yRed Newsletter June 2020
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In this issue:

WHS for young workers during a global pandemic 


-Flexibility in Youthsafe’s service delivery


- Education Program


- Sports Safety: Front of Mind


- Supporting Female Athletes’ Safety


- Licensing Support and Learner Driver Mentor Programs


WHS for young workers during a global pandemic 

The COVID-19 global pandemic has seen a number of unexpected impacts, including an increase in aggression and abuse towards essential workers in recent months. Essential workers include frontline retail staff, of whom many are young workers.

A recent news story reported that “...
A young staff member imposing restrictions on how many customers could enter a Central Coast supermarket last week was deliberately coughed on in the face”1.  

Another story mentioned a retail staff worker who was feeling increased stress due to customers not adhering to social distancing rules and was considering not coming in to work during this time

There has been some research into the issue of abuse and mistreatment of retail workers before the pandemic, with a report stating3 that employees record an average of five such incidents per week. Sadly, the situation has worsened as shoppers lost patience with reduced stock availability and increased waiting times in retail outlets as a result of COVID-19. The impacts of such mistreatment include workplace injury, high rates of absenteeism and an increase in staff turnover4, 5, 6, 7

According to the Australian Retailers Association, approximately 40% of retail workers are in the ‘young worker’ category, most of whom are casual workers. Casual workers are less likely to receive training for the work they do, which can put these young workers at increased risk of injury and harm as they aren’t as well equipped to manage health and safety matters in the workplace. Research
6 also indicates inexperienced and younger workers may not be able to manage customer incivility compared with their more experienced, older colleagues. 
What can be done to keep young workers safe and well? 
Although the situation for us in Australia has calmed somewhat, frontline workers still encounter these issues, pandemic or not.  In these situations, it shouldn’t be up to the young workers themselves to try and manage these issues alone, and there are specific strategies that can be implemented to support the safety of young workers in any times of heightened stress.   

Employers must work to either eliminate or minimise risks to workers, where practicable. This includes ensuring the physical environment is positively perceived by customers
6, 9, 10. Dedicated security, where possible, can also create another level of protection to frontline staff9, 10

Managers and supervisors have a key role in supporting workers to deal with aggression and abuse
7 and can “buffer the negative impact of customer incivility”6. By having clear policies and procedures, including a “zero tolerance policy”6 for employee abuse or mistreatment, retail outlets are sending a message to their staff that they are protected and supported if any incidences do escalate.   

Observe staff to see how they are managing – do they appear progressively withdrawn as their shift goes on? Are they taking a lot of days off? This could be a sign that something has happened and they need support. If you as a manager see that staff are having to deal with a difficult customer, know the signs for when to intervene4, 6. If a worker has experience of customer incivility, supervisors and managers can help reduce the stress felt by the worker by simply expressing empathy towards the staff member4

Equipping staff with strategies to help them diffuse difficult situations as well as increased staff participation in making suggested improvements in processes or systems and then being given options for how to manage difficult situations can help them to feel empowered to diffuse customer aggression

Helping staff to understand when to refer a situation to a supervisor or manager can make workers feel they have control over difficult situations. Role play can help staff to practise what they can say or do, without having to deal with the situation in reality. When workers have negative experiences, a ‘debriefing’ session, shared with co-workers that include discussions on emotions and mitigation strategies can help staff to manage situations should they arise in the future

Specialised and focused customer service training and incident reaction training are key to helping staff feel able to manage situations safely and effectively
9, 10 

In Australia two retail outlets – KFC and The Reject Shop – trialled the Respect and Resilience initiative developed with the support of icare, that focuses on supporting those in the fast food and retail sectors to manage customer aggression and incivility.  Evaluation of the trial found that the strategies given to workers reduced customer abuse incidents by 48%. The initiative includes a series of workshops for both staff to help them understand and manage customer misbehaviour, and for managers/ supervisors to help them support workers effectively. 

Retailers were provided with signage, organisational policies and a checklist to see what environmental modifications could be made to reduce misbehaviour, including wider aisles, fewer bottlenecks and improved sound and lighting. 
SafeWork Australia has some very up to date information on how to manage aggression towards retail workers in the COVID-19 environment and has specific tips on how workplaces can eliminate or minimise risks.  
SafeWork NSW has information on their website about supporting workers’ mental health, with a focus on COVID-19.    
A campaign by the Fast Food and Retail Workers’ Union, SDA titled “No One Deserves A Serve” aims to educate customers and highlight the issue of customer incivility. They have also developed a reporting tool for workers to document any incidents.    
  1. Silmalis, L. (2020). 'Cough fines to protect workers', Sunday Telegraph (Sydney, Australia), 19 Apr, p. 13. 
  2. Cockburn, P. (2020) ‘Australian coronavirus experts reveal how safe it is to visit shopping centres’, ABC News (Australia), 27 May, viewed 28 May 2020.  
  3. Bradley, G., Davis, M., Ferguson, S., Buys, N., & Ellery, A. (2019). Respect & Resilience: Development, Implementation and Program Evaluation. Southport, Queensland: Griffith University. 
  4. Gong, T., Yi, Y. & Choi J.N. (2014) “Helping Employees Deal with Dysfunctional Customers: The Underlying Employee Perceived Justice Mechanism”, Journal of Service Research, Vol 17. (1): 102-116. 
  5. Gong, T. & Wang, C-Y. (2019). “How does dysfunctional customer behavior affect employee turnover?”, Journal of Service Theory & Practice, Vol. 29 (3): 329 – 352.  
  6. Sommovigo, V., Setti, I., Argentero, P. & O’Shea, D (2019), “The impact of customer incivility and verbal aggression on service providers: A systematic review”, Work, vol. 62(1): 59–86.  
  7. Boukis, A., Koritos, C., Daunt, K. & Papastathopoulos, A. (2020). “Effects of customer incivility: employees and the moderating role of supervisor leadership style”, Tourism Management, Vol. 77. 
  8. Sommovigo, V., Setti, I., O’Shea, D. & Argentero, P. (2020). “Investigating employees’ emotional and cognitive reactions to customer mistreatment: an experimental study”, European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, Published online 6 April 2020.  
  9. icare NSW (2019). Respect/resilience in retail and fast food.  
  10. Safe Work Australia (2020). Work Related Violence.  

Flexibility in Youthsafe’s service delivery during the current pandemic 

Youthsafe is working on how we can effectively deliver some of our professional development workshops remotely; the team has been looking at our NESA accredited teacher workshops as well as the Front of Mind (see below) sports sessions, still with the same objectives and learning outcomes, all participants sharing experiences and collaborating, just not in the same room! 

We will be advertising the dates for delivery of the NESA approved training sessions in the next few weeks, with details to be posted on our website. 

School sessions have been paused for the time being, but we still have our Education Portal which has free resources for educators, that fit nicely with the PHDPE Syllabus for Stages 5 and 6.   

So, although there’s been many challenges for Youthsafe it’s allowed us to spend some time on working to increase the reach of our programs, for the better. 

Many of our resources and workshops are prefect for online delivery.

Education Program

Before the shutdown due to COVID-19, Youthsafe was able to visit a number of schools to facilitate some safety sessions with students. 

One of our favourite presenters Hamish was working with a great bunch of students at the Schofields campus of St John Paul II Catholic College, Schofields & Nirimba, facilitating our "Are We There Yet?" road safety session over two big weeks. In the session, students are empowered to make safer choices and participate in activities that highlight distractions a driver may experience, including passengers. 

As well as talking road safety, Hamish received some tips on how to dab (is that still a thing?), but as you can see from the picture below, he's still got a fair way to go...We sincerely thank the staff and students of St John Paul II for having us again this year - they are an avid supporter of Youthsafe and our programs. 

Another big thank you goes to Birrong Girls High School for continuously supporting our Education Program.  

Hamish was out in February facilitating our “In Working Order” session with the Year 11 students as part of their Work Ready Program.

Once restrictions are lifted, we’d love to come to your school and work with your students to help them develop strategies to keep them safe on the roads, while playing sport, at work or when out with friends.

Contact us via 


Sports Safety: Front of Mind

In early March we delivered our workshop "Front of Mind: Why Understanding the Teenage Brain is Key to Coaching" for the first time in the Hunter Valley. 
Six youth coaching/management representatives from the Weston Bears FC participated, sharing their experiences and discussing ways to maximise the positive influence they can have on young players.  

Initial feedback has been excellent and we hope to return to the club with workshops for all youth and senior coaches as well as parents.  

Thanks also to the Weston Workers Club for providing the room for our session. 

We are currently working on adapting this workshop for online delivery (see article above).

Please get in touch if you’d like us to work with your coaches, either online or face to face (in the future):   

Representatives of the Weston Workers Bears Football Club at our Front of Mind coaching session.

Supporting Female Athletes’ Safety 

For those of you who work with female athletes or are a parent of a female athlete, you may be aware of the increased number of Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injuries in female sport and are wondering what the cause may be.  
The answer could lie in the players’ menstrual cycles.  
Since August 2019 Chelsea Football Club has tailored the training plans of their Chelsea Women team players around the phases of their cycle.  They are working with researchers using the FitrWoman app to help optimise player performance and reduce injury risk, taking into account fluctuating hormones which can affect weight, coordination and an increased risk of soft tissue injuries at different times in a woman’s cycle.  Management are also looking at changes to players’ diets at different times to help optimise performance. 
And it’s not just in the UK.  With female athletes up to 10 times more likely to sustain an ACL injury than male athletes, the AFLW is now working with La Trobe University to explore the link between sporting injuries and athletes' menstrual cycles. 
It is definitely something sporting organisations need to consider at a club level in terms of female athlete performance, injury risk and training schedules. 
For further reading, see this story from The Guardian about AFLW and their work – click here or this story about Chelsea Women and their training approach – click here

Licensing Support and Learner Driver Mentor Programs

Even though our face to face work has slowed down, we have been working with a number of community groups to help their clients navigate the Graduated Licensing Scheme (GLS) and support positive road safety outcomes.   

We have two projects currently – one with the Australian Afghan Hassanian Youth Association (AAHYA) and another with Carers NSW through their YCDrive program. 

For the clients of AAHYA, we have been providing road safety education to young people and their families, helping them navigate the GLS, and facilitating access to professional driving instruction, the Safer Drivers Course and Keys2Drive.  So far, of those who have participated, 90% have said being involved in the project has given them self-confidence and has also helped them progress significantly in their journey to getting a driver licence. 81% said that the professional driving lessons were something they would never have been able to afford if it wasn’t for our program.   

YC Drive is an initiative to support young carers who need to get their licence. The program already has a number of volunteers to take the young people out for on-road practice, but Youthsafe is working with the program to offer training to their volunteers, professional driving instruction for the learners and road safety education.   

Our project in the Parramatta area, thanks to ClubGrants through Parramatta Leagues Club, is supporting young people in Western Sydney looking for employment to get licensed to increase their chances of finding suitable work. 

Contact if you’d like to talk to us about how we can help your organisation do the same. 

Return to the office 

As mentioned earlier, Youthsafe staff are working remotely to deliver as many services as we can during the shutdown.   
We are planning a staggered return to the office and as restrictions ease we will be going back to offering as many of the services as we can, as normal.  
Please get in touch if you’d like to talk to us about how we can work with you safely to support your communities in injury prevention initiatives.  
Thanks to our supporters
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