Keeping Council Workers Safe: They’re Just Doing Their Job

Everyone has the right to feel safe at work; many jobs can be stressful enough without the added fear of going to work and worrying about the possibility of facing aggression or attack. Particularly in councils, where employees deal with the public on the behalf of their employers on a daily basis; the nature of work dealing with sensitive issues affecting members of the public, often working alone, exposes them to increased risks of violence and abuse.

A recent incident at Durham council saw a member of the public climb over a helpdesk to confront workers, as a result of this, and a spate of other cases where staff were threatened and intimidated, the council has spent £49,000 on new security.

Anton Pieterse, Managing Director of Safetell commented “councils have reduced the amount of cash they take and keep on their premises’ over the last few years by introducing online payments and other non-cash payment methods.

This has resulted in the false belief that staff are now safe when serving customers at counters, but this particular incident at Durham Council highlights that despite removing cash from premises, staff will always be at risk from aggression of certain members of the public.

Most people attending council offices just want to resolve their issues and do not plan any aggression towards staff in advance. Sometimes the result of other issues in their lives lead to a member of the public to explode, and unfortunately it is the staff who have to take the abuse.”

A few key risks and consequences of violence and abuse that occur in these situations, highlighted by The Health and Safety Executive, are:

Common key risks

  • The nature of the job, holding positions of authority over members of the public can cause resentment, especially when a result of doing your job means giving the customer the answer they were not hoping for, this can resultin aggression
  • Clients or customer behaviour, for a number of reasons, clients or customers can be highly emotional, unpredictable or aggressive
  • Late evening/early morning work, these times of the day can pose a greater risk to staff as there are fewer people around and a greater number of ‘unsavoury characters’ possibly under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Alcohol and drug use, coming into contact with members of the public that could be under the influence of alcohol and drugs can pose a higher risk because their behaviour can be unpredictable, possibly causing them to act aggressively
  • Geographical location, some areas like town centres, are known to have a higher risk of violence

Consequences of violence on individuals and the organisation

The individual

  • Stress, anxiety, fear and depression, resulting from having to deal with persistent verbal abuse or the threat of violence
  • Stress-related health problems, often leading to both intermittent and long-term sick leave
  • Staff retention and recruitment problems, hearing about violent incidents may make the job less attractive to potential recruits; experienced staff may leave a job if they no longer feel safe or able to cope
  • Low productivity due to high levels of sick leave; staff refusal to do certain jobs, damage to client-professional relationship can all have a detrimental impact on an organisation’s functionality

The organisation

  • Staff retention and recruitment problems, hearing about violent incidents may make the job less attractive to potential recruits; experienced staff may leave a job if they no longer feel safe or able to cope
  • Financial costs from sick leave, investigation of incidents, costs of litigation and compensation, higher insurance premiums, increased hiring and training costs
  • Low productivity due to high levels of sick leave, staff refusal to do certain jobs, damage to client-professional relationship – can all have a detrimental impact on an organisation’s functionality

What security measures can be put in place?

A level of security can be put in place to protect staff from incidents like this, whilst still allowing clear communication and a high level of customer service. Over the last 31 years, Safetell have installed security counters and screens at thousands of premises to protect staff against abuse and the risk of attack.

Safetell has a variety of static and movable security screens that have been purposely designed to protect the staff in councils from public abuse, manual attack and attack with firearms, including:

Security Windows, Glazing and Counterwork – we supply many levels of security glazing and counterwork from protection against manual attack, robbery and abuse up to higher levels of physical attack and/or protection from firearms and blast

CounterShield – a moving security screen automated through a simple press of a button, is a robust protection system that empowers staff by allowing them to control their protection levels throughout the day

Fast Rising Screens – providing open counter trading and instant protection in a fraction of a second

Modular Security Walling – improve manual attack, bullet/ballistic and blast resistance, forming secure enclosures and areas

Interlocking of doors or interlocking door modules – a form of securing and regulating access to a building in a single unit

Security doors – constructed for manual attack, bullet and blast attack resistance, providing access to secure buildings

Access control – an essential form of operational door security that can be designed and specified to any organisations exact requirements

CCTV – a locally broadcasted video system designed to monitor and record any organisation all day and night

Councils have a duty of care to protect their staff and Safetell has the solutions. Give us a call on
+44 (0)1322 223 233 and we can assist in providing a security solution that will not break the bank.