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Who is at risk?

Precautions should be used when workers are alone and working away from a central office. Unexpected events in unfamiliar environments can increase the risk of violence to the employee. Occupations in this category include:

  • real estate agents,
  • social workers,
  • inspectors,
  • enforcement officers,
  • home care or health care workers,
  • service or repair workers, and
  • sales people.

What can the employer do?

In many situations, the nature of the off-site work involves a lone worker. It is important to conduct an assessment of the work employees will do to keep them safe even though they are working off-site, and often working alone.

  • Have a check-in procedure in place. See Working Alone - General for more information.
  • Provide training and education in how to avoid potentially violent situations, as well as conflict resolution and mediation.
  • Allow the use of a "buddy system" in high risk situations - make sure employees know this option is available to them.
  • Provide information on high risk geographical areas to all staff.
  • Limit the time of day visits can be made to high risk areas/clients.
  • Keep client records and ensure staff are aware if a client is known to be aggressive, hostile or potentially violent.

What are some tips for working off-site?

Tips for working off-site safely include:

Do:

  • Arrange to meet clients in a 'safe' environment where other people are around, such as a restaurant, hotel lobby, or their office/workplace.
  • Wear comfortable, professional clothing and practical shoes which will enable you to leave quickly if necessary.
  • Always wear or carry your identification badge. It will show that you are acting in a official capacity and that you are an employee doing your job.
  • Carry only what is necessary. Large or numerous bags or cases are cumbersome.
  • Always take your cell phone with you and keep it in a place you can access quickly.
  • Avoid having new work contacts walk you to your car.
  • Be alert and make mental notes of your surroundings when you arrive at a new place.
  • Maintain a 'reactionary gap' between yourself and the client (e.g., out of reach of the average person's kicking distance). Increase the gap by sitting across from each other at a table, if possible.
  • If you are referring to written material, bring two copies so that you can sit across from the client, not beside.
  • Ask a colleague or "buddy" to come with you if something makes you feel uneasy. Tell your supervisor about any feelings of discomfort or apprehension about an up-coming meeting.
  • Keep records and indicate if the client or patient is known to be aggressive, hostile or potentially violent. Do not leave out incidents that make you feel apprehensive.

Do Not:

  • Do not enter any situation or location where you feel threatened or unsafe.
  • Do not carry weapons of any type, including pepper spray. Weapons can be easily used against you and are illegal in some jurisdictions.

(Adapted from CCOHS Violence in the Workplace Prevention Guide)

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Document last updated on March 6, 2006

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