Three Tips to Manage Workamping Job Risks

Since 2008 Jim and I have purposely taken workamping jobs that put our brains and bodies to the test. We have dug ditches, wrestled dead horses and cleaned cabins until our arms fell off. All these years we never considered that like any regular employment situation, workamping job risks also exist. Jim and Sheri Parker probably didn’t either. This nice couple lost their lives on the job last week when an evicted RV park tenant shot them to death.

The Workamping Job Risks We Never Considered

workamping job risks

Because bad hires happen.

An angry lunatic committed the brutal workamping couple murder in Lake Ozark, Missouri. Kicked out for bad behavior and a physical altercation with Jim Parker just three weeks earlier, the scumbag returned to the park for vengeance. He shot and injured one RVer then broke into the park manager’s office/apartment and killed the Parkers in their sleep. I hope they never knew what hit them. The Parkers were members of Jim’s popular Workampers Facebook Group, which is how we heard about this senseless tragedy.

The ugly event reminded me of the workamping job risks we never considered: namely, psychotic employees and tenants. To be fair, these on-the-job risks can happen at any type of employment. But we never imagined this could happen while workamping, until several years ago when we found ourselves in the middle of a scary argument between a worthless workamper couple and management.

The four of us were hired at the same time for summer resort help. Jim and I loved the arrangement but from day one the other couple just didn’t fit in. They were clearly unhappy and not right for the job, but management was desperate for help. Over a month or so the couple did a spectacular job getting on people’s nerves.

Finally, one of our managers blew a gasket and fired the couple on the spot. The ugly scene unfolded publicly and within earshot of Jim, myself and a few others. Tempers flared and when the room finally cleared, a sickening feeling lingered over the place.

We retreated to our RV that evening and kept a close watch on their rig. My stomach flip-flopped all night. I wondered if they might do something crazy like sugar our fuel tank or sabotage equipment. Thankfully they quietly snuck out in the morning and the summer was more successful without them.

Three Tips for an Explosive Workamping Job Situation

workamping job risks

Watch out for workamping hazards.

Not once did I think that the fired workamper couple would shoot us all up, but ah, this happened before mass shootings became regular news in America. Today I view angry people in a much different light. Today I’m asking myself: what would we do differently today that might save our lives? After mulling it over for a week, now I know that if we ever encounter another sticky workamper situation that’s about to explode, here are three things I would do:

  1. Communicate with management early and often. If a workamper is causing problems, step up. Don’t wait for the bad apple to quit, it may never happen. Let management know what’s simmering (they may not even be aware of it). Don’t sound like a tattle-tale, but carefully express your concerns and make sure they understand the situation.
  2. Give an ultimatum.  If nothing changes after a reasonable period of time and you know for sure that you are not the problem, it’s time to get blunt with management. Make it clear to them that unless change happens quickly they will lose the better workamper. Many managers will do anything to avoid firing an employee, and rightfully so. But if your concerns aren’t addressed . . . 
  3. Get out. No job is worth that kind of stress or even dying over. If your gut feeling says that the bad employee could go rogue, get the hell out, yesterday. Don’t worry about your job. Workamping jobs are plentiful any time of year. 

People stay in bad situations and jobs they hate for many reasons, mainly money. Either they make a lot of it and can’t bear the thought of making less, or they don’t make anything and are living hand-to-mouth without other options. And while I realize that the financial freedom to get up and flee a bad situation is not something everyone can do at a given moment, I strongly believe that working toward financial freedom and making it happen can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. 

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One Response to “Three Tips to Manage Workamping Job Risks”

  1. We are familiar with the couple to which you are referring in “your” experience. The couple moved to UT and were offered a lucrative position with UT State Parks which offered $11+/hour vs $3/hour. Based on their stellar past employment practice, they were asked to manage a cherry orchard in OR, continuing this employment for 5 seasons before retiring. During the first season, they facilitated the sale of the property and were asked to continue as Workampers for the new owners. You are correct with your #3 comment–when an environment is toxic, you must remove yourself. This couple did the right thing and were blessed with opportunities beyond their expectations.

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