Safety is of paramount importance if you are working in the community. Quite a number of people who are employed in any capacity related to a ‘care in the community’ programme are potentially ‘lone workers’. These can include carers, doctors, nurses, support workers, counsellors, meals on wheels delivery service providers, cleaners and home helps.
Although the vast majority of staff don’t encounter too many problems, there are numerous risks involved and incidents can occur. However, all local authorities must carry out the proper health and safety risk assessments and provide training and support to all workers in order that occupational health and safety standards are met.
The Key Risks
There are a number of key risks in working in the community. Geographical factors play a part as staff often have to visit certain inner city areas where there is a greater element of the risk of violence and crime in general. Environmental factors come into play also. Staff may be visiting run down high-rise tower blocks where there may be street gangs present.
Additionally, the tower blocks themselves might be poorly maintained with dimly lit walkways and lifts and there is a potential risk from things like discarded needles. Doctors and nurses in particular are potential targets as they might be carrying drugs and medication to administer to house-bound patients.
Additionally, those who work in the community who are trying to help certain people might encounter resentment from those whom they are trying to help. For example, they may be visiting elderly people who are suffering from dementia or others who might have a mental illness of whom some might display unpredictable, and sometimes aggressive, behaviour.
Problems That Can Occur
There can be many incidents which those who work in the community have to deal with but problems they might encounter can include verbal and physical abuse and threats of abuse and harassment, including the use of weapons. They can also encounter intimidation in many other forms.
Health & Safety Training
All workers who work in the community receive full and comprehensive safety training and back up support. You are trained in all aspects of personal safety such as prevention and response techniques when encountering an aggressive situation. Therefore, issues like de-escalation, physical restraint and breakaway technique are just some of the safety issues covered.
You are trained in understanding the importance of incident reporting as well as how back up support from the police works as many areas where care in the community is provided will require collaboration between the local authority and the local police force.
Lone workers receive additional occupational health and safety training and may also be given additional security devices such as panic alarms, mobile phones with satellite positioning and there are other procedures in place to help all workers out there who are doing a job in the community to stay safe. These might include ‘in and out’ boards to keep track of staff movements and records will also be kept of a worker’s car registration number, their photograph, home phone numbers and details of their next of kin, for example, which will help the police if staff do not return when expected.
If you’re usually employed as a lone worker, you’ll also often be accompanied by a colleague in certain instances when you are working in certain areas at night. Health and safety procedures are very carefully thought through and planned in this type of work and this has resulted in increased awareness and confidence on behalf of the workers themselves who feel more empowered and able to get on with the job in hand.