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Workplace Security and Personal Security

Introduction

The Union has developed this policy to inform members of their rights and their legal duties of employers under health and safety legislation to protect staff from workplace violence.

The aim of the policy is to raise awareness of the potential for violence and aggression in the workplace and ensure that all FSU members are aware of such risks and the supports available to them.

Workplace violence is an unacceptable hazard and is something that should be eliminated in as far as possible.

Workplace violence is not acceptable nor should it be tolerated by FSU members. The risk is often foreseeable, therefore it can be assessed, minimised or prevented. Employers have clear legal duties to do this. In short, Employers must make an assessment of the risks, remove those risks, and only where it is not possible to eliminate them, introduce comprehensive strategies to control and minimise them.

Note: Under health and safety legislation staff have a right to select their own Safety Representative. For further information contact the Union.

Definition of Workplace Violence

In order to begin to tackle violence at work it is important to have a clear understanding of what it is. This is an essential step in the investigation, management and prevention of such violence.

It is also important to remember that work-related violence is not limited to the actual workplace. It can take place in the community, when travelling to and from work, in isolated areas or even at the home of a member.

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) in Ireland and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in Great Britain define workplace violence as:

“Any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work".

The HSE guidance to enforcement officers goes on to say:
"The definition includes violence to employees at work by members of the public, whether inside the workplace or elsewhere when the violence arises out of the employees' work activity".

Violent behaviour can include:

  • Grabbing, pushing or shoving;
  • Punching or slapping
  • Kicking;
  • Biting;
  • Attacks with weapons such as knives, bottles, glasses and firearms, whether imitation or real.

Verbal abuse and threats include behaviour such as:

  • Swearing;
  • Racial and sexual abuse;
  • Shouting;
  • Leaving offensive messages on an answerphone;
  • Pointing;
  • Rude gestures;
  • Deliberate silence.

Who is at risk?

Workplace violence can strike anywhere and no-one is immune. The problem of violence directed towards staff is widespread and those working with the public, particularly those handling money, are at greatest risk.

However, it is not only the work our members are asked to do that has the potential to cause work-related violence. Other factors include how tasks are done and the circumstances in which they are carried out. The risk of violence may be increased where jobs involve working alone, in clients homes, in physically isolated units or during hours where few staff are present.

Risk factors:

  • Handling money
  • Key Holding
  • Call Outs
  • Dealing with complaints
  • Working alone
  • Working unsocial hours
  • Working in a workplace that is badly lit.

Once a violent incident has occurred there is a high likelihood that it will be repeated. According to the Labour Research Department in Britain, almost a fifth of assault victims experienced two incidents in a year and a further 29% experienced three or more incidents. Repeat incidents of violence are a major concern in the financial services sector. Research shows that once an incident has happened, the same area is likely to be targeted again.

Effects on Victims

The seriousness of injuries can vary considerably depending on the nature of the attack. There may also be other negative effects on members' health such as:

  • Reduced psychological well-being and increased risk of psychological problems
  • Cognitive effects, such as concentration problems
  • Low self-esteem
  • Lack of job satisfaction and motivation
  • Feelings of fear
  • Post-traumatic stress.

Employers' Duties

Employers have a legal duty to prevent violence in the workplace. All employers have a responsibility, as far as reasonably practicable, to provide a workplace that is safe and secure. The (1989) Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act in Ireland states that the employers duties includes, in particular, the provision of systems of work that are planned, organised, performed and maintained so as to be, as far reasonably practicable, safe and without risk to health.

In Great Britain, the general duty set out in the Health and Safety at Work Act to protect the health and safety of employees applies to risks from violence, just as it does to other risks at work. In addition, regulations require employers to assess health and safety risks in order to identify measures needed to reduce them. Where the risk of violence is identified, it must be eliminated or reduced to the lowest level possible.

Bank Raids and Kidnapping

Your employer should have detailed policies in place regarding what to do in the event of a raid and/or kidnapping. All staff should be regularly informed of the policies regardingf bank raids, kidnapping, and personal security through frequent meetings and training courses.

These policies should highlight the following:

  • Safety of staff and customers should be paramount.
  • Nothing should be done during the course of a raid/kidnap that prejudice the safety of staff and customers.
  • The steps to be taken in the event of a raid/kidnap shiould be clearly outlined – including what should be done if you see something/someone suspicious or out of place.
  • The function and operation of security equipment should be explained
  • Staff should be made aware of how to operate and use security equipment in a manner that affords the maximum protection.
  • The individual's own security responsibilities should also be explained.

Security arrangements should be in place for the protection of staff and customers, as well the organisation's assets. All security arrangements must complement measures taken to protect the safety, health and welfare of staff and any apparent conflict should be reported to the Union and management.

Key Holding

  • Key Holding should be undertaken on a voluntary basis, as far as possible.
  • Measures to protect key holders should be put in place.

Tackling Workplace Violence

Identifying the problem:

The first step in tackling workplace violence is to identify the problem. The key is risk assessment. This is not necessarily complex, but it must be systematic if it is to achieve its aims. The purpose of carrying out a risk assessment is to identify the:

  • Extent and nature of risks
  • Factors which contribute to risks
  • Changes necessary to eliminate or control the risks.

Employers have a legal requirement to conduct a risk assessment. Safety Representatives need to ensure that their employers carry out risk assessments which include violence and aggression at work. Safety Representatives should be involved at every stage of the risk assessment process.

Assessing the Risk

Step one - Look for hazards

Employers should ensure that the factors that can cause, or contribute, to the risk of violence are taken into account. It cannot be assumed that measures in place are being automatically followed for a number of reasons e.g., staff may have found problems using the system in place because it is cumbersome, awkward or unsuitable for the task being carried out.

Employers should not rely solely on questionnaires and checklists completed by Management/Supervisors/Safety Officials in identifying hazards. A very effective way of hazard identification is to communicate directly with Staff as they will know the reality of their own work environment.

Step Two - Who might be harmed and how?

Employers need to consider which groups of staff are likely to be at risk and whether their level of training and skills affect their vulnerability, e.g., staff who work directly with the public face a higher risk of violence. This would apply to a large percentage of Union members. It is also important not to overlook staff such as new entrants or those who are not in the workplace all of the time.

Step Three - Evaluate the risks

Existing preventative measures and current ways of working should be checked to determine if they are still adequate, e.g., is the number of staff in the Branch/Department sufficient to minimise security and health and safety risks? A combination of factors is often the cause of work-related violence. Some of the factors which employers can influence include:

  • Adequate staffing.
  • The type of level of training, information and support provided.
  • The working environment.
  • The design of the job.

Employers should question how staff are asked to work, the circumstances in which they work and the system in place for sharing information about clients.

Step Four - Record the findings

The main findings of the risk assessment should be recorded. They should include:

  • The hazards identified
  • Potential assailants
  • High risk areas and/or times
  • The workers exposed
  • Any existing preventative measures in place
  • An evaluation of the remaining risks
  • Any additional measures needed
  • The person responsible for implementing control measures
  • The date by which things will be done.

A written record provides a useful working document.

Step Five - Review and revise the assessment

The risk assessment should be checked regularly to ensure that it remains valid and reflects the currant work situation. This process works best if it is part of the day to day management of health and safety. If incidents occur, or the job or circumstances change, then the risk assessment should be reviewed to consider what additional measures are needed.

Identifying the problem: Safety Representatives' Checklist

  1. Does your employer agree that there is a problem of violence?
  2. Is there a reporting system specifically for violent incidents?
  3. Are staff encouraged to report all violent incidents including incidents of verbal abuse and intimidation?
  4. Is the risk of violence included in risk assessments?
  5. Are you consulted about and involved in risk assessments?
  6. Are consulted about measures for tackling violence at work?
  7. Do you encourage members to report all incidents?
  8. Have you talked to members about any concerns they have regarding violence or aggression at work?
  9. Have you made sure that staff are not blamed for incidents?
  10. Do you need to survey your members about violence at work?

The Union would again like to highlight that under health and safety legislation, staff have a right to select their own Safety Representative. For more information contact the Union.

Preventative Measures:

The Union regards the following as the minimum good practices that should be in place:

Your employer must:

  • Take into account all existing security measures.
  • Ensure that quick communication is possible if a problem arises (telephone, radio, alarm buttons, etc)
  • Keep the number of lone workers to a minimum.
  • Ensure Branches are adequately staffed.
  • Make sure staff have means of remaining in contact with the main office/branch.
  • Ensure that staff are regularly briefed and trained regarding the security policies.

Your employer should have the following supporting mechanisms in place:

  • Ensuring that a staff member who has been a victim of - or witness to - a violent act is not left alone in the period following the incident.
  • Providing counselling/psychological help.
  • Training managers and staff in the steps to be taken following a violent incident.
  • Training some staff in listening and providing support to staff members who have been attacked.

You must:

  • Follow the instructions and training you have been given.
  • Not expose yourself to danger recklessly. Act cautiously.

The Union will:

  • ensure that security is incorporated into our representative training agenda.
  • continually raise security issues and concerns with all employers to ensure that security is constantly reviewed.

Name Tags
The Union recommends that the use of name plates and badges be voluntary, and where used, should only contain the first name of staff for the following reasons:

  • To avoid a staff member's personal details being available to members of the public
  • To reduce the risk of kidnap
  • To reduce the risk of fraud

If you are a member of the Union, FSU can negotiate on your behalf and ensure your rights under the legislation.