Working in the community and volunteering for a charitable organisation can be a rewarding and satisfying experience. However, the very nature of working amongst a community – and in some cases – working alone, can leave charity workers vulnerable and exposed to high levels of risk. It is therefore imperative that your personal safety is considered at all times. In this article, Mathew Colley, an expert in lone worker protection solutions, shares his top tips on what safety precautions charity workers should take in order to protect their safety.
If your charity duties involve carrying out home visits, then you should preferably be going out in twos rather than alone. This is particularly important if you are visiting someone for the first time. Be mindful that if you are visiting someone in their own home for the first time, your presence may be unwanted and/or pose a threat and you will need to offer reassurance. You can do this by:
- always confirming the time and day of your visit
- visit when you say you will
- give the client an idea of how long the meeting will take and try to adhere to it
- avoid any actions or words which may be interpreted as judgmental or aggressive
Going it alone
It is not always possible to work with another volunteer. Some tasks such as working in a charity shop or doing home visits may need to be carried out alone. In this case, you should always be aware of the risks involved and know what exit strategies are available should you start to feel uncomfortable or threatened. Always carry a mobile phone, and know what to do in the event of an emergency. At all times, trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, make an excuse to leave and notify someone immediately.
Stay in touch
It is important to establish clear lines of communication so that your employer/colleagues know where you are, who are with, and how long your visit is likely to take.
Many charities have tried to tackle lone worker safety by using a simple ‘buddy’ system, whereby workers call a colleague to let them know they are okay, but in many cases, this has proven to be unreliable.
A lone worker protection system is an ideal and cost effective solution for the voluntary sector because it can be integrated into a charity worker’s mobile phone. Users ‘check in’ by sending a text message with their estimated visit duration. The lone worker system will check up on them at desired intervals, and an escalation process is triggered if the user does not respond to check up messages.
Charitable organisations should act responsibly in protecting their volunteers by carrying out a risk assessment and put systems in place to ensure those who work alone are safe. Volunteers and employees must also play their part in maintaining their own personal safety by adhering to the safety measures put in place by the organisation to protect them. For example, phoning in on time, using equipment correctly, reporting areas of concern to their safety and attending staff training.
Article by Mathew Colley of LONEALERT, the UK’s provider of lone worker protection solutions. We work with organisations in the third sector, providing lone worker alarms, and safety solutions to protect charity workers who work alone.