Sometimes I truly question what people actually think our jobs involves. We are often put in risky situations with people shouting and threatening us. We need to keep ourselves as safe as we can.
I have heard of many social workers who have been harmed by a client and we need to take as many safety precautions as possible.
I have worked in a number of teams that manage safety in completely different ways and almost all of them had flaws or something about it just didn’t work.
What can I do to keep safe?
- If you know know that you are going on a visit and that this person is known for serious aggression or violence or in particular hostile towards social workers you should consider going with another worker or another professional e.g. Police or Probation if they are involved with the individual.
This however is not always and option and there may be occasions where you were not fully aware of the aggression or hostile environment you are placing yourself in therefore other protective measures should also be considered.
- It is important that you take into consideration the clothing and accessories that you are wearing. If you choose to wear high heels at work it’s important to make sure that you can move quickly or run if you need to. If you are wearing a scarf around your neck the suggestion is to loosen it and not have it knotted.
- Have your phone in your pocket or easily accessible if possible and add 999 to your work mobile speed dial. If you really require this the operator will be able to hear what is going on in the background and can take action if this is required.
- Tell you manager and/ or the duty worker where you are and what time you will be back or what time you can call them. Remember, to update them once you are out of the visit.
- You need to inform the people in your team that you could potentially be in a risky situation so that they are aware and can take action if they need to.
- Upon entering an address be aware of your nearest exit. Plan where you should sit e.g. near the door and your back to a wall. Make sure that you are clear who is in the house.
On many occasions I’ve found someone hiding in the closet, shed or even under a bed when they are not supposed to be having contact with the family. If you are concerned and do not feel safe end the visit and leave.
How can my team keep me safe?
- Your team could consider that each team member has a ‘buddy’ who is another colleague that you update at the end of the day and inform if you are going on a risky visit. However, this may cause complications if you buddy is on leave/ sick and the team would need to take responsibility for regularly reviewing.
- Your team could agree that the duty social worker should be informed of where you are if you are going on a potentially risky/ dangerous visit. Provide them with the details of who you are going to see and the address. If they do not receive a call from by the given time they have to try and get in contact with you.
However, there are times where both the social worker and the duty social worker have forgotten this and if you were in danger this could be problematic.
- Your manager should be aware if you have any concerns and they should check up on you if this is required. I note how busy Managers can be and so far in my career I have had two managers that did this. I felt content that they knew where I was and what time I should be out and they did check on me if they hadn’t heard from me.
- A colleague may chose to come with you if there are concerns that a person could be potentially volatile or aggressive.
I think it’s important to note that a team should help you to feel safe in our job and on many occasions I have taken another colleague with me for support. Sometimes this can intimidate family members however, you should not jeopardise your safety and you should consider whether having another person there would help or not.