Assaults on ticket inspectors highlighted by stabbing on C2C train

The potential danger of some workplaces has again been highlighted by two high profile instances within a week, of ticket inspectors on trains being assaulted.

The first in Scotland received over 2 million hits on YouTube and although there is no evidence of physical assault by the passenger, the video provides a suggestion of the verbal tirade he had to endure from the passenger before the rather unfortunate ‘dubious’ intervention of a passenger. To view the video please Click Here.

The second case is even more serious and resulted in a ticket inspector being stabbed in the course of his duties when he removed two passengers from his train who did not have tickets. More on this story (BBC)

This again highlights the significant risk employees can face when carrying out their every day duties. It is a sad reality that these types of incident are not in anyway unique and although thankfully stabbings are not common, the impact of verbal and ‘less serious’ assaults can also have a devastating effect on the victims.

What it does highlight is the potential for apparently minor situations, which employees may encounter on a daily basis, to quickly turn into something considerably more serious. Knives and other weapons are routinely carried by violent criminals, by people who see them (wrongly) as an effective way of defending themselves from the threats they perceive and by those who believe they give them status amongst their peers.

Just as destructive a force as the false perception of weapons being an effective defence or status symbol, are some of the more extreme attitudes some members of the public hold; sticking with the transport theme, we recently saw an extreme example from a woman on a tram in Croydon. Search ‘My Tram Experience’ on YouTube to view the video.

A combination of all these factors and the apparent willingness of some to use physical / verbal force against another with apparent ease, can present a volatile workplace for those in public facing roles; one which leads to high levels of stress in employees.

One of the solutions is training those on the ‘front line’, but it is imperative that the training is then carried through and used on a daily basis; therefore the training must be convincing and effective.

It is an unfortunate truth that when finances are squeezed, it is often the training budget which goes first and despite report after report demonstrating that this short term saving leads to long term losses, there is clear evidence of this occurring in the current economic climate.

Another manifestation of this is the pursuit of cheaper alternatives. Seeking value is a cornerstone of good business practice and should be encouraged, but not at the expense of quality. There are hundreds of examples which demonstrate that where cost is chosen over quality, organisations suffer; when it comes to the personal safety of employees, this failure can lead to significant levels of stress or injury for the individual concerned and damage the reputation of the organisation.

Training is no exception, we have seen the watering down of statutory training in so many areas and the consequences are significant.


Take Security Industry Authority (SIA) licensing training as an example.

When this was first developed, the training for a security guarding or door supervisor licence lasted 4 days with group sizes recommended to be no more than 12-15. Healthy competition is good for the health of any industry, but cutting corners has led to training now being completed in groups of 50 or more over 3 days. Learners sit in front of a slideshow which does little more than explain to them how to pass an exam; we refer to this as ‘tick the box training’.

Tick the box training provides little or no real learning, it is carried out because statute demands it. People working in the security industry need to have a qualification to get a licence, the question is how effectively can you learn the complicated skills required to manage an aggressive individual from a slideshow?

In this particular sector, what is even worse is that if they pass the multiple choice exam at the end of the day, through which they are often guided, they can then apply for a licence. The problem is that most members of the public, as well as most businesses who buy security, believe this licence to be a sign of competence. However what every honest expert within security sector will testify to, is that in far too many cases the SIA Licence is little more than a confirmation that a CRB check has been carried out.

There are still training providers out there delivering excellent SIA training, but often they are doing this for clients who demand effective training to be carried out. This is then done in small groups by experienced trainers who can not only impart the designated curriculum to them, but also pass on the subtleties they have gained through their own experience, it is this which separates the average security ‘professional’ from the industry experts.

The problem in our example is that the ‘tick the box’ training and the professional training by sector experts both result in the same SIA licence; thus the very poor training undermines the value of those willing to dedicate the additional time and funding to doing it correctly.

By consequence the original goal of the SIA to professionalise the security is somewhat undermined by its own licensing system. If many licenses are held by poorly trained staff, the public image of the security guard / door supervisor will be of unprofessional incompetent individuals. Thus even those who are well trained but who display the licence will be seen in this negative light, making their ability to break down the psychological barriers essential to resolving conflict situations, more difficult.


We are experiencing a similar trend when it comes to Conflict Management and Conflict Resolution Training outside of the security industry. We are increasingly being asked to provide shorter and shorter courses or even lectures to allow a box to be ticked and although any training is better than none, we would never try and suggest that attending a 2 hour lecture on Conflict Management or Conflict Resolution will do any more than give a slight insight into the subject.

For those dealing with conflict on a daily basis, such as ticket inspectors on trains, effective training should be a requirement, it doesn’t have to break the bank, but it should ideally be face to face (yes we have even been asked to provide an e-learning conflict resolution solution) training in small groups.

This approach allows the trainer(s) to carry out role play and scenario based learning, to discuss in-depth the skills required to approach and resolve conflict situations which may be encountered, to allow specific questions learners have to be answered thoroughly and to deliver confidence. This will help those attending appreciate the benefits of the training and encourage them to use their newly gained skills in their workplace on a daily basis; the definition of ‘cost effective training’.


Related Stories

Ticket inspector stabbed on C2C train from Southend to LondonBBC


Date – 17th December 2011

Submitted by – Peter Mayhew


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