When overseeing members of staff, t’s important that each and every employee’s safety is treated as a top priority. All employees should receive health and safety training, as well as training on how to identify hazards and how to protect themselves when at risk. However, this is particularly relevant when hiring new employees. It is vital to remember that new starters may not just be new to your organisation, but also new to working within the housing sector.
According to FOIA data accessed by Inside Housing, 1/18 housing association staff members are assaulted annually, and The HSE have reported that workers are as likely to have an accident in the first six months at a workplace as during the whole of the rest of their working life. Making it clear that thorough training is essential to ensuring the safety of new housing workers.
There are many reasons that new employees may be at an increased level of risk, but here are a few key factors to consider.
Lack of experience
Those newly entering a role may be unfamiliar with the potential hazards they could face, and so may not recognise how these could become more serious. For example, when entering a property someone new to the job role may not identify risks such as trip hazards, potential weapons, or warning signs that a tenant may become aggressive.
To overcome this, you should provide thorough induction training for new staff, including detailing some of the dangers they may face. This training should cover how to conduct a dynamic risk assessment, how to diffuse aggression and a clear procedure to follow if a situation escalates. Where possible, include images of hazards so that the risks can be identified visually.
Hesitant to raise concerns
Some people may feel reluctant to raise concerns over safety issues, especially when working with a new team. This may be because they do not know the correct process to follow, or they may see this ‘interfering’ or ‘making a fuss.’ This can easily increase the chance of a small hazard developing into something more dangerous, as the problem is left untreated.
Employees should be shown how to correctly report hazards within your organisation and should be introduced to a safety steward or someone else they can talk to about safety concerns. It’s important to take this time to emphasise the importance of reporting hazards if they spot any. Reporting and recording concerns, such as that a client has become aggressive towards a member of staff, will mean that other employees can be prepared when visiting this property in the future. Therefore, being able to take steps to protect themselves, such as visiting this property with a colleague rather than alone.
It will take time for new starters to fully understand their job role and the regular risks that they may face, meaning they could forget about the protective measures they should be taking, such as wearing the correct PPE or letting a colleague know when visiting a new property.
Ensuring staff members have the right protective measures on them is vital. To improve compliance, you could choose to implement regular reminders such as posters in shared spaces or vehicles, or introduce a ‘Personal protection checklist’ to be completed before starting each shift. This should include smart PPE such as a personal safety device, as well as traditional protective equipment where necessary.
Personal safety alarm work to provide employees with a means of contacting personal emergency contacts and the emergency services if they require help. Fitted with GPS technology, raising an alarm via a specialised device can ensure the fastest possible response for employees working across multiple locations.
Remember that new starters should be given time to develop their skills, check if they have understood their training and ask questions if they are unsure of any aspect.
It’s also vital as an employer to regularly review and update safety procedures to reflect any changes learnt and ensure they are kept up to date. When doing this it can be useful to speak to other employees to gain their perspective on the health and safety training already offered by your organisation. Anyone who has joined the company within the last 2 years is likely to remember the training they were provided with – meaning they could help to improve your current process.