The area of personal security at work is ever developing and is strongly linked with the recent growth in the lone worker market. It should be remembered that just 10 years ago there was no such thing as a Lone Worker market. Whilst the term “lone working” clearly implies single employees it should be remembered that two, or even more employees working in isolation could equally be at risk.
Before looking at the reasons behind why Personal Safety at work should be in the forefront of an employers’ mind, we need to understand how Personal Safety is defined.
Personal Safety is “an individual’s ability to go about their everyday life free from the threat or fear of psychological, emotional or physical harm from others.”
The four points below are key reasons why now is the time to embark on a process to manage Personal Safety within your organisation.
1. Rising incidents of violence
Work-related violence can be defined as “an incident in which an employee is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work”.
The latest Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) estimates that there were 643,000 incidents of violence at work in England and Wales in 2011/12. Comprising of 324,000 physical assaults and 319,000 threats against someone while they were working, this is broadly similar to the number estimated for the previous year at 654 000 incidents (2010/11 CSEW). Shockingly, 41% of victims were assaulted or threatened twice or more in 2011/12.
2. Cost Implications
The cost of work related violence and aggression to organisations large and small should never be underestimated. For an employer to ignore their duty of care may be negligent and that can have financial consequences such as costly court cases in the criminal or civil courts.
We should not forget the cost to individuals and the impact an incident of violence at work can have in the long term on their health and wellbeing. Violence and aggression in the workplace can and does affect people in all occupations, regardless of gender and age. The level of risk varies from organisation to organisation; the legal responsibilities on the other hand, do not change.
3. Legal Responsibility
Under the health and Safety at Work Act 1974 employers have a duty to ensure as far as is reasonably practical, the health, safety and welfare at work of their employees. The Management of health and safety at Work Regulations 1999 also require employers to consider the risks to employees, including protecting staff from exposure to reasonably foreseeable violence.
• Conduct a suitable and sufficient assessment of risk
• Record significant findings
• Reduce risk, so far as is reasonably practicable
In terms of violence and aggression this means that employers must:
• Assess the risks associated with violence and aggression
• Record the risks and identify the actions needed
• Undertake those actions
4. Staff Perception
Incidents of violence and aggression will affect the morale and performance of your staff. Staff should feel protected and supported by management. As an organisation you may find it harder to retain or indeed recruit staff (or volunteers) and may find you have a higher than expected level of absence. Remember, one incident of violence and aggression at work can affect many people. Other members of the team may feel stressed, anxious and ultimately unsupported if appropriate management action and support is not provided. Your relationship with your customers or service users may be affected and the general public’s overall impression of your organisation may be damaged. All of this can have an unwanted impact on the productivity and profitability of your business.
It makes sense to start right now!
The earlier an organisation identifies, assesses and puts in place control measures to avoid or reduce the Personal Safety risks, the more choices it has about how to manage Personal Safety within its business. It is far more effective to identify, assess and put in control measures to reduce the potential risks before they occur, than it is to deal with the consequences once an incident has happened.
Whatever the size or nature of your organisation, there are many simple, practical and cost effective measures which can be used to help prevent and manage the risk of violence and aggression to staff and volunteers. Knowing that there could be serious implications if you don’t adequately protect your staff, it makes sense to start right now!