As a Safety leader, you’ve probably built a strong portfolio in the organisation. So too has your counterpart in Security. And now both of you see key safety and security priorities, like keeping employees safe at work or mitigating threats to facilities and people, reflected at the highest levels.
But to achieve those objectives, organisations have invested in standalone safety and security management systems. Sure, the siloing might have initially been justified. On the ground, though, that siloing has had major implications, especially for duty of care.
Organisations have long focused Safety’s attention on the unintentional, non-malicious threats to people, process, systems, and the environment caused by human error, while committing Security to intentional, malicious threats to physical assets and people perpetrated by intentional human actors.
That traditional break down is no longer tenable, however. As the threat picture evolves in all industries, the ability of the one team to maintain duty of care and of the other to prevent loss are becoming increasingly intertwined.
Take the example of healthcare workers. This class of worker faces an increasingly acute risk of client-initiated, occupational violence, whether operating in emergency rooms, psychiatric hospitals, community health clinics, social service offices, or people’s homes.
How pervasive is the issue? Well, the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy specifically identifies the healthcare industry as a priority sector, targeted to reduce its high number and rate of work-related injuries and illnesses.
The reason: since 2009-2010, the sector has consistently logged the highest number of serious workers’ compensation claims: 16 percent of all claims in 2014-15, according to Safe Work Australia. That number is largely in proportion to the size of the industry (12 percent of the total workforce). What’s grossly out of proportion, however, are the rates of violent incidents in the sector.
Those figures are alarmingly high and only getting worse. Media reporting at ABC News revealed that the number of nurses assaulted in Victorian health settings has increased by 60 percent in the past three years; the increases were 48 and 44 percent in Queensland and New South Wales, respectively. Plus, the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics recorded 539 assaults on healthcare premises in 2018, a leap from 335 incidents a mere three years earlier.
The threat of workplace violence, as described, is clearly malicious, nominally the responsibility of Security. But the loss risk is of abiding interest to Safety, too.
For one, it’s the Safety and Risk teams that must ensure legal compliance, including maintaining duty of care. The litany of safety compliance audits in the sector suggests something has gone seriously awry.
Indeed, it has. Maintaining duty of care requires Safety teams to identify, understand, and control all risks that could impact employee safety. And that increasingly means security risks.
In healthcare, those risks are manifold. In fact, healthcare workers meet nearly all of the conditions deemed necessary to be considered at high risk of workplace violence. Those factors include:
- Working alone, in isolation, or in a remote area with the inability to call for assistance
- Working offsite or in the community
- Working in unpredictable environments
- Communicating face-to-face with customers
- Providing care to people who are in distress, afraid, ill, or incarcerated
- Service methods that cause frustration, resentment, or misunderstanding
- Providing care or services for people who have unreasonable expectations of what an organisation and or employee can provide to them
Once those security risks become incidents, they spiral into major safety events, compromising the PCBU’s duty of care.
Healthcare, of course, isn’t the only industry that should be on notice. The same risk factors are present in construction, retail, education, and countless other sectors. The only question, then is, are siloed safety structures enough to mitigate risk and maintain duty of care?
The evidence more than suggests no. Luckily, integrating safety and security management processes, protocols, and systems provides a badly-needed alternative. Keen to learn more? Download our best-practice guide to integrated safety and security management to learn the benefits and discover the precise integrated safety and security capabilities your team needs to achieve its loss prevention and compliance goals.
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