Case study: Bristol City Council Parking Services

When an internal investigation revealed a host of management issues and low staff morale, Bristol City Council Parking Services embarked on a long and challenging journey to turn things around. Here we describe what happened…

The challenge

With its 115 employees, including 49 civil enforcement officers, Parking Services had suffered a history of poor staff relations. Sickness and absence levels among enforcement staff were steadily increasing. The quality and quantity of fixed penalty notices was dropping and staff morale was at low ebb.

When the corporate health and safety team carried out a lone worker training session, it became clear that there was no consistency in the instructions given to staff when dealing with threatening behaviour. On deeper investigation, a number of serious health and safety deficiencies were found which led to an internal improvement notice being issued.

Eventually, HSE became aware of the situation and in February 2008 an inspector called. The inspector highlighted the need to take action to reduce the risk of verbal and physical attack on staff, improve communications, and reduce stress among the workforce. A letter was sent to the Chief Executive outlining these problems and a follow-up meeting was agreed.

What they did

Senior managers called in an industrial arbitrator. During this process the service manager and one of the trade union safety reps had an informal meeting to discuss the future of the service.

  • They clarified the various outstanding issues covering health and safety, industrial relations, and corporate matters.
  • One of the safety reps acted as a full-time trade union safety rep while retaining his substantive post as a civil enforcement officer.
  • It was agreed that other industrial issues would not be brought into health and safety meetings.
  • Lines of communication and a quick method of resolving day-to-day issues were put together.
  • They adopted a health and safety management system which could demonstrate to everyone that health and safety issues were being dealt with and that progress could be seen.
  • To provide structure to meetings and health and safety management, the service health and safety committee agreed to pilot a health and safety management action plan and monitoring system that had been developed in the directorate.
  • Appropriate issues were discussed at appropriate levels.


  • A bespoke version of the corporate lone working training was developed and delivered to all existing staff and new recruits with refresher courses held regularly.
  • Risk assessments were reviewed, simplified and the hazard controls were compiled into a handbook of safe systems of work and issued to each member of staff.
  • Following consultation, communication equipment was bought and staff properly trained in its use, with ongoing refresher training.
  • A robust recruitment and induction process was developed.
  • Measures to monitor and support staff suffering from stress or trauma after becoming involved in incidents have been actioned.

Benefits so far:

  • a reduction of sickness absence;
  • a reduction in incidents of violence and aggression against civil enforcement officers;
  • a staff survey which confirmed staff are happy in their work and feel valued;
  • preliminary costing indicates a saving of over £36 000 in the first year.

Further development

  • To enhance the role of the full-time health and safety representative.
  • To promote good communication and co-operation between the trade union and management throughout the whole authority.
  • To support the implementation of the piloted health and safety management action plan and monitoring system throughout the directorate and encourage its adoption throughout the authority.

Is this page useful?