Protecting Public Service Workers -
When the Customer isn't right Briefing No 96 Sept 2004
As part of the Executive's overall Anti-Social Behaviour strategy
and as a key component in its programme to tackle violence against
public service workers, the Executive has published a report entitled
'Protecting Public Service Workers: When the Customer isn't
Right'. The report is the fulfilment of an Executive pledge,
given during the consultation exercise on the 'Protection of
Emergency Workers', that a package of wider measures would
be developed to address the problem of attacks on public service
This new strategy for tackling WRV in Scotland, fully supported
by UNISON Scotland, is the result of extensive trade union collaboration
with the Executive. The STUC and affiliated unions including UNISON
Scotland worked with the Executive and other key partners in drawing
up the recommendations contained in the report.
Work Related Violence - Current Situation
Under-reporting of WRV
It is very difficult to estimate the true figure in relation
to assaults on workers due to the fact that it has been demonstrated
that many people regard verbal abuse as 'part of the job' and
others feel unable or unwilling to report all but the most serious
of incidents. For example, a recent report by the National Audit
Office (NAO) estimates that around 40% of violent and aggressive
behaviour incidents in the NHS in England are not reported.
The high levels of non-reporting of WRV is thought to be due
to a number of factors: lack of training; lack of support from
employers; fear of being perceived as unable to deal with the
job; lack of reporting procedures or reporting procedures which
are time consuming and onerous; as well as a belief that the complaint
will not be dealt with seriously.
Poor statistical recording of WRV
Few performance indicators exist currently for WRV and most statistics
are only available through individual employers, trade associations
and trade unions and as such, these figures lack consistency.
There are other difficulties in obtaining accurate figures.
These include differing definitions of what constitutes violence
and aggression, wide variations in reporting and data-collection
methods and reluctance on the part of staff to report incidents.
However, UNISON Scotland's survey, conducted for the Trauma 2003
report, indicated that the frequency of verbal abuse and physical
attacks within the public sector in Scotland was in the region
of 100,000 per year. In addition, the NHSScotland Partnership
Information Network guideline Managing Health at Work
estimates that 1 in 5 Scottish healthcare workers are physically
or verbally attacked in their workplace.
Current WRV initiatives
There is little co-ordination of current initiatives to prevent
WRV across Scotland. Where they exist these tend to be targeted
within specific sectors/ specific localities where there has been
a history of problems in relation to WRV e.g. Initiatives led
by First Bus and Scot Rail
The Reports Main Recommendations
The launch of a public awareness campaign on the unacceptability
of assaults against workers will be launched in September 2004.
This campaign will be based on the theme of "respect" and will
be refreshed annually.
All public manifestations of the strategy will have a common
badge, which organisations wishing to be associated with the strategy
Scotland's Health at Work (SHAW) to host a dedicated web page
to disseminate good practice in the workplace relating to training,
reporting incidents and ensuring a working environment safe from
the risk of attack.
The SHAW framework and awards scheme should be expanded to include
a specific module of accreditation covering the promotion of good
practice in the prevention of workplace violence. Consideration
will be given to including sessions on the prevention of workplace
violence in the formal training for Investors in People advisers.
Public Sector employers and their contractors should lead the
way in promulgating best practice in the prevention of WRV.
Training and Education
Existing training courses and accreditation bodies as well as
initiatives to identify good practice should be audited to ensure
consistency in delivery and with a view to producing a directory
of available training. Training agencies and trades unions should
be encouraged to include strategies to tackle WRV in Health and
Safety training as a priority.
Children and Young People
The Scottish Executive should facilitate consideration with Learning
and Teaching Scotland (LTS) of what might be done at school from
an early age to inform children of the unacceptability of assaults
on people at work. These to be done through a working group, representing
all the key players and through the development of appropriate
guidance and educational materials.
Reporting and Processing Incidents
The Scottish Executive should facilitate the establishment of
an appropriate forum in which concerns about the responses of
the criminal justice system to WRV can be aired and the issue
of consistency in the reporting of incidents to the police can
be addressed. Model guidance on the importance of the reporting
of WRV to employers should be agreed and promulgated by the standing
committee to encourage the development of consistent and accurate
reporting of all instances of abuse.
The Scottish Crime Survey should undertake a regular survey of
the level of workplace violence and its cost to industry, commerce
and the public sector, the results of which should be published.
Monitoring and Evaluation
The effectiveness of the measures rolled out through this project
will be regularly monitored. All initiatives are to be fully rolled
out over 3 years and overseen by a Standing Committee to be facilitated
jointly by the Scottish Executive, the Scotland Office and the
Health and Safety Executive and made up of representatives of
all the key players.
Action for Branches
Branches should be aware of the launch of the 'Respect' campaign
in September 2004. This will include a TV and poster ad campaign
and extensive TV, local radio and press coverage of the issue
Branches should also raise with employers the issue of implementing
an action plan to tackle WRV and encourage employers to include
WRV training as a fundamental component of H& S training.
The Report - ' When the customer isn't right' - http://www.scotland.gov.uk/library5/justice/ppsw-00.asp
UNISON Trauma 2003 Report - http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/briefings/trauma2003.html
UNISON Violence at Work – a Guide to Risk Prevention - http://www.unison.org.uk/acrobat/13024.pdf
UNISON Scotland Emergency Workers (Scotland) Bill Evidence -
HSE: Work Related Violence - http://www.hse.gov.uk/violence/index.htm
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