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November 16, 2017

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Suzy’s Code: One year on

Suzy Lamplugh, a 25 year old estate agent, disappeared in 1986 while showing a client round a house in Fulham.

Last year, to mark the 30-year anniversary of Suzy Lamplugh’s disappearance, the charity set up in her name launched Suzy’s Code to draw attention to personal safety procedures. Here it looks at the impact of the scheme.

25-year old Suzy, who was an estate agent in London, went missing during her normal working day. It was not routine where she worked for staff to share information about where they were going or who they were meeting, and hours passed between the time Suzy left for her appointment and the alarm being raised that she was missing. To this day, Suzy has never been found, and she was legally declared dead in 1994.

Last year, Suzy Lamplugh Trust launched Suzy’s Code to draw attention to how crucial it is for organisations to have adequate personal safety procedures in place. The code acts as a reminder that simple acts, such as having a buddy system that allows colleagues to trace each other’s whereabouts during working hours, can improve personal safety and save lives.

Personal Safety Challenges in Housing

Suzy’s Code was launched after Suzy Lamplugh Trust research revealed that many individuals working in the housing sector were still concerned about their personal safety in 2016.

The Trust surveyed 250 estate agents to better understand the extent to which employees in this sector felt at risk while working. Findings were highly concerning: one in five estate agents said they had conducted a property viewing where they felt unsafe, and for female estate agents this was nearly one in three. Furthermore, Suzy Lamplugh Trust found that risks to personal safety extended to others in the housing sector, including housing association employees.

As a result, the 2016 campaign, Safe as Houses, aimed to give people working in the estate and housing sector simple, practical solutions to avoid violence and aggression. However, while the campaign focused primarily on the housing sector, the principles of Suzy’s Code are applicable to all sectors. All employers, regardless of industry, have a legal responsibility to look after the safety of their staff.

Suzy’s Code

Suzy’s code sets out clear, practical steps that can be taken to increase the personal safety of employees and make safety a priority in workplace. It asks organisations to sign up to, and implement, these straight-forward steps:

  1. Implement a buddy system, so colleagues always know each other’s whereabouts and contact details. This should include checking in and out when arriving at and leaving the property, including out of normal office hours.
  2. Have a system in place for colleagues to raise the alarm back at the office in case of an emergency while working alone.
  3. Have a clear procedure to follow if someone does not return or check in when they are expected.
  4. Where possible arrange for viewers to visit the office before meeting them at the property so that colleagues have also seen them.
  5. Offer all staff a personal safety alarm and have discreet lone worker devices available.
  6. Before conducting a viewing, find out who else will be present in the property (current tenant, contractors etc.) when you visit.
  7. Finally, make sure all staff are aware of and have access to the personal safety measures available.

One year on

Since Suzy’s Code was launched on National Personal Safety Day in 2016, a number of organisations have signed up for Suzy’s Code, including estate agents Knight Frank and Savills, the Guild of Letting and Management, and the National Association of Estate Agents. These organisations have demonstrated that they prioritise the personal safety of their staff by applying the seven points of Suzy’s Code to their day-to-day work.

However, work still needs to be done to improve personal safety in the housing sector and beyond. According to Inside Housing’s most recent assaults survey, housing officers suffered more than 200 physical attacks last year. In 2016-17, approximately one housing staff member was either verbally or physically assaulted every 35 working minutes. With reports of racial abuse, death threats and physical attacks, it is clear that organisations must continue to implement and improve personal safety procedures to keep staff safe.

Cross-sector code

Suzy Lamplugh Trust is still inviting organisations to sign up for Suzy’s Code. Regardless of the sector you work in, your organisation can implement Suzy’s Code and make a commitment to better personal safety. As there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution when it comes to personal safety, there is no one right way to implement Suzy’s Code either. For example, raising an alarm can be done either by using a lone worker device or by alerting a colleague by using an agreed code word or phrase. The only thing to remember is that procedures must be practicable and easy to follow.

Ultimately, it is crucial that all organisations have adequate personal safety policies and procedures in place to protect staff. It is not acceptable for staff to feel unsafe at work every day, and it is vital for employers to do as much as they can to prevent and manage any violence and abuse staff experience at work. Suzy’s Code can be the first step and helps organisations to ensure that staff members – both those who work alone and those who monitor lone workers’ safety – are confident in managing their own and their colleagues’ personal safety.

To find out more about signing up for Suzy’s Code and demonstrating that your organisation is committed to making the personal safety of your staff a top priority, contact Suzy Lamplugh Trust on 020 7091 0014 or email [email protected]

Coronavirus advice for employers

This hub page complies all the latest government coronavirus updates. It includes what you can and cannot do in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, workplace advice from multiple sources, including information on welcoming staff back to the workplace and the latest vaccination information.

It also contains a host of useful external links and resources to find further information.

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