Festive period travel: Keeping employees safe over Christmas
During the festive period, many workers change the way that they travel to and from work.
There’s the work Christmas party for one thing, which could be mean some later than usual travel. If there are shifts to be worked on bank holidays, it’s likely that public transport will be unavailable. And, during those days between Boxing Day and New Year, fewer people are around to share lifts and travel together.
It’s therefore important to remember your duty of care as an employer. After work team drinks, for example, employers have a responsibility for their workers’ actions and safety because social events are seen as an extension of the workplace, regardless of the time or place. In fact, even when the event has finished, employers could still be held responsible should something happen to their staff. From both a moral and business point of view, it is imperative that all employers do what they can to make sure that staff get home safely.
There are several things you can do to reduce the risk of your staff becoming a victim of crime, facing violence and aggression, or being confronted with other safety hazards while travelling during the festive period.
Earlier this year, SHP reported on the findings of a YouGov survey, which found that more than 80% of women want safer pubs, bars and restaurants.
It should also be noted that, whilst the Government has urged people not to cancel Christmas parties this year, the threat of COVID-19 has not gone away and people are urged to be cautious. Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to get their booster jab and take a lateral flow test prior to attending.
Travelling at Christmas: Plan ahead
Encourage staff to plan ahead. Share information about travel problems and transport timetables, and remind them to consider how they’ll get home before they go out.
Make people aware of event venues as soon as possible. This gives people time to decide how they will get home and plan their journey in advance.
Ask staff to let each other know about travel plans. A buddy system could be useful in this situation: if people want to they can partner with someone when they leave an event, and text them when they arrive home safely. If their buddy is unable to get hold of them by an agreed time, they can raise the alarm.
Consider providing personal alarms for staff. Personal alarms shock and disorientate an attacker, giving someone vital seconds to get away.
Taxis and private hire vehicles
Make sure everyone that works for your company knows the difference between taxis and private hire vehicles, and what they’re legally allowed to do.
Circulate a list of trusted, licensed private hire vehicle (minicab) services in your area. It’s important to know which taxi and private hire vehicles operate legally to help people organise safe vehicles easily.
Encourage staff to check and share information about the vehicle they use with someone they trust. Confirming the driver’s name, as well as the licence plate number and make of the car, when the car arrives and sharing this information with someone else can help people to feel and be safer.
Tell everyone to trust their instincts. If someone feels worried or unsafe while using a taxi or private hire vehicle, they can ask the driver to stop in a busy area and get out of the car.
Try to make your staff aware of any changes or cancellations to public transport services, and encourage everyone to check departure times and know which stop they need.
If it’s likely workers will be travelling at night or in an unfamiliar area, encourage them to use busy roads, stick to well-lit areas and transport, and to stay together where possible.
If using a bus late at night or if it is quiet, encourage staff to stay on the lower deck and sit near the driver.
On trains, it may be safest to avoid compartments which have no access to corridors or other parts of the train. Explain to staff that it may be safer to sit with other people and avoid empty carriages.
Remind staff: if you feel uneasy, move to another seat or carriage. If you feel threatened, make as much noise as possible to attract the attention of the driver or guard.
The tragic murder of Sarah Everard earlier this year has highlighted the risk, particularly to females, of walking home alone. Encourage your workers to remain aware, especially at night or in an unknown area.
Circulate a journey creator to encourage people to plan their route in advance. When people look confident and like they know where they’re going, the chance of them facing trouble decreases.
Ask staff to avoid short-cuts, even if they are in a hurry. It is safest to use well-lit, busy streets.
Consider providing personal safety training so that workers feel confident dealing with conflict and other dangerous scenarios at work and beyond.
When things go wrong
Importantly, you must ensure you have a policy and can provide support for your staff if they do face any challenges. Your personal safety policy should outline how staff can report incidents and what help they can expect from their place of work.