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When work puts you in the line of fire

Front-desk clerks, gas jockeys at risk for violent attacks

Having two disguised men threaten your staff with a gun and hit them with a hammer served as a wake-up call.

But Gil Gauthier, owner of the Norvilla Motor Hotel, knows an armed robbery early one morning last August could have been much worse for the cleaner and desk clerk on duty at the time.

Gil Gauthier owns the Norvilla Motor Hotel, where two workers were attacked last year.


Gil Gauthier owns the Norvilla Motor Hotel, where two workers were attacked last year. Photo Store

Gauthier said the crime led the Henderson Highway hotel to make security changes to an alarm the clerk carries, so he's "wired up." The hotel also adopted a policy to keep doors locked in the early-morning hours, and it changed how much cash is around at night.

"It really hurts when you come to work and you know that your employee who is taking care of your business gets held up and gets knocked over the head with a hammer and a gun gets pulled on him," he said. "It gets you thinking about how you're going to protect your employees better."

From 2006 to 2010, service workers such as cashiers, bartenders, janitors and light-duty cleaners all have taken time off work due to injuries from assaults and violence, according to statistics from the Workers Compensation Board. That also extends to workers such as cooks, delivery and courier drivers, grocery store clerks and stockers.

This is the fourth and final piece in a Free Press series looking at how violence impacts workers in areas such as health care, education and public safety and security.

Gauthier said the clerk, a longtime employee, was back at work the next day.

He's grateful neither man was seriously hurt. "Out of that particular event, we got off lucky," said Gauthier. "(The thieves) could have shot these two guys, no doubt about it."

The two thieves, who wore balaclavas, got away with cash.

He said the money is what put the clerk at risk. The cleaner was "at the wrong spot" when the robbery happened, he said, and was alerted to what happened while he tidied up the bar.

"The desk clerk is handling money...like 7-Elevens, gas stations, gas bars, whenever there's that cash element, they're at risk," he said. The thieves haven't been arrested to this day, as far as Gauthier knows.

But there's been a lasting lesson.

"If you see somebody that you suspect is up to no good, just call the police or press the panic button and that'll fire up the alarms," said Gauthier.


Danger pay:

The fourth in a Free Press series on violence at work focuses on employees in the service industry. The following statistics show the number of employees who reported being victims of violence in a four-year period:


Retail salespersons and sales clerks: 20

Retail trade managers: 7

Cashiers: 7

Light-duty cleaners: 6

Hotel front-desk clerks: 6

Bartenders: 5

Janitors, caretakers and building superintendents: 5

Grocery clerks and store-shelf stockers: 5

Cooks: 4

Other selected occupations: Journalist (1), funeral director/embalmer (1), psychologist (1)


-- Source: Workers Compensation Board statistics on people who lost time at work due to assaults or violent acts, from 2006 to 2010

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 7, 2011 B3

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