June 10th 2016, 9.30. A busy street in San Francisco becomes the scene for a broad daylight fatal stabbing attack on a construction worker. The worker was flagging traffic around a construction project in the South of Market Street Area. Two people approached her about 9:30 a.m. and a heated argument broke out, witnesses told police. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that:

“One of the assailants pulled a sharp-edged weapon and attacked the construction worker, stabbing her multiple times.”
Kevin Schultz, San Francisco Chronicle

The attackers then fled the scene, leaving the female worker bleeding on the street. Some co-workers rushed to help the mortally wounded woman, others gave chase to the attackers and called police.

The suspects were arrested at Fifth and Folsom streets.

These tragic and unfortunate events are not the first that spring to mind when considering the safety risks of construction workers, however any role or occupation requiring interaction with the public can pose real risks to those in the frontline.

One of the common links is the requirement to make difficult and often controversial decisions or where the role involves some form of interruption or rule setting that will be unpopular with the public.

These kinds of situations are more likely and common in social working,  home healthcare and behavioral health workers but will also be seen in transport and transit workers.

Despite being in the minority, nevertheless workplace violence in the Construction sector suffers from the same culture of under-reporting that many other work sectors do.

As a result some useful guidelines have been produced by NUCA Vice President of Safety, George Kennedy in an article earlier this year.

Workplace Violence can take many forms but normally falls under one of these main categories.

Categories of Workplace Violence

  • Violence by a stranger
  • Violence by customers/clients
  • Violence by a co-worker
  • Violence by co-worker with personal relationship

Perpetrators of workplace violations often exhibit a pattern of behavioral characteristics that indicate a tendency for violence. Such characteristics and those to be wary of may include:

  • Anti-social tendencies;
  • Inability to get along with others;
  • Patterns of verbal harassment or abusive behavior toward others;
  • Sense of moral superiority or righteousness;
  • Frequent displays of temper or anger;
  • Inability to accept responsibility for mistakes;
  • Tendency to feel wronged or humiliated;
  • Tendency to hold grudges or blame others;
  • Fascination with guns and weapons; and Habitually resisting or challenging authority.

As in every situation dealing with other people and events, it is utterly impossible to predict when a situation will escalate to violence nor is it possible to foresee if such a situation will result in a tragedy as above. As a result every situation of risk needs careful preparation and assessment, to both know the liklihood of a threat and how to deal with it.

GuardianMPS allows an alert to be raised the second an employee feels threatened. By pressing a button on their phone, an alert is registered with live audio recording. In a great many cases, violence follows in a progression from clear expressions of anger such as verbal threats and gesturing.

It is at this point, that those on the receiving end of the threat tend to rationalize the situation into “can I handle this” or “I need help” GuardianMPS’ experience says that whether or not the individual feels they are able to control the situation, the alert should be placed NOW.

Violence is most often prefaced with threatening behavior including verbal abuse and gesturing. As a confrontation develops the ability to rationalize and even influence the aggressor’s behavior diminishes and calling for help or raising an alert becomes increasingly more difficult.

Raising an alert as an “early warning” is not a “false alarm” – why? Simply because even if the situation ended peacefully or is de-escalated, it COULD have been different.

Dealing with the public is never easy in an interfacing role for a host of reasons, the main one being that you don’t know what you’ll face next. Informing and educating yourself and your team on some of the risks and concerning character traits may go someway to providing an early warning before a situation escalates.

Technology such as GuardianMPS will assist in notifying a workers’ team and the emergency services of the situation as early as the button is pressed and getting help becomes easier with live recording and pinpoint GPS location of the alert details.

For more information on GuardianMPS and how it could help your construction team to remain safer while dealing with the public, send us a message or call us and we’d be happy to answer your questions.

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