2020 has been a year like no other. We’ve all had to change our behaviour, the way we socialise, communicate, work and learn within the space of a few months. The overarching message of “stay safe” goes further than preventing the spread of novel viruses, personal safety is always important.
Safety is an extremely complex issue in the modern world. We have to consider our physical, emotional, social and digital safety both at home and at work.
Your staff are the most valuable asset to your business, you cannot operate without them. Keeping your staff safe in the workplace goes further than compliance with health and safety laws, you have a duty of care to your employees.
An employer-employee relationship should be meaningful, your business takes up a large portion of their lives, whereas you depend on them to keep things running smoothly.
The risks of Coronavirus may have dominated our lives this year, but that doesn’t mean that all other risks have disappeared. In fact, it’s just as important as it’s ever been to stay vigilant during these ever-changing times.
Who is responsible for staff safety and security at work?
As an employer, you are legally obliged to provide your staff with a safe place to work. It is your legal responsibility to take all necessary precautions to protect your employees’ health and well-being whilst at work.
What are the potential risks?
Public-facing staff are faced with several risks.
Violence – unfortunately, violent attacks against all types of public service workers do happen. A man was recently charged after attacking hospital staff in Manchester and several bar staff in London were violently attacked when simply trying to do their job.
Crime – sometimes, business premises are targets for criminals but members of staff get caught up and could be left shaken or injured afterwards.
Verbal abuse – sadly, many public services workers across all industries have to deal with verbal abuse from members of the public. Verbal abuse could take the form of bullying, harassment, aggression or even derogatory comments. This can have a long-term effect on employee well-being.
Spitting – rather disgustingly, there have been many reports over the years of workers being spat at whilst on duty. It seems unusual for a criminal to want to leave DNA behind but even so, a bus driver in Birmingham was recently spat at whilst driving, which is even more worrying considering that we’re still in the middle of a Pandemic.
Digital abuse – many members of staff are public-facing, but they do so from behind a screen. For example, social media managers and customer service representatives often receive abuse in its digital form.
It’s an awful shame that these situations occur in the first place, and of course, the employers could not have predicted the incidents. However, you can pre-emptively prepare your staff to handle various situations safely and calmly, so they’ll be more aware of how to protect themselves and others whilst at work.
Your staff should be equipped to deal with these situations in accordance with your company’s procedures.
Which workers are most at risk?
Whilst all public-facing workers are technically at risk, some job roles have a higher risk of violence, abuse or crime than others.
Lone workers – lone workers are unable to change their workplace environment and can become isolated.
Mobile workers – may also be lone workers, but don’t have a fixed location, such as taxi drivers or delivery drivers
Emergency Services – sadly, there are many cases reported in the news of our emergency service workers suffering abuse and violence
Night-shift workers – those who work or commute in the dark also face additional risks, depending on the nature of their work
Health and social care workers – many health and care sector staff are vulnerable to abuse. A recent report highlighted how NHS staff routinely face intimidation and violence.
What can employers do to keep their staff safe?
Whether you have staff who are considered to be at a greater risk or not, it’s still your legal duty as an employer to maintain high levels of security in the workplace.
We can all play our role in increasing safety and security and this includes the smallest of efforts.
Here are some steps you can take to improve modern workplace security for your staff and visitors.
Undertake a risk assessment
Assessing the risks is the first step.
You should complete risk assessments in close consultation with your staff. This involves scoping their day-to-day tasks, identifying the risks and then developing a plan to minimise these risks.
Provide security awareness training
Security awareness training is now an integral part of many organisations – is it part of yours?
As an individual members of staff, understanding how to identify unusual behaviour and what to do in such an event is crucial.
Not only is it empowering for them to learn new skills, training your staff will help educate your staff in the potential risks and how to better protect themselves and ultimately, stay safe.
Our course Keeping your staff safe in the modern world addresses a variety of subjects including the threats that we may face in this modern world, understanding how to better protect yourself using SAFER guidance and guidance on work security.
This course covers:
- how to identify unusual behaviour
- how the human body reacts in certain situations such as panic or fear
- individual and personal case studies
- creating an overall security policy for your company
- how to communicate key information during an emergency
Provide refresher training
Training is not a tick-box exercise. It is an ongoing process.
Once a training course has been delivered, you should follow up to discover the impact of that training and find out how your staff have put what they’ve learned into practice.
Refresher training doesn’t need to be formal, but it does need to happen.
As an employer, you can also review each individual member of staff’s confidence during appraisals and performance reviews to determine whether ongoing and/or refresher training is required.
Ensure lone workers are kept in regular contact
It’s especially easy to lone workers to become isolated. With all the modern technology available to us, lone workers don’t need to be lonely!
There are apps designed for lone workers and their colleagues such as StaySafe and LoneAlert. Of course, you always have access to now-standard online tools such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Google Hangouts. Use whatever technology your staff feel most comfortable with, if they hate it – they won’t want to use it!
You should also ensure that you regularly engage with lone workers in your team about general matters and make sure that they have clear channels to get in touch with others at all times.
Provide PPE, panic alarms, deterrents, CCTV or other safety equipment
Equipment such as CCTV, alarm systems, panic buttons, deterrents and monitoring systems play a part in helping your staff feel more secure at work.
Big Brother jokes aside – CCTV is an extremely important tool for crime prevention and investigation, so make sure that your equipment works properly ready for when it matters the most!
This also demonstrates to your staff that their safety is high priority.
Lone workers, or even those who commute on public transport late at night could be provided with panic alarms if required.
Regularly review your staff safety arrangements
Workplace security is not ‘set and forget’. It needs to be regularly maintained and reviewed to ensure that your policies and procedures are still fit for purpost.
It’s important to be reactive to current events, pay close attention to the news within your industry and stay up-to-date with current best practices.
What are the benefits of Security Awareness training?
Increased trust and confidence
Staff satisfaction and feeling safe at work are synonymous. Your staff will feel safer and more confident if their workplace is secure and they’re fully prepared to respond to potential security threats.
Investing in training not only improves your staff’s skills, it future proofs your organisation allowing you to grow.
It’s good business sense to provide robust, up-to-date training to your team.
Protecting the people in your workforce
Your staff are the key to your success and they’re a valuable part of your business. By protecting the people who make up your business, you’re also protecting your bottom line.
Legal compliance and obligations
As an employer, you have a legal obligation and a duty of care to protect your staff.
You are responsible for ensuring that you meet these obligations and comply with applicable legislation.
Training is an important part of compliance, however, it should not be treated as a tick-box exercise if you want it to be truly effective.
Training alone is not enough. Your entire approach to training should focus on continuous improvement and reflect the ever-changing world that we’re currently in.
Where to learn more
As a training provider we have the dedicated knowledge and experience to tailor staff security training to meet your needs.
We work with you to understand the needs of your business. Our expert trainers can complete a learning needs analysis alongside your existing HR team to highlight where your staff would get the most benefit from training.
Our Protecting Yourself in The Modern World (Security Awareness Training) course is an excellent comprehensive overview that can be applied to different workplace settings.