Nicole Vazquez outlines precautions care workers and their employers can take against harassment during home visits
Q: I work for a private home care company and recently one of our carers was harassed by a client’s relative during a home visit.
When the care worker entered the home, which is in an isolated property with no outside lighting, the man shut himself in the kitchen with her and was really creepy in what he said. She was able to get out, though was very scared.
I have since been sent to the property twice, after 8pm, and it freaks me out.
The incident was reported immediately, with all sorts of reassurances to the worker, but I am not sure if any of these have been carried out. What I would like to know is can we, as care workers, refuse to go to the property if we feel unsafe?
Nicole Vazquez replies:
The following information is good guidance for all circumstances where care workers are carrying out home visits.
First, it should be remembered that lone workers should be at no greater risk than anyone else. There should be controls in place to ensure their safety as far as is reasonably practical.
Organisations should have in place task-based risk assessments for the care workers carrying out home visits. If the potential for violence or aggression is foreseeable, then the organisation needs to put measures in place to mitigate the risk. These controls should allow the worker to carry out their tasks without undue fear of violence or aggression.
When an incident occurs, such as the incident reported above, an employer is required to review the risk assessment and take into account any new information that may influence the risk level.
Any new control measures (such as going in pairs) need to be implemented and supported by management to be effective.
However, individual care workers also have a responsibility to work to the procedures. If they are unable to do this, due perhaps to lack of staff, then they should report this to their line managers immediately.
If they feel they are being asked to do something that is unsafe, they should not continue before they have discussed this with their managers.
Going in pairs may not control the risk of harassment totally and staff should be trained in simple personal safety strategies to help avoid the risk. It may also be useful to train them in how to manage situations that may occur once inside the house.
Simple steps that can be taken may include:
Doorstep assessments: Taking the time to stop and assess before entering the property. What can you see? What can you hear? How many people are inside?
Situational awareness: Keeping aware of your surroundings. Think about where you stand or sit. Where are your exits? Could you leave quickly if you needed to?
Behavioural awareness: Be aware of the behaviour of the people in the house. Do they seem agitated? Are they under the influence of drugs/alcohol?
If at any time a worker feels uncomfortable or that their safety is threatened they should leave as quickly as possible and report back to their line manager for advice and support.
Nicole Vazquez is a training consultant at Suzy Lamplugh Trust
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