An attempted armed robbery earlier this month at a McDonald’s restaurant in Campbellton is a sobering reminder for employers to educate staff about the possibility of workplace violence.
On January 5, a man entered the fast-food outlet around 8:30 p.m., jumped over the counter and demanded money from staff. A 17-year-old female staff member fought the intruder before a 17-year-old male staff member jumped in to help.
Both struggled with the man before he pulled out a knife. The female employee received a minor cut on her arm before he fled the scene. She was taken to hospital, treated and released. Two other employees were treated for shock.
New Brunswick’s Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act requires employers take every reasonable precaution to ensure their employee’s health and safety. It also requires employers to provide new employees with a health and safety orientation and job-specific training before they begin work at the workplace. Employers with 20 or more regularly employed staff members are required under the OHS Act to have a health and safety program.
In workplaces that handle cash, employee orientation and training should include the workplace’s procedures during emergencies, and how to deal with crimes in progress, suspicious persons and violent or disruptive behaviour.
“When staff are potentially exposed to violence from robbery or workplace assault, that hazard needs to be minimized,” said Richard Blais, WorkSafeNB’s director of compliance and regulatory review. “Employers should have a cash handling procedure in place to minimize the amount of cash available, install security systems, ensure adequate numbers of staff are present when the risk of an event is high, and ensure that all staff are trained and know how to respond during emergencies.”
“Also, if they are required to work alone, New Brunswick has a regulation requiring employers to develop a code of practice to ensure their staff’s health and safety.”
Cpl. Jeff Foster of the Campbellton RCMP also has some advice. He does not recommend confronting an intruder as the two McDonalds’ employees did.
“Give them what they want,” he said. “It’s quite simple...Open the cash. You want them out of there as quickly as possible.
“Don’t get into a verbal argument with them. Do not engage people that show signs of aggression. Just call 911.”
Police were searching for the suspect, who is described as of medium height, weighing about 160 pounds, with dark hair and a clean shaven face. More information on the robbery is available through the RCMP website.