Safety at work
On the streets
Street work is dangerous work because of anti-street work laws and social attitudes. Sometimes street workers don't report crimes against them because they are scared of being fined for working illegally - Ugly Mugs know this, and take advantage of it! If you're working the streets be seen, work alongside other people, stay in touch with outreach workers, get the latest Ugly Mugs reports, be connected. Don't look vulnerable. Try to work with one or two other people - a spotter, a friend or just a friend for the night - look out for each other. Know the scene! That means making sure you can trust the people you're relying on for your safety. Have a standing arrangement that someone will call the cops if you're late back from a job. Really, REALLY, check each potential client out while you're still on your own ground. If it feels suss on your turf, it will only get worse once you're on their turf.
Try to do the job in a place that you're familiar with and that someone else knows about. Use a room if you can. If for some reason you're on your own, make like you're not. Call someone, be heard to leave a message or be seen to send a text message.
I'm on the mobile phone saying 'I'm just on my way to a job now, the rego number's blah blah blah, I'll be back in half an hour. If not, call the police'. Even if the phone's not working it puts the scare factor in him.
- Do your negotiations while you're still outside the car.
- Get the rego number as you're walking up to a car. Write it down if you can - use lipstick on the footpath if you have to, or find some other way to record it; on a mobile phone maybe; get another worker or a spotter to do it. If all else fails note the rego in your head. Some workers make a rhyme or develop some other system of their own for memorising the number plate.
- If you can't see the plates, ask the driver to turn off the headlights so you can.
- Let the client know the rego has been noted.
- Take note of the car's make, dents or damage, colour and any decoration as well as the rego number.
- Avoid clients in hire cars or cars with interstate rego plates or cars without keys in the ignition.
- Don't lean too far into a car when you're negotiating a job.
- Ask the client to put the light on in the car. If the prospective client won't or it doesn't work, beware!
- Don't do a job if there's more than one person in the car - look, make sure.
- Make sure the passenger door handle opens from the inside - make sure there is a door handle! Don't be shy to ask him to put the window down so you can check before you get in the car.
- If there's a steering wheel lock in the car move it to the back seat behind where the client's sitting.
- Look under any blanket or jacket on the back seat in case there's a weapon or ropes or anything else that worries you.
- Try to find a way to check the glove box and other places for hidden weapons.
- Keep an eye on both hands when he's driving - in case he slips his hand down beside the driver's seat for a concealed weapon.
- Get him to park where you want, where you know.
- Never let him park the car where you can't get out! Like hard up next to a tree, a wall or a pillar.
- If the car has central locking, open your door a little so the locking doesn't work.
- Have an escape line planned, before any job, before every job!
So I said I needed to go to the toilet, please let me go. I said I'll be right near the door so you've still got me. But I bolted. If you think things could turn dirty let him think you could throw up in his car. Leave your mark in the car. Leave fingerprints. Leave DNA (hair, a bit of finger nail).
I always touch the dashboard or maybe leave a bit of hair or spit and rub it on the gear stick or their console or whatever. A lot of the rapists use condoms so you need to leave your DNA in the car or scratch him and get some of his skin under your fingernails.
Hotels, houses, his place
Work with some sort of back up arrangement if you're doing hotels, houses or his place - friend, security person, driver, agency. If you have a driver it's best to get them to check the lay of the land and collect the money before the booking starts. Whether you have a driver or not, make sure you have a mobile phone and personal alarm and that they are in good working order. (The licensee of an agency must, by law, make sure you are supplied with a one way or two way electronic device.) If it's an agency job ask if they've done their check of the client's name and address against the phone number he's at. If you're a private worker, always use caller i.d. Listen outside for extra voices. As you arrive, phone in to your agency, a friend or even your own answering machine. Let the client know you're not isolated. Say out loud the address, the time and the time you expect to be leaving. Even if you're not working through an agency, get as much information as you can about the client and let him know you've got it.
Go 'do you mind if I use the phone?'. Even if I just call my own mobile, I've got the home number. And I always have a look around the phone and the fridge - look for any mail, any other details, the exact address - you've got to be able to call their bluff. Plan your exit route when you arrive. Check out the layout straight away - see if there's anything odd about the place. Look out for deadlocked doors or windows. If in doubt, about anything, leave. Be aware of the area you're in. Know where to go if you need to find a main road, a cop shop, a lit up area. If the client is really out of it or drunk, leave. If you're doing a job and another person walks into the room, always stand up so you can see all points in the room. Leave if the second person was not expected by you. Get your agency, security person, driver, or buddy to call you a few minutes before the job's due to finish. Or you call them. Have a code worked out for when there's a problem.
Brothels and parlours
Make sure that the place has panic or 'duress' alarms in all the rooms with buttons or buzzers that are accessible (not at the base of the bed or tucked under the carpet where you can't reach). As soon as you have suspicions about a client take action. If you can't get to a duress alarm, use any tactic you can to leave the room, to make sure you're not alone with him in the room or to change the dynamic. Tactics can include:
- using the intercom to call for help, use your voice, break something, just be heard!
- making an excuse to go get a drink or call down to get someone to bring you a drink;
- trying to sell the client on bringing another person into the booking;
- offering to swap workers (to get you out of the room);
- trying to sell him a different type of service;
- knocking the phone off the hook if that will attract attention at the front desk.
If a sexual assault occurs in your workplace don't be pressured into 'keeping it quiet' for the 'sake of the business'. Even if you don't want to take legal action, let RhED know!