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CDC issues guidelines to curb workplace violence over masks

One of the key pieces of advice: walk away.

CLEVELAND — There have been dozens of videos all over social media showing people confronting one another about wearing masks.

In Ohio, it's a mandate by Governor Mike DeWine. But that hasn't stopped some from refusing to wear them and others to confront them about it. Some people have legitimate health reasons why they can't wear them, but for most, the science indicates masks do help limit the transmission of the virus.

Some of the mask confrontations have become violent or even deadly. So the CDC issued new guidelines targeted to businesses about how to handle the issue as well as confrontational customers or employees. 

One of the key pieces of advice: walk away.

Employers are encouraged to get ahead of a potential employee-customer encounter by using advanced notices such as signs, advertising and offering social distancing options such as curbside pickup. 

Workers should receive training on recognizing threats -- things like yelling and swearing, clenched fists, heavy breathing, pacing and a fixed stare -- the CDC says. The more clues that are seen, the greater the risk of violence. Training should also include conflict resolution and nonviolent responses, CDC said.

If staffing permits, CDC says two workers should work as a team to encourage the customer to follow COVID-19 policies. 

But even with that, things can escalate. In those situations, the CDC says workers should not argue with a potentially violent customer. They should contact a manager and, if possible, go to a safe area -- preferably a room that locks from the inside and has a second exit. The CDC also says not to force anyone who appears to be upset or violent to follow the store's COVID-19 policies.


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