Woolworths rolls out body cameras for staff as assaults, abuse rises

Woolworth staff will soon be fitted with body cameras to help combat concerning rates of assault against staff. 

Woolworths said it had seen a 75 percent increase in physical assaults and 148 percent increase in serious reportable events in the last three years. 

Woolworths New Zealand announced on Monday it is introducing "team safety cameras" to all of its 191 stores this week. It comes after team members from 17 stores expressed positive feedback after being involved in a trial of the initiative. 

Woolworths New Zealand director of stores Jason Stockill said it's troubling that these measures have to be taken.  

"Our team deserves to feel safe coming to work every day and what they're dealing with is unacceptable. While 99 percent of people walking through our door are great and treat our team well, every day our team across the country are still experiencing instances of abuse and aggression from shoplifters and other offenders," Stockhill said. 

"Speaking to team members who have trialled using team safety cameras, they've told me they feel much safer knowing that they have a tool to record abuse or conflict when it arises - and often turning the camera on actually de-escalates the situation completely, which is fantastic." 

A Woolworths New Zealand spokesperson said the cameras are generally most needed in customer-facing positions and each store is able to determine where they feel the safety cameras are best used.

"Once it is decided where the cameras will go, the relevant team members can opt-in to wear the cameras. It is not mandatory or enforceable by management," they said.

"We are encouraging the team to wear them when they are comfortable to do so."

The cameras are only turned on in the event of a security incident and footage will not be released except when requested by the police as part of an investigation. Woolworths team members are also required to notify customers before recording.  

Woolworths is rolling out the body worn cameras to all stores this week.
Woolworths is rolling out the body worn cameras to all stores this week. Photo credit: Supplied/Woolworths

The cameras are a part of the franchise's three-year $45 million investment into security in stores. This also includes anti-sweep shelves, push-to-talk radios and trolley lock systems which are now in 50 stores. 

Woolworths is also looking at introducing further measures to strengthen security in stores and in the next few months, the retailer will be installing new secure knife cabinets in produce, deli, butchery and bakery departments to reduce their visibility and accessibility to potential offenders. 

Woolworths added every security measure implemented in stores complies with New Zealand law including privacy requirements.