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Summary of key points

Summary

All of the organisations presented in this report, regardless of their size or income, have found a number of ways to manage the risk of violence to their lone working staff.

Key violence risks

We asked the case study organisations what the key violence risks were, and how they identified them. In the main, they identified the risks by initially carrying out a risk assessment. It was helpful to talk to staff and management about their experiences of violence; and draw on previous incidents of violence to help analyse the scale and nature of the problem.

The most common key risks were:

Consequences of violence

We asked organisations what they thought the consequences of violence were.

Effects on the individual

Consequent impacts on the organisation

Most common successful measures

We asked organisations to list the most successful ways of managing and preventing violence to their lone working staff. This is how they responded:

Training and information

The provision of training and information was predominant.

Communication

Good communication and sharing of information between employees, and with external organisations and professional bodies where appropriate, was seen as essential. This included:

Work equipment and environment

Work equipment:

Work environment:

The environment in which lone working is carried out will determine how and whether it can be modified or designed to help prevent incidents of violence. The following measures were the most common:

Job design

Factors which reduce the effectiveness of measures

The main difficulty with many of the measures described in these case studies was reliance on individual action. Some measures rely on the individual to do something, for example, to tell someone where they are or to activate an alarm or system etc. This means that human error or neglect to do so can make even the best system ineffective. Companies commented that other factors can also reduce the effectiveness of measures, including:

Some organisations had tried and then abandoned measures which were found to be less successful, or had decided at the outset against introducing particular measures. Some examples were teaching staff in self-defence techniques, the wearing of formal security-style uniforms, and use of ‘hot lines’ to the police.

How the measures were developed

We asked the organisations where they got their ideas from. The following sources were mentioned:

The benefits of violence prevention measures

All of the organisations reported many benefits from having measures in place to tackle work-related violence. These included:

Cost effectiveness

Many organisations agreed that it was difficult to quantify the costs of violence prevention measures and took the view that ‘you cannot put a price on safety’. While only a small number had carried out an evaluation of their violence measures, all were able to express a view about their cost effectiveness. Interestingly, some found an increase in the number of reported incidents following the introduction of violence measures. This can happen when new measures are introduced because it tends to increase the level of awareness among staff.

Conclusion

These case studies show that whatever the size, location or nature of the organisation, there are many simple, practical and cost effective measures which employers can use to help prevent and manage the risk of violence to lone workers. In particular, they show that effective measures do not have to be expensive. The most effective solutions usually arise from the way the business is run, such as staff training, job design and changes to the physical environment. High technology and high cost security equipment will normally only be needed where there is a particularly high risk of violence.

Updated 2013-12-12