You are not alone
25 July 2018
Safe lone working requires employers to adopt a high standard of personal safety amongst their employees, says Saskia Garner.
SUZY LAMPLUGH Trust is the UK’s leading personal safety charity. For over 30 years we have worked to reduce the risk of violence and aggression through campaigning, education and support, ensuring that personal safety is recognised as a life skill and public policy priority. Suzy Lamplugh Trust is passionate about working with organisations to create a sustainable personal safety culture.
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust was formed after the disappearance of Suzy Lamplugh, an estate agent working in London. On 28th July 1986, Suzy had left her office to meet a man (presumably the “Mr Kipper” she had written in her diary) to show around a property. At 1.00pm she was seen with a man and minutes later they were seen walking away from the property. Suzy’s disappearance was not reported to the police until 6.45pm that day and Suzy’s body has never been found. She has been presumed murdered and was legally declared dead in 1993.
Lone working safety
Working alone is not in itself against the law and it will often be safe to do so. However, the law requires employers to consider carefully, and then address, any health and safety risks for people working alone. The safety of lone workers is a dual responsibility of both the employee and employer. For example, while the employer has a duty to provide a safe working environment and to create workable policies to ensure safety, it is the employee’s responsibility to follow these policies and inform the employer if any part of it is not working.
We have developed Suzy’s Code for Personal Safety to provide organisations with simple changes that they can implement to adopt a higher standard of personal safety amongst their employees, particularly those who work alone for all or part of their job.
1. Implement a buddy system (so colleagues always know each other’s whereabouts and contact details. This should include checking in and out when meeting 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 people to visit the office before meeting them outside the office so colleagues can also meet them
5. Offer all staff a personal safety alarm and have discreet lone worker devices available
6. Before conducting an external meeting, find out who else will be present at the meeting
7. Finally, make sure all staff are aware of, and have access to the personal safety measures available
Creating a personal safety culture is key to ensuring that lone working and personal safety is central to an organisation's work and activities. We believe that all organisations need to ensure that staff throughout the organisation understand the importance of recognising the risks that lone working brings and the best way to mitigate these. “Personal safety is common sense, but common sense needs to become common practice”.
Our work with the Isle of Wight council who provide public services to approximately 140,000, and many other organisations has helped to:
- Train staff to respond to risk- Staff need to be confident in identifying, assessing and managing various personal safety risks they face in their roles;
- Develop effective policies - HR need to understand what aspect of their lone working policy is not effective and these issues can be addressed through policy development and procedural changes; and
- Create a committed approach to learning and development- It is important that employees are empowered to take control of personal safety through regular training through their organisation. It is important that organisations are continually reviewing lone working procedures and identifying and addressing gaps in learning.
One hundred percent of delegates that attended our personal safety and lone working training at Isle of Wight Council reported that the course met their aims and objectives and has had a positive impact on their working practices.
When an organisational policy is not being followed, we often find these procedures will fall from use on a wider scale and a culture of simply ‘hoping incidents don’t occur’ develops, resulting in existing good practice being neglected or overlooked.
It is important that organisations train staff to develop both the skills and confidence to recognise, evaluate and mitigate the various personal safety risks they face when lone working. Staff also need to feel more confident in managing their personal safety in a variety of situations, such as recognising the early warning signs of aggression as well as practical tips on how to diffuse and de-escalate potentially aggressive situations that may arise.
Personal safety training that is delivered within an organisation must focus on creating a cultural change towards more effective everyday personal safety practices. By consulting with senior managers and staff across departments, organisations must ensure that everyone is on board and committed to making personal safety a priority in their area of work and amongst the colleagues they manage. This can then help to cultivate an ethos of embedded, sustainable personal safety practice.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to personal safety – every organisation faces different challenges, and therefore solutions too must be tailored to meet the needs of the organisation.
Saskia Garner is policy officer for personal safety at Suzy Lamplugh Trust. For more information, visit www.suzylamplugh.org