In a sector that values compassion and calm, it’s a shocking statistic. According to a recent report from the GMB union, over 6,000 UK residential care workers suffered violent attacks in the five years to 2018. The statistics were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, and cover the period from 2013 to 2018. A total of 6,034 violent attacks resulted in serious injury were reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Of these total attacks, in over 5,000 cases the injuries sustained meant that workers took at least seven days off work. Some of the more serious injuries included fractures, loss of sight and brain damage. And according to the article in The Observer which reported these statistics last month, one attack resulted in the death of a carer. For residential care lone workers in particular, these are unacceptable levels of risk.
Workplace risks for residential care lone workers
The report goes on to detail some of the problems facing workers in the sector. It’s a story of stretched budgets and heavy workloads for staff across the sector. Many of the residents living in these homes have mental health issues which can affect their behaviour. And most of the attacks are carried out by residents themselves in the care of these workers.
The statistics don’t specify how many of these attacks happened to lone workers. But it’s reasonable to assume that a large number will have taken place when the worker was out of sight or hearing of their colleagues. It’s clearly vital that such workers have access to rapid support when they need it. Yet it’s also important to make sure they are not put at undue risk in the first place. Making sure staffing levels are adequate, and that all staff are trained to deal with difficult behaviour, must be a priority.
Valuing residential care lone workers for their vital work
The report also highlights a further problem for the sector: visibility. Residential care homes are often overlooked in the media, and it’s only the negative stories are shared. It’s vital for us to start valuing our residential care lone workers more highly in the UK. They do wonderful work caring for some of the UK’s most vulnerable people – and they should be recognised as the professionals that they are. But there are also problems attracting and retaining mental health specialists in much of the health and care sector. A report from the Royal College of Nursing from May 2019 showed that the total mental health nursing workforce has declined 10.6% since 2009.
More than ever, it’s important for employers to look after the mental health of their staff, as well as their physical safety. Of course these two are related: a worker who feels physically threatened will suffer from stress and anxiety. As well as residential care lone workers, this is a particular problem for customer-facing staff in a retail environment. So employers need to take more proactive steps to improve mental health and wellbeing in every workplace. Contact us to find out how Safe Hub can help to protect your team, increasing physical safety, reducing anxiety, and improving wellbeing. Everyone deserves to feel safe and well at work.
You can read the full article about residential care workers here: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jun/09/6000-residential-care-workers-suffer-violent-attacks
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Post by George Stavrinidis
George is Chief Executive Officer of Lone Worker Solutions (LWS). He believes passionately that everyone should be protected and supported at work. George supports LWS clients to make sure they enjoy the most effective relationship with the team and maximise the effectiveness of their deployment of Safe Hub.