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5.1.19 Health and Safety Guidance

This chapter first appeared in this manual in February 2010.


Contents

  1. Helping Yourself to be Safer
  2. The Key to Personal Safety
  3. Physical Attack
  4. When Driving Your Car
  5. When Walking
  6. A Personal Safety Checklist
  7. Working in Centres or Buildings Used by Service Users
  8. Working on Other Partner's Premises
  9. Visits to the Service User
  10. Recording


1. Helping Yourself to be Safer

The guidance should be read alongside the Lincolnshire County Councils Health and Safety Policy, Health and Safety Manual and Children’s Services Health & Safety Policy.

Risks at work do not exist just at your desk or work space. There may be risks in travelling to and from work or in connection with your work; in work that you might do on someone else’s premises; or in car parks, lifts, corridors, etc. You may encounter work-related risks in time spent away from home or abroad.

Although employers must implement measures for the personal safety of their employees, you should remember that personal safety is a shared responsibility between employer and employee. You also have a responsibility to help yourself to be safer.

Think also about the personal safety of others - family, colleagues, work contacts and friends.

Emergency Number Dial 999 - The Call is Free

Give as much information as possible including the following:

  • Nature of incident;
  • Location of incident;
  • Type and seriousness of injuries if any;
  • Keep calm, speak clearly and do not hang up until the emergency services have all the information needed.

If Problems Arise

  • If someone grabs your bag or wallet, let it go;
  • If you think someone is following you, check by crossing the street. If they do follow you, quickly move to the nearest place with people and call the police;
  • If a car stops and you are threatened, use an alarm and move quickly in the opposite direction.


2. The Key to Personal Safety

Develop Confidence

  • Learn how to deal with difficult situations; develop communication skills and assertiveness through training;
  • Look confident - not arrogant: a confident person is less likely to be attacked;
  • Keep fit - exercise can help you develop posture, stamina and strength.

Avoid Risk

  • Avoid confrontation: do all you can to defuse a potentially violent situation;
  • When out of the office, inform others of your exact movements and when you expect to finish and arrive back at a base or your home. Advise or phone with any change of plans;
  • Know where you are going and how you are going to get there;
  • Assess the risk, especially when travelling (consider the time of day, weather, crowds, etc). What actions can you take to reduce the risks?

Never Assume that it won’t Happen to You

  • Be aware of your surroundings and potential hazards;
  • Trust your intuition. If you feel scared or uneasy act on it straightaway;
  • Recognise that fear is natural, but can be channelled into positive action.

Take Action when in Danger

  • Your primary aim is to get away fast;
  • Remember: avoiding violence is a sign of strength, not weakness;
  • Be prepared to help if you see someone else in danger, ring 999.

Containing Aggression

It is important, even if someone is trying to provoke you, not to respond in kind. Meeting aggression with aggression leads to confrontation and someone could get hurt.

  • Stay calm, speak gently, slowly and clearly. Do not argue or try to outsmart the person verbally. Breathe slowly to control your own tension;
  • Avoid body language which may be misinterpreted such as looking down on the aggressor; hand on hips/folded arms; raised arm; any physical contact. Keep your distance;
  • Talk through the problem; suggest going to see a colleague; suggest a walk or some fresh air; allow aggression to be diverted against inanimate objects, such as banging on the table;
  • Compromise: offer the aggressor a way out of the situation.

Curtailing Aggression

To protect yourself and others from repeated aggressive behaviour, you must take action.

  • Report the incident to your immediate supervisor; ensure that your complaint is taken seriously and receives a fair hearing.

If You Can’t Deflect or Defuse the Situation, Get Away

Sometimes it is not possible to contain and defuse the threat of violence.

Trust your instincts and do not underestimate the situation. Things can get out of control very quickly.

Be Prepared

  • When talking, assess possible ways you can escape if the situation worsens;
  • Try to prevent the aggressor blocking any possible escape route;
  • Never turn your back. If you are trying to get away, move gradually backwards.


3. Physical Attack

If you are threatened, you must first of all release the tension. Use the techniques of stress control that you have practiced, breathe out and don’t freeze up. You must:

Avoid

  • Get away as fast as you can. Aim towards a place you know where there will be people;
  • Don’t look back;
  • Report the incident immediately. Someone else might be attached and might not be able to get away.

If You Cannot Get Away, Protect Yourself

  • Shout or scream - your voice is your best defence;
  • Give the command ‘phone the police!’ or similar positive instruction - people are more likely to react when given a call to action;
  • Use a personal alarm to shock and disorientate your assailant. You will create vital seconds to get away.

As a Last Resort, the Police Advice Is

  • Bash and dash - if you have to fight back, do it quickly. Aim for the knee, solar plexus, elbow joint or little fingers. Then get away;
  • It is safer to carry a personal alarm than an offensive weapon, which could be used against you.

Self Defence

Physical self-defence should only be used as the last resort because it limits your options of getting away and will invariably commit you to a fight that you could well lose. Remember also, that if you respond physically you could be legally liable for assault.


4. When Driving Your Car

People tend to feel safer when driving and harassment or actual attack is rare. A few sensible precautions will help minimise the risks, and make you feel more confident. Remember also that some drivers become unnaturally aggressive behind the wheel.

Before You Set Off:

  • Make sure your car (or lease car) is regularly serviced and check tyres, oil, petrol - especially before a long journey. Carry a spare safety can of petrol;
  • Be familiar with the Highway Code;
  • Join one of the national breakdown organisations;
  • Plan your route in advance;
  • Tell people at your destination what time you expect to arrive;
  • Carry change and a phone card for a payphone in an emergency: better still, invest in a mobile phone.

On the Road

  • Keep bags, mobile phones, etc out of sight: these are easy pickings for a snatch thief in a traffic jam or at the lights;
  • Keep the doors locked, windows and sunroof closed as far as possible, especially in stop/go traffic;
  • Do no pick up hitchhikers;
  • Keep an up-to-date map handy so that you won’t need to stop and ask for directions.

Leaving the Car

  • Always lock your car, put anything valuable in the boot;
  • After dark, park in a well-lit place, as close to your destination as possible;
  • In a multi-storey car park, reverse your car, leave it as close to the exit as you can, near ground level and away from pillars;
  • Have your key ready, when you return to your car; check the back seat for intruders before getting in.

If You Have a Breakdown:

In Town or on Ordinary Roads

  • Pull off the road as far as you can and switch on your hazard warning lights;
  • Do not leave children alone in a car;
  • If someone offers help, stay in the car with the doors locked and ask them to phone the rescue service. Do not get into a car with a stranger or try to hitch a lift;
  • Walk to the nearest phone, noting the road name / any landmarks, and call your breakdown organisation. If you are a woman on your own or with children they will give you priority;
  • If you decide to wait on the verge, lock all doors except the front passenger door;
  • If a car stops when you are waiting, either use the emergency pone to tell the police the registration number or get into the passenger seat of your car and lock the door;
  • When the breakdown vehicle arrives, wind your window down slightly, ask the driver for identification and check that she/he knows your name.

If You Feel Threatened

  • If you think you are being followed, drive to a busy place;
  • If the occupants of a car beside you at the lights try to attract your attention, simply ignore them;
  • If a car travels alongside you at the same speed, slow down and let them pass. If the driver persists, drive to a busy place, and call the police;
  • If a car pulls up in front forcing you to stop, leave the engine on. If the driver gets out and approaches you, reverse and get away. Activate hazard lights and sound your horn continually;
  • If anyone tries to force down a partially open window or open and unlocked door, hit his/her hand with the nearest available object such as a shoe.

If You Witnessed an Incident

If you see an incident, or if someone tries to flag you down, think before leaving the car. Is it genuine? Could you help? It might be safer and more practical to use a mobile phone, or drive to the nearest pay/emergency phone to report what you see.


5. When Walking

Carry Money and Valuables Safely

  • Keep your cheque book and cheque cards separately;
  • Don’t carry a lot of cash;
  • Carry a wallet in an inside pocket. Stop pick-pockets by securing it with a safety pin;
  • Carry the following items secretly: number for calling credit cards, phone card, travel card/small change, car and house keys.

Dress Appropriately

  • Wear shoes that are easy to walk or run in;
  • Don’t leave coats or jackets containing valuables unattended.

Walk Safely

  • Decide when to carry an alarm in your hand and know how to use it;
  • Know where you are going; check the route in advance;
  • Keep to well-lit roads and pavements as far as possible: avoid alleys, subways, dangerous short cuts;
  • Avoid wearing a personal stereo, it will reduce awareness of your surroundings;
  • Walk facing traffic on the street side of pavements.

Be On Guard with Strangers

  • Be cautious in conversation: don’t give away any personal information;
  • Trust your instincts and avoid crowds or groups which may feel threatening;
  • Be wary of stationary vehicles with engines running and people sitting in them.


6. A Personal Safety Checklist

You may, unwittingly, be taking risks at work, most of which could be avoided by minor changes to current practice and procedure. This guide suggests some of the skills and strategies you can employ to improve your own safety and that of others at work. Familiarise yourself with the following checks (and develop your own), so that they become second nature.

Out and About

  • Does anyone know where you are?
  • If your travel plans change, do you tell your supervisor or colleagues?
  • Do you/your company check out people you meet alone?
  • Have you made sure you can be contacted?
  • Do you know exactly where you are going and how to get there?
  • If you are returning home after dark, have you considered possible risks (e.g. where you parked the car, availability of public transport etc.)?
  • Are you likely to be carrying cash or valuable items?
  • Are valuable, easily stolen items too visible or accessible (e.g. laptop or portable computer, mobile phone, tools, briefcase or handbag)
  • Do you carry a personal alarm?

At Your Place of Work

  • Are you alone at work at all, especially if working late?
  • Are there areas where you feel uneasy (e.g. poorly lit entrances or corridors, car parks etc.)?
  • Is your office/work area a potential trap (possible escape route blocked by a desk, filing cabinet, shop counter etc.)?
  • If your work involves contact with the general public, do you know what to do if someone becomes aggressive?
  • Do you report aggressive behaviour from clients or colleagues?


7. Working in Centres or Buildings Used by Service Users

Risk Controls

Centre layout.

Consideration should be given to the centre/building layout to maximise the health and safety of employees and service users. Where possible, interviews should be conducted in designated rooms that are visible to other workers in the centre. Where this is not possible, for example, when a designated interview room is not visible to other centre workers, a risk assessment should be carried out and steps taken to reduce any risks to personal safety.

Interview rooms will be fitted with a panic alarm. All staff should be trained how to use it and what to do if the alarm is raised. These arrangements should be recorded and be readily accessible. All visitors using these facilities should be informed of these arrangements.

Wherever possible, a minimum of 2 staff is required at all times in the public area. Where this is not possible, there must be easy access to a telephone and if agreed with the Manager, the centre should be closed and the door locked. The Manager is responsible for ensuring that the health and safety of staff and service users is not adversely affected by staffing levels. (When a centre is closed during normal opening hours, a notice should be displayed to show time of re-opening and a contact telephone number for any queries).

Employees working in a centre outside of normal office hours have a responsibility to ensure that any risks to personal and material safety is adequately controlled.


8. Working on Other Partner's Premises

This section covers the occasions when an employee is working on the premises of a partner organisation, such as, in a school or college, in a youth centre, in a community setting.

Risk Controls

All employees should familiarise themselves with the Health and Safety policies of the host organisation. It is important to find out about policies and procedures that relate to your personal safety, for example: dealing with aggressive service users, as well as those relating to your general safety, e.g. fire safety.

All employees working on behalf of Children’s Services on another organisation’s premises should sign in and out. Employees should wear their name badge so that they can be clearly identified as a visitor. All employees should also make sure that their electronic diary is up to date, indicates their whereabouts and likely time of return to the office. In addition, they should ensure that there exact whereabouts within the building and the names of any individuals that they will be meeting with is known by partner staff. e.g. which room/office you are using and a list of service users you are seeing with times.

Employees should make an assessment of the potential risk they may face when dealing with particular clients.


9. Visits to the Service User

Significant hazards should be identified and a risk assessment undertaken.

  • Take into consideration which professionals in contact with the child/young person and family should be involved in the assessment;
  • Copy of the completed risk assessment template must be stored on the child/young persons file/record and subjects file/record if they are a service user;
  • Take into consideration what information should be shared with the other professionals involved with the child & family to ensure their safety;
  • Take into consideration the safeguarding procedures if there are risks identified or impacting on the safety of the child/children in the family.

Home Visits

Risk Controls

Employees should prepare for home visits by:-

  • At allocation to undertake a risk assessment taking into consideration any historical information;
  • Before carrying out any visits to service users employees should conduct an assessment of the risks;
  • Managers should ensure that a mechanism in place for the tracking and monitoring of employees during the working day and reporting back to confirm safe return from visits/appointments. The Manager must be notified of safe conclusion of visit if it ends after 17.15. If the whereabouts of employees is not known after the planned end time following attempts to contact that person the manager must be notified and following escalation to HoS the police should be notified;
  • Employees shall use the tracking and monitoring process and inform the designated person of their whereabouts and return from the visit/appointment;
  • Wherever possible avoiding "out of hours" visits to the home of new service users;
  • Where a series of visits to service users are to be made in one day, it may be appropriate to telephone the office at a pre-arranged time to confirm that all is well;
  • Establishing a firm appointment by telephone or letter whenever possible and keeping the LCC electronic diary up to date;
  • Always carrying the appropriate form of identification including the name badge which must be worn;
  • Checking records to find out as much as possible about the home circumstances before visiting;
  • If there is a history of violence or other difficult circumstances, it is important to discuss with a line manager and appropriate action taken if it is a Significant Hazard;
  • Two employees undertake the visit together, or offering an office appointment;
  • A risk assessment should be undertaken before children/young people are transported in employees’ cars;
  • Inform the Head of Service of all the significant hazards.

On Arrival

On arrival, clearly state your identity and the purpose of your visit. Show your identification card whether it is asked for or not.

In Addition

  • Assess whether a house should be entered if the person you are expecting to see is not there;
  • If the parent/s or carer/s are judged to be in no fit state to conduct an interview or co-operate, tell them that this is your view, that you will arrange another appointment and then leave;
  • If there is an animal present which appears to you to present a health hazard or a threat, do not hesitate to ask for it to be removed. If this is not done, explain your view, tell the person that you will make another appointment and leave;
  • The presence of other people should not inhibit the interview if that presence is clearly with the agreement of the person you have called to see;
  • In particular, they are quite entitled to have a friend, advocate or representative with them to assist them in the conversation;
  • Additional facilities may be required to enable the interview to take place. For example, an interpreter may be required with parents who do not speak English, or a signer for those who are deaf.

During the Interview

  • If you are offered simple refreshment (a cup of tea or a biscuit) it may be considered impolite to refuse. You should politely refuse all other hospitality, in particular alcohol;
  • Assess layout of room, take notice of where the exits are and whenever possible sit/stand near to an exit;
  • Make sure you sit a reasonable distance from the person, in a single chair. In a number of circumstances, it may be wise to sit "on the door side" of them;
  • Whilst a handshake on arrival and departure may be polite, there should be no other physical contact during the interview. An employee who does make such contact places him/herself at risk of being misunderstood;
  • If at any time during the interview there appears to be a risk to your health and safety, leave immediately saying you will make an appointment to continue the interview at a later date;
  • Under no circumstances reveal your home or family address or personal telephone number;
  • Try to be sensitive to non-verbal signals and react accordingly. Similarly, try to avoid giving signals that may be open to misinterpretation (e.g. hands on hips, folded arms, raised arm, physical contact, raised voice etc.);
  • Where service users show signs of becoming aggressive, try to remain calm and confident. Try to talk your way out of difficulties, seek a compromise whilst planning a potential escape if necessary. Do not meet aggression with aggression; this can easily lead to confrontation.

After the Interview

  • Inform the manager of any concerns or event immediately after the appointment/visit;
  • You should record the meeting/visit within two working days. There is no objection to the person interviewed having a copy of that note if they ask for it;
  • If the meeting has been difficult, you should draw the circumstances to the attention of your manager and the requirements of the Health & Safety Policy followed. If it is a significant hazard the completed risk assessment form should be stored onto the service users file and the appropriate recording system updated.


10. Recording

Action Following an Incident

  • If an incident occurs, you should remove yourself from the situation as safely as possible and raise the alarm. If necessary, you should call the police and/ or emergency services;
  • If you judge that you can safely drive, move your car to a safe distance. Otherwise, you should consider whether it is safe to get into your car and lock the doors. If you are on foot, get a safe distance away from the site;
  • Await the police, if necessary, and contact your team/tracking & monitoring co-ordinator to let them know where you are;
  • Co-operate with the police once they arrive;
  • All incidents of actual or threatened violence should be reported to the manager or Principal Practitioner within one working day;
  • Following any incident, you should record the incident onto the service users’ record within two working days and complete any documentation required by the Health & Safety Policy within one working day;
  • A manager or Practice Supervisor will instigate an investigation of the incident;
  • The Service Users’ access to services may be restricted following the risk assessment.

Role of the Employee

  • To follow the requirements of the LCC and Children’s Services Health & Safety Policy;
  • To report the incident immediately to their Manager;
  • To cooperate with any investigation by the company, partner organisation or the police;
  • To inform their Manager of any on going support and aftercare needs;
  • To undertake any training and staff development opportunities identified.

Role of the Manager

  • To follow the requirements of the LCC and Children’s Services Health & Safety Policy;
  • To instigate an investigation of the incident;
  • To take any immediate action required to safeguard the health and safety of staff and service users;
  • To report any issues of concern to Senior Managers;
  • To seek the advice of Senior Managers, the Health and Safety Manager, Human Resources and Support Services as necessary;
  • To cooperate with any investigation by parties outside the company;
  • To identify the ongoing aftercare and support needs of affected staff and how best to meet them;
  • To identify the professional practice issues raised by the incident with the employee;
  • To identify any training and development needs of the employee concerned and other team members;
  • To identify a different way of working with the service user, if necessary;
  • To maintain accurate records of the incident and action taken;
  • To ensure that any record of the incident is recorded on the service users record according to the Information Sharing guidance and hazards procedure.

Role of Senior Managers

  • To offer ongoing support to staff and Managers affected by the incident as appropriate;
  • To identify any changes to policy and/ or procedure to reduce the likelihood of the incident occurring again, where possible;
  • To identify any additional training and staff development issues for all employees in their directorate/ team.

Personal Safety Alarms

Personal alarms are available to all employees.

Employees are advised that the possession of an alarm or a mobile telephone should not cause them to place themselves in any situation where their personal safety is at risk. If in any doubt, please discuss the position with your manager.

End