“We never know who we’re picking up, nor what the circumstances or threats will be within any given ride. We don’t know where or what neighborhood the ride request will take us, nor what the circumstances will be once we arrive to pick up or drop off. We don’t know the frame of mind or condition of the passenger we are picking up.” — Wes, Uber driver.
Perhaps, this is the most common thought the majority of platform workers has while working.
Last month in San Francisco, a video of an Uber driver being assaulted by three women went viral on social media. After picking them up, the man stopped the ride when the passengers refused to wear masks, as Uber’s policy requires. Then, the women started to shout at him. One of them was coughing on him, grabbed his cellphone and took off his face mask. When they got out of the car, the driver was sprayed with pepper spray too.
“The person you pick up could be very unstable, and do wrong things.” — Anonymous, Uber driver.
According to BLS stats, there are 1.6 million gig economy workers in the US, defined as workers paid through tech platforms like Uber or TaskRabbit. Undoubtedly, one of the biggest challenges these workers face is safety.
We have compiled some experiences which explain dangerous situations that put gig workers at risk while working.
Gig workers are in daily contact with strangers
You don’t know who they are:
“Picking strangers could be a risk. I think once I was transporting someone making a drug deal.” — Tom, ex Uber driver
Or what their intentions are:
“I have had passengers drop guns on the floor after getting in. Also had passengers put a knife in their coat sleeve.” — Erick, Uber driver
“One passenger tried to choke me.” — Cindy, Uber driver
Gig workers can be targets of physical assault
I pick up 3 young men from a not so good neighborhood. Their trip was about 35 miles to New Orleans. When we arrived at their destination, there were 3 other guys waiting that were not so nice. One of the guys that was waiting for us to arrive punched me in the face right through the drivers window! At the same time another guy came through the passenger side and mercilessly beat me in the face! They pulled me from my car and all six were punching and kicking me and urinating on me. After going through my pockets and ripping my car apart they grew even more angry that I only had 3 bucks on me. Thankfully they didn't take my car, they only stole my phone. I don't know what they were thinking about trying to rob an Uber driver because we don't deal in cash at all. I spent 3 days in the hospital with 5 broken ribs and a broken nose and a fractured jaw, and I lost 3 teeth. — Kevin, Uber driver.
As we have seen, platform technology workers are exposed to different situations that put their safety at risk. Moreover, they work without supervision, and it can be difficult to assist them in case of emergency. The Kwema Smart Badge™ includes Kwema Assist™ functionality. This technology can quickly activate an emergency protocol, maximizing response time and saving lives. In just 3 seconds, gig workers can ask for help to close contacts and 911 when in danger.