Personal safety: National Safeguarding Week

Working in a support or care setting means you will sometimes come into contact with people who pose a risk through aggression or violence. This could be because of who they are or the circumstances they have at the time. Safeguarding is about protecting you as well as service users from harm and today we’re sharing advice below on keeping yourself safe.

Doing your homework and learning about the service users background before visiting them can help you better prepare yourself in what to expect. Whether you’re meeting them at home or in an environment where you’re on your own, you should always know what the risks are.

Talking to your colleagues who already know them is a great place to start, along with what information is displayed on systems at work / with other agencies. Always explain why you’re asking for this information.

If there is information that the person or others at the address may pose to you, consider the purpose of the visit and whether it is likely to create any conflict or disagreement. Assess the risk and what you can do to reduce it.

You can reduce risk in several ways by finding an alternative way to contact them. This could be by telephone, email, meeting at a safer location or by taking a colleague with you. In rare cases you might ask the police to accompany you or wait nearby.

Be aware of the environment you are in and if you have any concerns at all about the risk of your personal safety, whether it’s in their home or an isolated location. You can always meet the service user somewhere public where there are more people around.

If you are in someone’s home and have reason to be concerned about your safety when you are there, make sure that you know where the exits are. Check they are unlocked and not too far away from you.

The best tactic for avoiding a physical attack is to run away or put a barrier between you and the person threatening you. Don’t let anyone lock any doors or become cornered. Stay away from dangerous places in the property such as the kitchen, garage or workroom where someone could quickly access a weapon.

Remain alert to the person’s body language, behaviour, tone of voice and volume. Changes to these can often be the first sign that someone is likely to become aggressive or violent. Speak calmly and create some physical distance and consider re-scheduling the visit.

If someone is intoxicated through drink or drugs and the visit is likely to create some conflict for them, you should cut it short and re-arrange.

Make sure one or more of your colleagues knows where you are and what time you expect to return to the office or go to your next meeting or appointment. If you have concerns about your safety, ask them to ring you at regular intervals to check on you or ask someone to go along with you.

Paramedics won’t treat a person in an emergency if they think they are going to get hurt themselves and will usually ask the police to attend.  Although you may sometimes be attending to assist a service-user in an emergency, there is no meeting, visit, appointment or task important enough that you should put yourself or others at risk of physical harm.