Vertical Markets

Face covering enforcement warning

by Mark Rowe

Conflict could be coming due to the requirements for face coverings, first on public transport, then in shops from Friday, July 24, according to a conflict management trainer, consultant and expert witness. He is Jim O’Dwyer, whose article on lone door staff and health and safety at work will feature in the September 2020 print edition of Professional Security magazine.

While he argues that to employ lone door supervisors is inherently, unacceptably unsafe and maintains that wherever door supervisors are required to be employed, there should always be a minimum of at least two, he told Professional Security that the Covid-19-related house rules for pubs, enforcing social distancing, only add to the risk of conflict and violence against door staff and others.

He said: “The biggest problem has been the lack of clarity and explicitness from the government.” He gave the example of what constitutes a face mask – or to be exact, a face covering. The other factor he raised was of the two categories in society: those who are very risk-averse; and those who are not paying attention to the ‘new normal’ of pandemic-related rules, such as wearing a face covering on a bus, train or city tram.

No-smoking (and no-vaping) is also a possible focus of conflict between security staff and smokers; and indeed the public generally. Jim mentioned Brexit also as a further example of how the British public has been polarised.

Police have since lockdown was set in March consistently hailed how crime is down compared with the same period last year; and praised the vast majority of the public for continuing to follow the rules in place to limit the spread of the virus. However, when last week the Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced mandatory face masks were coming for shopping, the same as on public transport since mid-June, police were quick to stress that they wanted to enforce only as a last resort. Nor have bus drivers, or train or tram guards and ticket inspectors, shown much appetite for pulling up those – mainly young people – for not wearing face coverings, when required on public transport and at stations.

Penalties for not wearing a face covering will be enforceable by the police, who can issue fines of up to £100 (reduced to £50 if paid within 14 days). Retail trade bodies such as the British Retail Consortium (BRC) meanwhile have said that retailers should not be the ones enforcing the face coverings rule, and also asked Government for ‘further clarity’.

As Jim said: “It’s relying on the public to police themselves.” He added that the way for security officers in such settings was to develop relationships with regular shoppers when they come in shops or pubs, by smiling, and meeting and greeting; recruiting them on your side, by showing an interest in them; ‘that’s the secret of security’.

About Jim O’Dwyer

He was among the attenders of the Security Industry Authority (SIA) skills summit in March, on the eve of lockdown. A former Met Police man, he set up Aegis Protective Services in 1997 and is now a trainer, consultant and expert witness who specialises in conflict at work and physical intervention. He writes training courses; for example commissioned by the National Association for Healthcare Security (NAHS). Visit

Photo by Mark Rowe; on-street pavement signage, to enforce social distancing for a Lincoln city centre pub’s customers as they wait to enter. Pubs typically also have one-way systems whereby doors are either exit-only or entry-only.

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