Violence and Agression

by Darren Good and Liz Hudson

Threat assessments for lone workers

We all know what a risk assessment is; however, it may be virtually impossible for your employer to assess every location that you will visit ahead of time, especially if you or your subordinates are visiting people in their homes and personal environments, and the same goes for the route that you might take to get to a destination.

A threat assessment, therefore, is your personal continuous mini risk assessment and it is something that should be part of your routine. Unfortunately, this does not always happen: research into lone workers carried out on behalf of the Royal College of Nursing by Maria Smith of Sheffield Hallam University and published in May 2007 found that 38.3 per cent of correspondents rarely or never carried out a risk assessment ahead of a visit.

What should I think about and look for?

Before you go, consider where you are going and how you will get there. Below are some examples of points that may be worth considering and precautions you can take to minimise any risk elements.

Arriving and leaving

Your client may be fine, but perhaps you don’t know the area or it is not as safe as you might wish. Below are some precautions you can take, but remember that if you are really unsure, then your personal safety must always come first.

Issue   Problem   Precaution
Parking > I can’t park next to the property I am going to visit or on ground that is part of it. I will have to park further away and walk. > Wear sensible shoes in case you need to run to your car and have your keys out ready to open your car door so you don’t need to rummage in your bag or pockets.
Parking > I will be parking in a cul-de-sac. > Park your car so it faces the open end of the cul-de-sac in case you need to drive away quickly.
Time of day > It will be dark when I arrive/leave. > Take a torch with you and park under a street light or security light.
Company > I will be going on a call on my own. > Make sure someone knows where you are and what time you are due back, and check in with them regularly.

At your destination

You should also be on the ball when you get to your destination and have thought out beforehand what you might do in a sticky situation.

Problem   Solution   Long term
I’ve gone into a client’s home and they’ve locked the door after me. > Tell them that it is company policy that you can only work in that environment if the door is unlocked. If that fails, make an excuse and leave.  > Have excuses prepared in advance. 

Ask your client’s permission to keep the door unlocked before they get chance to lock it.

Follow the client in and close the door yourself rather than being invited in and having the door closed behind you.
My client’s behaviour is starting to become unsuitable and I feel threatened or uncomfortable. > If you feel you can, ask your client to stop; if not, create an excuse and leave the premises. > Always have an excuse to leave prepared in advance and, if an incident occurs, notify both your employer and your colleagues so that it will not happen again with anyone else.
When I got to the premises there was a group of youths outside taking drugs/being violent. > Do not get out of your car and endanger yourself. Call your client and inform them of the situation. Advise them not to come outside looking for you and rearrange your appointment for another time. > Inform the authorities about what you witnessed. Next time you visit the area, take someone with you and exercise extreme caution.
My client became violent and attacked me. > Escape as quickly as possible. You may need to use techniques from the pages on physical defence. > Inform your superior straight away and follow the correct procedures for dealing with the incident.

These are just some examples of things that you can think about in advance and check for; good preparation can help you avoid harm or even save your life.


Use your threat assessment

If you are prepared, you stand a much better chance of staying safe and avoiding conflict.