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Safety of Staff Working Externally: A Case Study

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 21 May 2013 | comments*Discuss
 
Safety Staff Safe Working Practices

Three years ago, Ursula Lewis began a job as head of a government anti-fraud team. The purpose of the team was to investigate certain types of fraud in the community. Ursula therefore realised her first priority was to ensure the safety of the staff.

A New Venture

“The staff were already in place when I became head of the team, but they had restricted their work to office duties. Like me, they clearly felt they needed procedures in place before they started investigations in the field.

“We weren’t affiliated to the police – or any other anti-fraud team – so there were no established safe working practices. The team was a brand new venture. From day one, I knew that everyone looked to me to do something about this."

Talking to Staff

“To begin with, I spoke to all the staff. We held a meeting specifically about their safety outside the office. From this I got a number of useful ideas. But I also came away with the feeling that one person’s idea of safety was not necessarily another’s.

“For example, one member of the team had an attitude of ‘Let’s just get out there and get on with it’. Other team members opposed this because they needed the confidence that secure working methods would bring. "

Ensuring Safety

“I therefore said that there would no visits and investigations outside the office until we had such methods. At the same time, I made it clear that I hoped these would be up and running within a week.

“I then delegated various tasks. These included pricing standard safety items for staff such as personal alarms, two-way radios and mobile phones. Meanwhile, I developed a computer spreadsheet for staff movements. This allowed all members of staff to know where their colleagues should be at any given time.

“One member of staff did object to the spreadsheet. He said it interfered with his personal privacy. Before I could even answer, other staff chipped in with comments that Personal Safety during working hours overrode privacy issues.

“I opted for the personal alarms, and the mobile phones. The two-way radios had a limited range. I also felt that if staff used these outside the office, it would be obvious to people who they were.

“We also set up a system whereby staff working outside the office would ring in. They could then confirm their safety, and revise their time and location on the spreadsheet if necessary.

“These procedures would only work, of course, during office hours. Some members of staff wanted to continue investigations into the evening. I agreed with this in principle but said no. I first wanted to ensure staff safety during the day. Evening work could come later. "

Six Months On

“As it turned out, everything went well. The staff worked in pairs and stuck to the safety processes we had agreed on.

“After six months, I started a pilot scheme for evening work. Although I went home in the evening, I asked the staff to phone me every hour, and to let me know when they signed off.

“Everything I’ve introduced has been with the cooperation of the staff. Their safety and our safe working practices are paramount – and they know this. As a result, we have yet to have an incident outside the office that has put them in jeopardy. Long may this situation continue.”

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