How housing associations can protect their lone workers from violence

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In 2017, 2.4 million homes in the UK were rented from housing associations. That’s a lot of tenants and supporting staff! Housing associations employ heaps of lone workers - from electricians and plumbers to housing officers - many of whom will interact with the public, often alone: think of maintenance workers repairing lights in stairwells or housing officers conducting property checks.

What are the risks to lone workers in housing associations?

UNISON, a public service union, conducted a survey in 2017 that found that 47% of staff working for housing associations and charities experienced violence or aggression. Incidents included workers being physically and verbally abused, threatened with weapons and having their car vandalised; some staff were even held against their will. 

Unison Scotland concluded that since 2006, “more than twice as many violent assaults on public workers are being reported.” 

In a Health and Safety Executive case study, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council Housing Services Division reported that “70-80 percent of staff spend time working alone” and identified risks of violence to their lone workers including:

  • exposure to potentially violent or aggressive members of the public

  • interviewing tenants in their homes and in offices

  • having to deliver bad news including notices of eviction or certain issues not being the association’s responsibility

  • being unable to complete jobs to a tenant’s satisfaction 

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Reported incidents included:

  • threats of violence including the use of a hammer

  • staff being held hostage

  • attacks by dogs

  • intimidating behaviour from tenants 

  • a large-screen colour television thrown at a member of staff

  • vehicle break-ins, theft and road rage incidents

Violence for lone workers in the housing association sector is a real and significant problem.

At Safepoint, we believe that one attack is too many and that lone workers should feel safe and empowered to complete their work. So what are some of the things housing associations can do to protect lone workers and ensure their safety?

Provide simple, effective training for your lone workers

Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council found that training staff in dealing with aggression was one of the most effective measures in reducing violent attacks against lone workers.

Give your lone workers the training they need to provide great customer service, recognise and defuse potentially violent situations and keep themselves from harm. Giving your employees permission to walk away in situations where they feel unsafe can also help prevent violence and reduce incident rates. Remember that the cost of violent incidents, both ethically and financially, far outweighs the cost of walking away from a job.


Provide tools to keep your lone workers safe and productive

In the Inside Housing survey, 27.9% lone workers felt less safe than they did 12 months prior. In the Unison survey, 26% of lone workers felt in danger because of a lack of support when working alone. Furthermore, 79% of surveyed lone workers said they were experiencing stress at work.

As Gavin Edwards at Unison said, “housing associations need to take more care of their staff.” So how can housing associations make lone workers feel safe and less stressed? 

  • With Safepoint’s Guardian Portal, lone workers know they have someone looking out for them and who will be prepared to respond to emergencies if they arise.

  • Safepoint triggers automatic Guardian alerts when a task duration expires: if a lone worker runs into trouble and don’t check in on the app, you will know about it. With real-time updates and GPS location data, you’ll get all the information you need to make informed safety decisions.

  • Safepoint’s lone worker app is secure and easy to use. With silent alarm functionality, lone workers can raise an emergency in confidence and safety.

Remember that good safety is good service - when lone workers are safe and empowered to do good work, your tenants and users benefit too! After implementing measures to improve lone worker safety, Solihull council’s housing services division reported a reduction in physical assaults, an increase in jobs completed and more satisfied tenants.

Build a lone working health and safety culture

Helping your lone workers feel safe and cared for with a combination of training, tools and other measures benefits your housing association from the top down! Sign up for a Safepoint trial today to see how our lone worker solution can keep your employees safe and productive.