Creating a Society Where Workers Feel Safer

The past 12 months have created an unprecedented set of challenges for both businesses and individuals.  Amid the upheaval that Covid-19 has created, millions of people are now working in more isolated circumstances, from home workers to the thousands of workers now operating in the field or working with members of the public without colleagues close by, from telecom engineers to care assistants, estate agents to lorry drivers.

Established in 1986 in response to incredibly difficult circumstances, the Suzy Lamplugh Trust is an organisation that has tirelessly campaigned to reduce the risk of violence and aggression through education and support, towards a safer society for all. It’s an organisation that’s very much part of the lone working community, that continues to deliver vital training for businesses seeking to better understand the risks that their lone workers might face and the best ways to support them, along with practical training for individuals themselves that work alone – a proportion of the workforce that continues to grow. In fact, the Trust has worked with over 1000 organisations, training over 100,000 delegates in personal safety.

Factors such as an increase in the number of gig workers and changing working practices and schedules brought about by Covid measures have prompted a rise in the number of lone workers – a group identified as particularly vulnerable by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), which provides specific guidance for employers to ensure lone workers are appropriately considered and protected. And while different kinds of lone workers face their own unique set of dangers, having a clear understanding of potential risks, options for dealing with those risks and a means of summoning help all contribute to making the working environment safer.

The importance of training

The right techniques can make a vital difference to supporting those working alone, and regular training helps ensure that workers are fully equipped to deal with challenging scenarios. From practising de-escalation techniques within a safe setting to help manage potentially violent situations, to learning how to perform dynamic risk assessments, that help a person to quickly spot potential risks in new environments and take mitigating actions, regular practice through training can have a big impact should a worker encounter a dangerous situation.

Instilling safer working practices

Equally important are processes and procedures that encourage regular communication within teams. Buddying systems, check-in points and shared schedules all help workers to support one another, and raise an alert if a colleague isn’t where they are expected to be at a given time.

In addition to formalised protocols within organisations, a number of helplines and online support resources exist, supporting people that perhaps aren’t part of a business, such as freelancers, contractors and gig workers. For instance, the National Stalking Helpline was set up by the Trust in 2010 to help people to recognise the signs of stalking and take positive action. Similarly, online personal safety training courses can be an important source of information and advice for those that might be self-employed and unable to access more formal support from work.

Working from home

April 2020 saw the number of people working from home soar to 15.2 million, and while some people have returned to their work premises, for many it has now become the norm – in fact an Institute of Directors (IoD) report, released in October this year, found that 74% of businesses intend to retain working from home practices long-term. Home workers are considered lone workers by definition of the HSE guidance, and as such must be addressed by employers. Whether that means maintaining regular, personal contact with employees to maintain a sense of belonging and mitigate against a sense of isolation, or establishing a working from home policy that promotes a healthy work/ life balance, the needs of home workers are different and risk assessments are just as important for those at home as in other settings.

Live Life Safe

The Suzy Lamplugh Trust’s strapline is an important motto for the lone worker safety community and one that we are all passionate about. Employee safety must be at the heart of every organisation – not just because it’s an employer’s obligation, but because protecting our colleagues, friends, families, is simply the right thing to do.