Reducing risk, dealing with traumatic situations

By The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, National Secretariat

Being the victim of facing a disruptive or angry customer can be traumatic and have long-lasting effects on pharmacy staff and other customers in the pharmacy when such an event occurs.

Reducing the risk in the pharmacy and knowing how to deal with potentially traumatic incidents is important and below we provide some dot points to help you in your pharmacy.

Staff need to have a clear understanding of the preferred action to be taken, including ways to ensure there is a safe escalation to an experienced, designated staff member where necessary.

Preventative measures

  • Be aware of any suspicious activity near any business.
  • Note the descriptions of any suspicious vehicles and/or persons and inform the police immediately.
  • Ensure all doors and windows at the rear of your premises are secured with deadlocks, key locks and/or bars.
  • Ensure adequate exterior and interior lighting.
  • Have a good alarm system with duress button/s. Ensure all staff know location of buttons.
  • Ensure CCTV is of good quality, always in working order and you have a good storage system for CCTV data.
  • Ensure CCTV cameras are strategically located.
  • Ensure all staff know how to download CCTV footage so police have access to it immediately.
  • Consider installing a video screen displaying footage of customers during service. Ensure the screen is in view of customers as this may deter illegal activity.
  • Consider use of mirrors and two/way mirrors in pharmacy.
  • Keep medicines that may be targets of robbery (eg expensive medicines or those subject to misuse) out of sight.
  • Ensure access to dispensary is restricted and difficult for any offender.

Aggressive/difficult customers


  • Stand about a metre away from the customer at a 45-degree angle.
  • Hold your hands open and receptive at your sides.
  • Acknowledge challenging questions and then redirect to the issue at hand.
  • Listen carefully.
  • Pay attention using eye contact.
  • Try to keep counter or another physical obstacle between you and
  • Be sensitive to any communication barriers (eg, language, culture, etc).
  • Paraphrase unreasonable statements.
  • Treat the customer as you would like to be treated.
  • Speak respectfully.
  • Give positive feedback if possible.
  • Disengage from the situation immediately and call for assistance if you feel threatened or you believe your safety is in jeopardy.
  • Call the police if you ask the customer to leave and he/she refuses to do so.
  • Inform the customer that the police have been called.
  • Record the behaviour on the Incident Register.


  • Stand face to face.
  • Fake intentions or make unrealistic promises.
  • Make accusing statements.
  • Be judgmental of the customer.
  • Be indifferent to the customer’s concerns.
  • Mislead the customer.
  • Take it personally.
  • Blame the customer.
  • Say “calm down”.
  • Raise your voice.
  • Interrupt when the customer is venting.
  • Use accusatory or abusive language.
  • Argue with the customer or otherwise aggravate the situation.
  • Touch or interfere with the customer, unless it becomes absolutely necessary to protect other customers or staff.

Victoria Police also recommends where appropriate the use of the LASSIE system:

Listen to the person
Acknowledge their problem or situation
Separate them from others in the pharmacy
Sit the person down
Indicate and explain available options
Encourage them to try one of the options