Date: Wed 12 November 2008
Action needed on rising violence against public service staff
Violent incidents against Scottish public service staff have
risen again, underlining the need for further action. UNISON Scotland
today released new figures showing a total of 32,263 violent incidents
against public service workers, more than half of which were NHS
employees. And these are only the formally recorded incidents.
UNISON’s extended annual Freedom of Information questionnaire
is the most comprehensive survey of violence against public service
workers in Scotland. Scottish Organiser Dave Watson said that
this year’s results highlight the need for a renewed effort including
awareness campaigns, action by employers and stronger legislation.
Dave said: “It is completely unacceptable that thousands of dedicated
staff providing services on behalf of the community are being
assaulted at work. All those affected deserve stronger legal protection
and better protective measures."
Assaults against people working in local government have risen
by nearly 3,000 in the last year, up to a total of 9,121. The
health service has the largest number of assaults, although there
was a fall from 18,860 in the previous year to 17,693.
Most assaults were on nurses and nursing assistants, particularly
in primary care. For the first time, this year’s survey includes,
as well as health boards and local authorities, public sector
employers in police, universities, Non Departmental Public Bodies
(NDPBs), public utilities etc. Last year’s survey showed 25,517
violent incidents against health and local government staff. This
went up to 26,814 this year, with the overall total being 32,263.
As in previous years, UNISON is concerned that too many employers
are not properly recording violent incidents and therefore are
not taking appropriate action. Health boards have improved reporting
but local government is generally poor. A number of local authorities
have now recognised this and work is underway to develop best
Dave Watson said: "We also need stronger legislation including
an extension of the Emergency Workers Act to cover all those at
risk. Discussions are underway on this point with the Scottish
Government and we are looking for legislative action next year."
Recorded incidents in the new sectors surveyed include a horrific
attack on two Scottish Water workers attending an emergency call-out.
*They were attacked with bricks by two youths, one carrying a
machete. Several assaults were recorded on special constables,
policy custody support officers, community wardens and traffic
wardens. The survey was released at a UNISON conference on Health
& Safety, with delegates urged to put pressure on employers to
introduce preventive measures to reduce violence at work, with
risk assessments routine and all assaults reported.
Note to Editors: The full report Violent Assaults on Public
Service Staff in Scotland – Follow Up Survey 2008 is available
(as are the 2007 and 2006 reports).
For further information please contact:
Dave Watson, Scottish
Organiser 07958 122 409 (m)
Diane Anderson, Information Development
Officer 0141 342 2842