPMA claims some interested parties are calling for “more drastic and concerning action”. This includes the theft of fuel, physical confrontation with staff, and even the blockading of sites.

ACAPMA says staff safety is of paramount concern. It’s encouraging fuel operators to engage with staff on how to stay safe if the protests become threatening.

Keeping staff safe

According to ACAPMA, the first step is to discuss the situation with staff. Operators should ensure they are aware of the responses to take. Staff should contact police immediately if they feel threatened or at risk. They should not take matters into their own hands, ACAPMA warns.

If staff are concerned about an unsafe release of fuel product (eg, theft or general spraying), they should activate the emergency stop buttons.

If the activities of the public are restricting access to or from the site, staff should notify police.

ACAPMA says operators should remind staff of their role. This is to deescalate the situation, calmly and politely, when dealing with aggressive customers. If that doesn’t work, and staff feel threatened, they should make themselves physically safe by retreating to a safe place. They should then contact police.

Seriously threatening behaviour ‘unlikely’

Despite these concerns, ACAPMA says it is “unlikely” that the threats posted on social media will actually happen.

Nevertheless, it encourage retailers to discuss the risks, controls and responses with staff.