Date: Wed 24 February 2010
Scotland’s local authorities have come together to protect staff from violence in the workplace following the launch of new guidelines.
The Scottish Centre for Healthy Working Lives has teamed up with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA) and the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) in an effort to stamp out the risk of physical and verbal abuse.
They have drawn together good practice to form guidelines, believed to be the first of its kind in the UK, which aim to provide a tool for those working in local authorities, whether they are practitioners, managers, individual workers or elected members.
The guidelines, Managing Occupational Violence and Aggression in the Workplace: Tools and Strategies, was launched today, Wednesday, 24th February, at an event held in CoSLA’s headquarters in Edinburgh.
Kenny MacAskill, MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Justice, spoke at the event which was attended by representatives from 21 local authorities, trade unions, health boards and the Scottish Business Crime Centre.
The new guidelines will allow local authorities to compare recommendations against their existing standards and encourage the involvement of staff in agreeing and monitoring procedures.
It is estimated that 38% of people working in a public-facing occupation in Scotland have suffered verbal abuse by a member of the public in the last 12 months. The number of assaults reported against people working in local government rose from 9,121 to 9,910 in 2009.
Over a million people in Scotland deal with the public as part of the daily working routine and those who face possible verbal or physical abuse can include classroom assistants, refuse collectors, care workers and councillors.
Many incidents however go unreported due to a lack of robust reporting procedures or perceptions that being abused is part of the job.
Linda Shanahan, Violence Prevention Manager for the Scottish Centre for Healthy Working Lives, has led on the development of the guidelines which aims to raise awareness of the reasons behind why some violence occurs, and to provide tools to manage it.
She said: “Over the past year, we have been working closely with CoSLA, UNISON and a range of local authorities to develop these guidelines which are unique in its approach and encourage local government to take a pro-active approach to developing best practice.
“Employers have a duty to protect their staff and the Centre can provide them with support to tackle this unacceptable issue and reassure them that the reporting of incidents involving violence in the workplace need not be a complicated process.
“Being on the receiving end of work-related violence can contribute to long-term health problems such as stress and depression, resulting in extra costs from absenteeism and leading to difficulties in staff retention.”
At the launch of the guidelines were over 20 Scottish local authority representatives from a range of disciplines as well as others including trade unions and the NHS. They heard from a range of speakers including Steve Bell, Strategic Director of the Scottish Centre for Healthy Working Lives; Dave Watson, UNISON’S Scottish Organiser, and Ronnie McColl, CoSLA’s health and wellbeing spokesperson.
UNISON Scottish Organiser Dave Watson said: “Any act of violence on a member of staff providing vital public services is completely unacceptable.
“It is clear that where rigorous monitoring and active preventative measures are in place; this has resulted in improved staff safety. This new guidance will give local authorities the tools to make real progress in tackling this issue.”
Ronnie McColl, CoSLA’s health and wellbeing spokesperson, added: “Local authorities recognise staff are their greatest asset, so it is essential we do all we can to provide a safe working environment and provide guidance on how to minimise risk to the personal safety of council staff and elected members when doing their jobs.
“A great deal of work has been done in councils across Scotland on developing policies to tackle violence in the workplace and much of this good work has been incorporated into this guidance.
“I welcome this guidance and believe it will promote the sector as an exemplar in good practice to which others can aspire.”
The guidance collates examples of best practice in the prevention of violence against staff and involved input from 15 local authorities, along with a range of other experts.
The Scottish Centre for Healthy Working Lives is helping to reduce work-related ill health by 20 per cent and days lost to ill health by 30 per cent. In Scotland, 2.2 million working days are lost every year due to sickness absence at a cost to employers of £1.2 billion (£1,600 per employee).
Local authorities can receive a copy of the new guidelines or free and confidential advice from the Scottish Centre for Healthy Working Lives, by visiting www.healthyworkinglives.com or by calling the adviceline on 0800 019 2211.
Issued by the BIG Partnership on behalf of the Scottish Centre for Healthy Working Lives.
For further information or interview requests, contact Kim Munro on 0141 333 9585 (office), 07966 224910 (mobile) or firstname.lastname@example.org or Ross Barker on 0141 333 9585 (office), 07963 349762 (mobile) or email@example.com
Note to Editors
The Scottish Centre for Healthy Working Lives was established in 2005 as part of NHS Scotland. It can offer advice on the latest health and safety legislation, occupational health support and help with health promotion. For a free and confidential advice or to arrange a workplace visit, please call the adviceline on 0800 019 2211.