Over recent months, ACAPMA members have reported a sharp increase in security incidents at their retail sites. This increase is most notable in the Northern Territory where fuel retailers advise that the number of incidents have increased dramatically over the past 12 months.

“One national network, for example, has reported a 150% increase in security related events at their service station sites in the Northern Territory compared with the prior 12 months. Thankfully, most of these events related to theft but customer aggression is also on the rise”, said ACAPMA CEO Mark McKenzie.

“Most alarmingly, the rate of security incidents at service stations in the NT is up to five times higher than the rates experienced in the Eastern States of Australia and there are strong suggestions that alcohol is a significant factor in this increase”, said Mark

But ACAPMA is also starting to receive reports of increased customer aggression in NSW and Victoria. These issues appear partly attributable to the widespread community frustration in these States arising from the lockdown, but government requirements for businesses to enforce mask wearing and other COVID restrictions also appear to be motivating factors.

“A NSW member recently advised us that one of their staff members was openly threatened for simply asking a customer to put a mask on. The incident was of such significance that the Police were called to intervene”, said Mark.

“In an example of how these sorts of issues can go horribly wrong, a young service station attendant was shot and killed by a customer in Berlin (Germany) in September this year, after allegedly being refused service for not wearing a mask”, added Mark

At its most basic level, every person has the right to go about their business without feeling intimidated or threatened. These reports are therefore a timely reminder of the need for service station businesses – and indeed all retail businesses – to take added precautions to ensure the safety of staff and customers.

One of the most basic steps is to display posters indicating that acts of customer aggression will not be tolerated. A copy of one such poster was developed and distributed to ACAPMA members some time ago but can still be downloaded at: https://acapmag.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Keeping-Customers-and-Staff-Safe-Agression.pdf

Another vital step is to ensure that staff are made aware of how best to deal with aggressive customers or security incidents. Much of this guidance is included in ACAPMA’s Petroleum Console Compliance Course but the key principles can be summarised as follows:

  1. Stay calm and polite and treat the customer with respect – this can help diffuse the situation, speak quietly and clearly
  2. Don’t be drawn into an argument
  3. Do not patronise the customer with statements like “calm down”
  4. For intoxicated persons seek assistance before approaching them – as they can behave unpredictably
  5. If you are alone call the police or activate your panic alarm

But clearly, what we are seeing across the industry is a marked increase in security incidents and there is only so much that industry can do on its own to address this issue. To that end, ACAPMA has started to engage with enforcement agencies and politicians about the need to address this issue.

To assist this process, ACAPMA will be convening a member forum by videoconference at 3pm (Australian Eastern Daylight Time – or Sydney time) on Tuesday, 9 November 2021.

The purpose of this forum will be to: (a) gain greater insights into the current experiences of fuel retailers regarding increased security incidents and customer aggression, including time of day patterns and other relevant incident patterns, and (b) discuss what actions could be taken by both industry and enforcement agencies to counter the increasing trend.

“This is an important issue for our industry and so we would like to hear from as many members as possible to develop a comprehensive picture about current patterns of customer behaviour and gain insights from members about possible drivers of the increasing trends in their area – and practical solutions to address same”, concluded Mark

Member businesses are encouraged to register for this important forum by emailing communications@acapma.com.au before 5.00pm on Friday 5 November 2021.