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Government Report Highlights Increase in Assaults on Public Workers

15 September 2014
 September 15, 2014

Nearly 30,000 London frontline workers have been attacked whilst on duty in the last three years, a new report has revealed.

This equates to about 190 attacks every week on workers including NHS workers, London Underground and train staff, bus and cab drivers, according to the report published by the Greater London Authority (GLA) Conservatives.

A total of 29,679 frontline workers in the capital have been attacked while on duty in the past three years. They were punched, kicked, scratched, threatened and spat on while doing their job.

Victims include 4,017 London Ambulance Service (LAS) workers, 7,435 London Underground employees, and 3,719 train staff, while on average five London bus drivers are assaulted every day. Violent attacks on ambulance staff rose 23 per cent in the past year.

Risky Business: Protecting front line workers from attack whilst on duty, published by Conservative London Assembly member Roger Evans, calls for all paramedics, public transport staff and taxi drivers working in the capital to wear body cameras and GPS-tagged panic alarms.

Mr Evans said: “We depend on the capital’s front line workers whether it’s a medical emergency or getting us to work. These people need to be treated with respect.

“Affordable wearable technology such as wearable panic buttons and body worn cameras will help bolster the security and protection of these essential workers.

“They would act as visible deterrents for criminals, monitor the safety of staff and call for help in an emergency. Furthermore, video evidence from cameras would make it easier to report crimes, avoid disputes and shorten trials.”

Real-Life Stories

The report doesn’t just list facts and figures but also highlights real-life cases of these disgraceful and sickening attacks, such as this anonymous bus driver, who was assaulted in Aldwych earlier this year;

“Having dropped off all remaining passengers, the bus driver was waiting at a set of red traffic lights behind a van. As the lights changed, the van reversed instead of moving forward, forcing the bus driver to sound his horn in warning. The bus driver then went around the van to continue and eventually parked the bus. As the driver proceeded to do the normal exterior bus check at the end of the route, he was approached on the pavement beside the bus by someone from inside the van. The man hurled racial abuse at the black bus driver, got hold of his jacket and repeatedly slammed him against the bus causing injury to his neck and back. Although the driver has recovered from his physical injuries, he is mentally scarred and receiving counselling.”

Or the story of Graham Brinkhurst, 50, a cab driver who was left with a broken leg after he was drunkenly assault by a passenger.

The father-of-two recalls his story. “I was attacked back in February this year after picking up a young couple on Camden High Street. My first impressions told me that they’d had a bit to drink. I’d driven 100 yards down a one-way system with them when the man asked me to turn right. He became insistent despite the fact that it was in the wrong direction and it was not possible to turn off in the first place.

“He got more and more abusive and repeatedly called me names. I suggested to them that it would be best if we end the journey and they get another cab.

“As I pulled over, left the cab, and opened the back door to let them out, the guy pushed me aggressively. I stumbled backwards and fell onto the kerb, breaking my thigh bone. My artificial hip made things even worse. The couple just walked off whilst I was lying in the middle of the road shouting for help. Eventually, a passer-by called the ambulance for me. I was off work for three months and lost about £7k in income.”

Speaking to the press, Graham also said, “You hear horror stories of assault on taxi drivers. Criminals holding them at knifepoint and robbing them, things like that. Anything that can give us more protection, such as panic alarms I would be in favour of. Assaults on hospital and ambulance staff are far more frequent so they really need more support.”

The Conservative report states 480 London Taxi and minicab drivers were victims of violence in the past three years. The National Private Hire Association, which represents taxi drivers nationally, has said 65 private hire drivers have been murdered in the last 20 years, and reports drivers being attacked with guns, knives, baseball bats and hammers, set on fire and attacked with their own cars.

Recommendations

The report gathers together a list of existing security measures in place as well as making recommendations for further safeguarding frontline workers. The assaults of the bus driver and Graham the taxi driver, as written above both took place outside the safety of their protected cabs.

The report specifically advocates an increased use in affordable technology, such as Skyguard’s GPS devices, which helps bolster the security and protection of frontline workers – especially those who are mobile or may work alone.

As Mr Evans’ report states “There are convenient and easy-to-use technologies on the market which can effectively monitor the safety of individual employees and raise the alarm in the event of an emergency. These could especially benefit mobile frontline staff such as people working in overground and train stations, and staff who work alone such as London Taxi drivers.”

However, it’s worth noting that the report perhaps over-estimates the cost of a pilot scheme to be implemented for 100+ devices. With Skyguard’s devices starting from just £10 per month, costings for equipping appropriate staff as recommended in the report would be significantly less than the quoted £33,715.

If you wish to find out more about Skyguard and how we already protect over 100 NHS Trust’s workers, frontline Fire Brigade staff and many other public sector employees, then visit our website here or you can even request a free trial of our GPS devices or mobile applications.

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