The Suzy Lamplugh Trust has recently launched ‘Suzy’s Charter for Workplace Safety’ to help employers and employees make workplaces safer for everyone. Implementing the Charter’s simple steps can go a long way to ensuring that personal safety risks are identified, and mitigated where possible. The Trust has worked with a wide variety of organisations over the last year, including unions, large and small businesses, as well as the police and employees themselves, to create a Charter that makes it simple for organisations and the people they want to protect, to fulfil their obligations to keep workers safe.

An estimated 374,000 adults of working age in employment experience violence at work annually, including threats and physical assault. The human costs of personal safety incidents for employers are far-reaching, and can amount to as much as £6,500 for non-fatal injuries and £12,300 for ill-health per case, due to loss of productivity, insurance claims, administrative and legal costs and health and rehabilitation costs. In the case of fatalities, costs can soar to almost £100,000. The loss of quality-of-life to the individual can be even more damaging, with ongoing impacts on health and wellbeing, loss of confidence and inability to return to the workplace. Absence levels will increase and good staff may leave.

The guidance is largely aimed at workers who are away from the workplace, but some of the guidance can be applied to people when they are the only person in the office, workshop, shop floor or on site. We will be reviewing the safety issues associated with remote and home working in a future newsletter.

Suzy’s Charter for Workplace Safety

1. Embed a Workplace Personal Safety Culture

Employers can do this by ensuring regular consultation and dialogue with staff about the risks they face, and the steps they would like to see implemented. This should counter any perceptions or acceptance by employees of violence and aggression being ‘part of the job’.

Employees must follow all safety policies and procedures provided by employers which support them to feel and be safer.

2. Implement Robust Risk Assessments

Employers must carry out regular risk assessments to mitigate risks for all employees, and ensure compliance with legislation and guidance for the protection of the personal safety of workers. Risk assessments should include specific consideration of lone workers, as well as risks related to all specific environments that different staff work in, such as private homes, out of hours work in usually-populated workplaces, and remote locations etc.

Risk assessments should consider of all forms of violence, aggression, stalking and harassment, both online and offline, including behaviours motivated by prejudice on based on personal or perceived characteristics (e.g. race, gender, disability).

Risk assessments should include the impact of stress and mental health implications of violence and aggression connected to work. They should be regularly reviewed, with employees to reflect the changing reality of their work.

Training should be implemented to ensure that all employees have understood the risk assessment once written.

Dynamic risk assessments should also be carried out to take account of any temporary changes in the work environment or nature of the work.

3. Provide Robust Reporting Procedures

Employers should provide access to reporting tools for all employees, including remote workers and options to report anonymously, to enable immediate and reactive reporting of all personal safety incidents. Reporting procedures should include incident follow-up with employees to ensure employee wellbeing, and wider risk mitigation for the organisation, as well as sign-posting to support services where required. Employees should be encouraged to report incidents to the police.

4. Provide Personal Safety Training

Employers should train employees in preparing for and responding to personal safety risks according to risk assessments, policies & procedures, i.e. violence and aggression related to work, as well as skills in conflict de-escalation.

5. Implement a Tracing System

A designated colleague, called a ‘buddy’, should always be informed about the whereabouts and contact details of a specific employee while they are lone working, including out of normal office hours. Employers should ensure employees share contact details of the person they are meeting with their buddy. This should include travel details, the exact location and time of appointment, as well as name and contact details of the person they are meeting where relevant.

Have a procedure to follow if a colleague does not return or check in when expected, with clear lines of escalation inside and outside the organisation.

6. Have a System in place for colleagues to covertly raise the alarm

Enable employees to alert colleagues in case of an emergency while working alone, e.g. use of a code word, panic alarm installed in the workplace etc.

If possible, have discreet lone worker devices available, or provide access to an alert system to covertly call for immediate help, even in areas without phone signal.

7. Offer staff a Personal Safety Alarm according to their risk assessment

Depending on the outcome of risk assessments, employees should be offered a personal safety alarm which they carry to distract an aggressor where appropriate, and aid escape from a personal safety incident.

8. Regularly consult on and review Safety Policies and Procedures with employees

Keep these updated, inform staff and provide access to, and training on, all personal safety measures available.

In addition to the Trust’s guidance which we have replicated more or less in full, the HSE have some valuable words of advice.

HSE Guidance on Lone Working:

Training is particularly important for lone workers, as where there is limited supervision to control, guide and help in situations of uncertainty. Training may be critical to avoid people panicking in unusual situations.

Lone workers need to be sufficiently experienced and fully understand the risks and precautions.

Employers should set the limits to what can and cannot be done while working alone. They should ensure employees competence to deal with circumstances that are new, unusual or beyond the scope of training, for example when to stop work and seek advice from a manager on how to handle aggression.

We would add a few additional tips for employers:

  • Staff need to know that you will support an approach of ‘If in doubt – don’t go’.
  • The driving policy should reinforce that employees should not drive if they have undertaken a series of long working days, are really tired or feel unwell.
  • A comprehensive policy on lone working should put the emphasis on the employer rather than broad assertions to “be careful out there”.
  • Ensure that employees will not be criticised for raising concerns, and their issues will be treated seriously and sensitively.
  • Consider the greater risks to expectant mothers, disabled or vulnerable workers and inexperienced staff
  • Mean it when you say “Remember: your own safety comes first. You are not expected to put yourself at risk”.
  • Have systems in place to support lone workers following a near miss or incident, including:
    • Line management support and debriefing
    • Investigating the incident
    • Reviewing risk assessments
    • Putting measures in place to prevent it happening again
    • Referring to occupational health, where appropriate
    • Advice on how to access counselling support
    • Liaising with the police

Finally, don’t let someone be harmed, put into a dangerous situation or seriously frightened before you become more proactive about lone working.  Rather think holistically about the health, safety and wellbeing of all of your lone workers and put into practice some of the sensible guidelines written in this article.

Our Consultants would be pleased to advise you on any element of the issues arising from this newsletter.