Conflict Management

Conflict Management from FAR Solutions Limited

By: FAR Solutions Limited  24/02/2009
Keywords: regulator

Prevention rather than cure with conflict management

The recent court case that decided licensees should not necessarily be held liable for the violent behaviour of their customers should have come as some relief to the pub and bar industry (The Publican, October 9) - but the need for operators to work hard at reducing the risk of trouble is undiminished.

Other legal precedents, for instance, have indicated that licensees are responsible for security company doorstaff they do not directly employ and, above all, the requirements of the Licensing Act 2003 mean that if a pub gets a bad reputation it’s the operator’s licence that’s at stake. Indeed, in an increasingly litigious society, there is a growing concern about the way conflict is prevented and managed that extends well beyond the licensed industry.

The inaugural ConflictPro conference, staged by the ConflictPro body for security professionals, brought together not only pub operators and security companies but health professionals and educationalists to thrash out a clearer perspective on conflict management in pubs, bars and clubs, on the streets, in hospitals and elsewhere.

Running a responsible business Mark Seymour, director of operational risk at Spirit Group, led the masterclass on high risk venues, most relevant to pub operators. Licensees’ responsibility ran beyond doorstaff, he explained. “It’s really about responsible retailing and creating an atmosphere in which potential conflict is quickly resolved,” said Mr Seymour. “What we have to do is get to the root of what’s causing violence and conflict and licensees should be looking at their whole offer. Not every factor is in our control but we can help remove a lot of the frustrations that can cause an incident.” A licensee’s job begins outside the venue, he said, with the approach to the pub. “If you think there’s a problem outside, then talk to your council about it - you’ve paid your rates,” he pointed out. Then licensees should look at their venue’s entry points and try to reduce congestion, while slow and sloppy service at the bar could also cause frustration for customers and should also be eliminated. “Barstaff should smile and make eye contact and the whole pub should look clean and cared for to get across the right image,” he said. Set the rules Licensees should not be afraid of setting rules for customers, banning football colours and dancing on the tables, for instance - but the rules have got to be reasonable. At closing time a “clear exit strategy” is required, not only making sure customers are directed to buses and taxis and don’t hang around, but by using wind-down music and offering lollipops to cut down on shouting.

Fernando Rose, a consultant on door supervision for a major nightclub operator, then talked about policies on conflict management. It should set out how a violent incident is identified and in what situations physical intervention is used, if at all - and the way staff are trained in it. “The big question is around not so much the policy itself but whether it is implemented, whether your staff apply it,” he said. “That’s a big fall-down for many outlets.”

Good incident reporting is vital to assess an operator’s training needs, and you need to decide which of your staff need what kind of training, he explained. “Everyone should get trained but the level of training they receive will depend on your needs analysis,” said Mr Rose.

“You can’t apply one type of training across an organisation - all barstaff need to learn, for instance, is when to back off. And don’t forget to ask your staff what they think they need.”

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Keynote speech from Lord Stevens Former commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington took a break from his much-headlined football bung probe to present, in his other role as chairman of Skills for Security, the keynote speech at the ConflictPro Conference.

After applauding the organisers for giving the security profession the opportunity to “think about where we’re going” he called on the government to “deliver a coherent strategy”. “We haven’t had that to date and the time is now right. We’ve been fire- fighting up to now,” he told delegates. “What we haven’t done is bring best practice together in a coherent fashion. We need to raise standards and this conference is your opportunity to do that.” ‘Treat the cause, not the symptoms’

Mark Seymour criticised the plan for alcohol disorder zones (ADZs), which would designate certain areas as high risk. It was, he said “one of the government’s barmy ideas”. “ADZs will tell people where to go for trouble rather than sorting it out,” he said. “It’s absolute lunacy. We’ve got to get down to the basic causes, treat the cause not the symptoms.”

In the event of a serious incident… In his masterclass on Staying Within the Law, Bill Fox , chairman of training company Maybo, considered what pub operators and others should be doing to make sure they can defend themselves should a serious incident occur.

A pub or bar would find itself at the centre of attention from police, the Health & Safety Executive and the media, not to mention other members of staff who may be concerned for their own safety. “You will find yourself in a crisis management phase and there is the danger that you will feel powerless to influence the outcome,” he said. “Before that happens you should be asking how you can prepare - are you doing the right things now? You need evidence that you have acted correctly and know how to answer the questions that will be thrown at you.” Employers need to establish an ‘audit trail’ to demonstrate that they have not only assessed the risks of a violent incident but that staff training and what actually happens operationally addresses those risks. Problems are frequently caused by: • poor quality reporting • a sketchy knowledge of the law • unclear job roles • inadequate or out-of-date training. Employees dealing with conflict could also find themselves stepping outside what they have been trained to do, he added. “What you’re trained to do doesn’t work in every situation, but it’s important that people taking risks understand how to explain and account for their actions and not cover-up, not be scared of telling the truth.”  

Keywords: regulator

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