Angry residents cause spike in City workplace incidents

Edward ScownGeraldton Guardian
City of Greater Geraldton staff cleaning up money thrown at the front counter of the Geraldton CBD office.
Camera IconCity of Greater Geraldton staff cleaning up money thrown at the front counter of the Geraldton CBD office. Credit: Supplied

Reportable workplace incidents have nearly trebled at the City of Greater Geraldton in the past year, following a spate of angry residents confronting City staff.

Last month alone there were 40 reported incidents, including five injuries, up from a total of 14 for November 2020.

The issue was raised at the City’s agenda forum on Tuesday by Cr Mike Reymond.

“Concerning the number of safety incidents reported without an accident, we were told it was a cultural change. Are we going to see an increase in incidents without injury?” Cr Reymond said.

CGG chief executive officer Ross McKim said the increase was in part because less minor incidents were going unreported.

“Given the emphasis we are putting on safety, I would expect the reporting of non-injury incidents to remain high. I would like that if that were to occur, that folk continue to report near misses, that way we can keep improving the system,” Mr McKim said.

“There were some interesting ones this month. There is a lot of angry folk in the community, and some of their behaviour toward officers has been less than desirable.”

One incident in particular caught public attention in late November, when a self-professed sovereign citizen paid $3000 of fees in gold coins, which he launched toward office staff along with what were reportedly animal bones.

Speaking to the Geraldton Guardian following the incident, Mayor Shane Van Styn said the City’s priority was to protect its staff.

“It’s becoming more prevalent in society, sadly,” he said.

“We see it in the news with elected officials and health staff having to get security teams and the like.

“Hopefully, it doesn’t get that bad at the City of Greater Geraldton but it actually is a real threat.”

This along with a string of other incidents — including one in which an Aquarena lifeguard was punched in the back of the head — prompted Mr McKim to introduce a policy at the last council meeting to deal with unreasonable customer conduct. However, the City cannot lawfully ban residents from its facilities.

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