5 Thoughts on Personal Safety in the Charity Sector

Suzy Lamplugh

The Suzy Lamplugh Trust and Peoplesafe brought personal safety for charity workers to the fore during seminars presented in London.

It’s clear that some staff in the third sector don’t understand the boundaries of safe working, especially those that work in the community and conduct home visits. Here are our thoughts on five key points.

There is no tension between “great charity work” and “safe charity work”

There is a desire by volunteers, front-line staff and managers to deliver a quality service on a caring basis for those people who the charity seek to serve. Does your charity treat safety as a distraction? There is a wrong perception that safety (or health and safety) impedes service delivery. Challenge and change that perception. Practical policy statements can be in paragraphs, not pages, training can be effective and engaging in a short time.

Nominating a person employees can talk to about Health & Safety

The Health & Safety Policy statement is a killjoy and an energy sapper to many. But volunteers and employees will have questions and queries about the boundaries of their work, and if managers and colleagues cannot discuss those concerns, then discussion should be available with others. The policy nominates the health & safety responsible person who is there for that purpose. Volunteers especially need access to this information.

Charity Trustees and their responsibility to ensure good governance of the Personal Safety issue

Senior staff members and Trustees have a responsibility to make sure personal safety issues are being dealt with. It is the law, but it’s good practice too. Everyone should engage with the concept of safe work, these sorts of discussions go to the core of the culture of the organisation–and a positive safety culture has got to be a key aim for a thriving charity.

“I know how to handle myself” can’t rationalise unsafe work

Every organisation will have a range of individuals with different personalities. Some will be confident in managing their safety, whilst others will see risk everywhere. Set the standard of safe work with a practical policy and effective training. Is it right that staff and volunteers do home visits without reference to colleagues? Should there be a way to manage staff safety right to the end of an appointment? Experience is a great asset but can be the Achilles heel when individuals come to take decisions on managing personal safety.

The Safety Training and policies of the charity focus on risk avoidance and safe work methods

Write a simple policy on safe working, and training sessions run over 2 hours to equip both new and experienced staff with a method and plan for managing safety. Highlight safe working practice to help foster a culture of safety within the organisation.

Having staff who can recognise risk and know how to respond is a basic skill. Every charity will want their staff to have the knowledge that equips them to come home safe.