February 7, 2014 |

Employee responds to dining room violence

By Denise Greer

Recently, I came across the above video of customers fighting — an all out brawl — at a children’s birthday party at a Burleson, Texas pizzeria. This was a frightening incident, to say the least. But when I saw an employee try to intervene, red flags flew up immediately.

Understandably, there might be an instinct reaction to try and calm a tempered situation. This altercation went well beyond the point of being able to safely defuse it. Very few people are trained to handle this type of physical violence, and nor should they be.

An employee’s first obligation is to ensure his/her own safety. U.S. Department of Labor recommends:

Any individual observing violent or threatening behavior, which poses an immediate danger to persons or property, is expected to:

• Call 911 and other appropriate emergency contacts for that particular facility, particularly if the situation requires immediate medical and/or law enforcement personnel.

• Remain calm and contact supervisor.

• Secure your personal safety first.

• Leave the area if your safety is at risk.

• Cooperate with law enforcement personnel when they have responded to the situation.

Don’t think a fight can’t happen in your restaurant? The 2011 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index reports “assaults and violent acts” as the 10th leading cause of nonfatal occupational injury at a workers’ compensation cost of $590 million during 2009.

Have a strategy in place for quickly expediting customers and employees safely away from a physical assault. Train your staff to know what to do in this scenario. Preparation could prevent a customer or employee from being harmed.

Let’s talk preventative measures. Having a management presence in a crowded dining room can go a long way to prevent an altercation. At the onset of a verbal exchange, notify the parties involved to cease the argument at once. If verbal remarks escalate, a manager should ask the offenders to leave the premise, often defusing the situation before it turns violent.

Be safe out there.