Public entity employee safety takes many forms when the job takes the employees into the community. From a thorough orientation program to “on-the-job” training, careful supervision and incident follow-up, public entities have various opportunities to help their staff stay safe. Savvy employees have little difficulty providing goods and services to citizens who reside or congregate in high-crime areas. Keeping the less-than-savvy safe in unfamiliar neighborhoods requires forethought and education.
Do not assume that senior management knows what their employees are worried about or afraid of. Ask them to tell you, or the entity runs the risk of solving a problem that doesn’t exist. For instance, management may think employees are concerned about getting lost in unfamiliar territory when they’re worried about road rage on the highway. Or, management may think employees are anxious about being hurt in a citizen’s home, but they are worried about being accused of theft or contracting a disease. Or management may be worried about its obligation to report abuse or contraband, while staff are more worried about their personal safety if they report the abuse or contraband.
Invest the time to find out what worries and fears the entity’s employees have so that the entity’s risk management plan can address the real issues not those the entity management imagines.
Once employee have identified their concerns, the group can brainstorm some solutions. The purpose of this exercise is to list as many ideas as possible as quickly as possible. Remember the purpose of brainstorming is to list as many ideas as quickly as possible; list every idea;repetition is OK; and judging others’ ideas is not OK. (There will be plenty of time to analyze suggestions, but that is the next step.) Limit the exercise to 15 or 20 minutes. The group can then review the list to determine which ideas would be the most effective, which are affordable and which ones just give you a good laugh.
In general, it is wise to review basic safety precautions with employees who will be traveling into unknown and potentially risky territory to deliver services or conduct other activities. These reminders may seem old hat to some and others may never have thought to consider them. By instructing everyone at the same time, the entity makes certain the rules of the street savvy have been reviewed, and everyone’s operating under the same guidelines.
The following checklists are offered for use or adaptation as handouts to staff working in the field.
Forewarned is forearmed. If employees stay aware, trust their intuition, protect their personal space, and maintain a degree of healthy distrust, they will be less of a target. Knowing how to make themselves less of a target will reduce the risk that employees will come to harm while traveling to and from community assignments.