What is personal safety?
In the second of its series of blog posts, the Suzy Lamplugh Trust looks at the issue of personal safety in the workplace.
Unfortunately, personal safety concerns are a part of life. From trips and falls to malfunctioning appliances, there are always potential dangers around us and often we react to them subconsciously to protect ourselves and others from harm.
When it comes to personal safety at work, however, it’s important that these ‘common sense’ responses become common practice to keep people safe. There may be higher risk associated with your workplace activities, you may need to put yourself in hazardous environments, or work alone.
As a result of this, employers have a legal responsibility to eliminate or reduce risks to staff. This includes the threat of violence and aggression, which although unpredictable, is a significant worry when working with other people or in a public space. For example, a community nurse may face additional risks because they are working alone, or a housing worker may feel threatened because they have delivered bad news to tenants.
The European Commission defines workplace violence as: “incidents where staff are abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances related to their work, including commuting to and from work, involving an explicit or implicit challenge to their safety, well-being and health”.
Organisations should remember that staff should always be free from the threat or fear of abuse or assault while at work. Whether verbally threatened or physically assaulted, employees can be seriously upset or injured by these incidents, and that can impact on their confidence and ability to work.
It’s important that everything possible is done to give staff ways to manage these incidents, and reduce risk.
Benefits of personal safety training
Personal safety training is a tried-and-tested way of mitigating safety risks, and at Suzy Lamplugh Trust, we have been delivering this training for over 30 years.
It offers many benefits and can play a key role in ensuring that everyone has a general level of personal safety knowledge. Training can help identify unique risks in your sector or organisation, and allows you to equip staff with vital skills and knowledge to make them safer at work.
Legally, employers must ensure that staff do not face unreasonable danger in the course of their role, and alongside initial risk assessments, personal safety training is an excellent way to do this. By educating staff, you can ensure that everyone who works for you is aware of dangers, has the knowledge they need to respond to risks, and is confident that you will provide appropriate support should a problem arise.
However, though employers legally have a duty of care for their employees and must provide a safe place of work, the advantages of personal safety training transcend obligation. By providing personal safety training, you demonstrate commitment to worker’s safety. This can improve the relationship between an organisation and its staff, and lead to better co-operation.
In fact, giving proper attention to personal safety concerns can improve staff morale and reduce sickness leave. When staff feel supported, organisations often see levels of productivity, creativity and performance increase. Better awareness of risks, improved knowledge of personal safety procedures, and fewer distractions can mean that stress-related absences reduce, and staff are less likely to be injured as a result of a personal safety incidents.
Combating unique risks with unique training
It is vital to ensure that any personal safety training your organisation undertakes is robust and well-designed. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to training; courses should be tailored to your employee’s needs. When selecting a training course, make sure you can choose from a range of different topics, working situations and circumstances so that every aspect of the course is applicable to your organisation.
By the end of any training course, delegates should feel that they have a better understanding and awareness of potential hazards they may face. While this increased awareness may lead to increased safety concerns, delegates should also feel more confident in their ability to manage their personal safety.
When we are delivering training, our key objective is that everyone who attends a course should be able to identify, assess and decrease the risk of violence and aggression if they face it while at work. This technique works: 97% of delegates who have attended a Suzy Lamplugh Trust training course say that they feel more confident managing their personal safety having attended the training.
In addition, training should cover the legal aspects of personal safety and lone working. This can give both management and staff a clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities while at work. Employees should know what they are legally obliged to do themselves, how they should support their colleagues, and how their employers should support them. This can lead to better reporting of personal safety problems.
For lone workers, training should pay particular attention to the unique risks that face people working alone. Training should leave staff with a good understanding of the increased risks associated with working without direct supervision, and give staff the tools to cope with this. Courses should draw attention to your organisation’s own lone worker policies, and can help to ensure that all staff know how to access and use the policy correctly.
The impact of training
Personal safety training can be applied to any sector and any role, but often, training is booked as a knee-jerk reaction after staff have raised concerns or injuries have occurred. Our most recent feedback suggests that nearly a quarter of the training bookings we receive are a direct result of a rise in incidents or a specific assault on a member of staff.
However, as the UK’s leading personal safety charity, Suzy Lamplugh Trust is keen for this to change. Our mission is to reduce the risk of violence and aggression, because we want people to feel and be safer. This mission is applicable to workplace settings, and prioritising personal safety, and personal safety training, within organisations is key to achieving this.
Interestingly, many of those who book Suzy Lamplugh Trust personal safety training following an incident seem to agree, and become regular customers after attending a course. One client told us, ‘We all found the training really useful, it put things into perspective and got us all thinking about risks we take every day without realizing, both at work and out and about with friends and family. We […] will definitely be booking again when we have new starters!’
While it is often unnecessary to make huge changes to day-to-day work, providing training for staff before they face risks, or as part of an induction procedure, can hugely improve the way an organisation responds to personal safety issues. By identifying risks and providing staff with robust training and procedures before incidents take place, organisations can ensure that their employees are safe.
To find out more about Suzy Lamplugh Trust and personal safety training visit www.suzylamplugh.org, call us on 020 0791 001 or email us at [email protected]
A guide to home working
This hub has been put together by SHP, Barbour EHS and The Healthy Work Company to provide research, case studies, videos and resources to enable you to lead this transition in a way which safeguards the wellbeing of your teams and maximises the opportunity to embrace new ways of working for the future.