Staying Safe When Working For a Charity – Top Tips
Staying safe when lone working for a charity can have its challenges. Some charity workers deal with people who may become violent or aggressive or may be at general risk when working alone, in a charity shop, for example. Doing volunteer work is a rewarding thing to do and the sector wouldn’t be what it is without the contribution of volunteers. However, is it especially important to ensure that people who are giving up their own time to help a cause are offered the correct protection and not put at risk.
Luckily, there are steps charity bosses, employees and volunteers can take to reduce the risk when working for a charity. Read on to find out what the hazards are when lone working for a charity and our tips to help reduce the risks.
What Are the Hazards of Lone Working For a Charity?
Like any role, charity worker carries its own risk profile. The type of risk, and the severity of the hazard, all depend on the location and type of outlet. For example, a volunteer position in an office environment isn’t going to carry the same risk profile as a volunteer who visits drug users or those with mental health issues.
Let’s have a look at some specific risks:
Assault, robbery, accidents and illness
Some charity workers are very vulnerable to assault. Particularly volunteers who work with service users who have drug, alcohol or mental health issues. Charity workers may work in centres or visit people in their homes, or public places. All carry a risk. People in rehabilitation or who have problems may be unpredictable. There is always a chance that a service user could become aggressive, threatening or even violent.
Lone workers at charities may also be at risk of random attacks. For example, community workers could be robbed or charity shop workers could be at risk if they work alone in stores. Volunteers who use a vehicle could also be at risk of a car accident.
There is also a risk that a charity worker could suddenly become ill while doing their job. If they are alone or in a place where they wouldn’t be found quickly there is a high risk to their safety.
Top Tips for Charity Lone Worker Safety
There are some steps you can take to improve the safety of your volunteers:
- Risk assessment
Each lone working situation should have a full risk assessment done beforehand. Volunteers should be treated as paid employees are in regards to health and safety. Doing a risk assessment on volunteer roles will give you a good indication of which roles shouldn’t use lone workers at all. For example, opening an closing time at a charity shop, or visiting high-risk drug users at home.
- Supply and use lone worker fobs
Lone worker fobs are fantastic at protecting lone workers in retail. They can be worn discreetly or even installed as an app on a smartphone. If the wearer feels threatened, they can push the SOS button and there will be a trained operator listening in at the other end who can assess the situation and get the police to the scene. Because we have Unique Reference Numbers with the police, we will be able to command a level 1, emergency response, which means they will be there faster than if they were requested via 999.
Whats more, they are triggered if the wearer suddenly falls to the floor, meaning they can save someone’s life if they are unexpectedly taken ill.
- Be Realistic About the Risks
For example, some tasks may simply be too dangerous or too difficult for staff to work on their own. Don’t expect your employees to be into a situation if you wouldn’t want to be.
Avoid unnecessary tasks which may present a risk for lone workers, such as putting the rubbish out at night or having to retrieve stock from isolated stockrooms. Lone workers should at the very least always be in well-lit areas and have suitably accessible escape routes.
Is there a specific risk to somebody working alone, such as high-value items that may be susceptible to robbery, or changes to the layout because of refurbishments etc. which may make accidents or injury a possibility?
- Train volunteers in Fire, First Aid and Self-Defence
Whilst it is the employer’s responsibility to risk assess and ensure they take every possible action against preventing injury or accident, it is impossible to safeguard against the unexpected. This is where well trained and well-prepared staff comes in and can be a lifesaver. Ensure your employees are well equipped and properly trained to deal with any eventuality. Make your staff aware of the risks and how to deal with any situation, from fire to first aid and self-defence. There are lots of private companies who offer courses in lone worker safety.
So if you work in retail and you work on your own, or you employ people in retail who are lone working at certain times of the day, then think about the increased risks and how you can alleviate them. If you want further advice or you wish to discuss some of the products and services we offer, you can contact us here and one of our professional staff members will be happy to help you.
After all, employee safety is your responsibility, how would you feel if something happened to one of them and you hadn’t offered the appropriate protection?