The location of a workplace can mean a higher risk of violence happening.
For example, it may be situated in a ‘hard to get to’ place where parking arrangements are restricted, where public transport is a long way off, the journey there is all uphill and visitors are already agitated, hot and bothered (and late) when they arrive!
The risk of attacks can also be higher because of the kind of people who live in or frequent the area – and particularly if the pedestrian route to the car park and Public Transport facilities is conducive to muggings.
Building design can increase AND decrease likelihood of violence
The building you’re working in may not have been constructed with the potential for today’s violence in mind!
This may mean that there are areas which may easily conceal (or even attract) undesirables and increase the potential for (and fear of) violent confrontations.
Your local Crime Prevention Officer (CPO) will be able to advise you on how to reduce the risk of violence with advice on lighting, CCTV, security patrolling and other means.
If you intend to build new premises, move into new premises or refurbish existing buildings it would be well worthwhile contacting your local Architectural Liaison Officer (ALO). ALOs are CPOs who have been specially trained in designing out crime at the drawing board stage.
Check out Secured by Design.
It’s the UK Police flagship initiative supporting the principles of designing out crime.
Internal features also affect the likelihood of violence
The internal layout, decor, furniture, temperature, lighting, noise levels and equipment in a workplace have a significant influence on the likelihood of violence happening.
People are less likely to behave violently if the atmosphere in a workplace is welcoming, orderly and supports a feeling of well being, safety and security – and anything which helps achieve this will be helping to reduce the risks of violence.
If you are looking to people to be on their best behaviour the best way to get it is by ensuring they are treated respectfully and by preventing frustrations, annoyances and boredom getting the better of them.
The questions below have been set with a public service Reception Area specifically in mind, but will give an idea of the kind of risk reduction measures that can help.
Is the general ambiance welcoming?
Is access and departure controlled?
Are all visitors required to identify themselves prior to admission?
Is what happens always video recorded on CCTV?
Is what happens being continuously monitored?
Are directions to the Reception Desk clearly sign posted?
Are contingency arrangements in place to assist disabled people and those accompanying them?
Is the reception desk easily identifiable and accessible to all?
Is the workplace always kept clean and tidy?
Is the workplace draughty and cold in winter?
Is the workplace hot and stuffy?
Is the workplace decorated in soft (calming) pastel colours?
Is the décor in good condition?
Is the workplace noisy? (Common sources of waiting room irritation include banging doors, telephones ringing, loud TVs and radios and Tannoy and PA systems.)
Is calming music played softly in the waiting area?
Is the seating in the waiting area comfortable?
Are there always enough seats for people waiting?
Is there room next to some seats for a wheelchair – without blocking the aisle?
Are magazines / papers in the waiting room?
Are magazines tidy and are they recent publications?
Is a “Children’s Area” provided?
Are only soft, noiseless toys kept there?
Are visitors able to purchase refreshments nearby?
Are toilet facilities available?
If there are no toilets for public use, are there clear directions signposted to the nearest facilities?
Is there a pay phone available for public use?
Is the waiting area a public thoroughfare or, (considerately) separated away from ‘through-traffic’?
Do service users receive regular “info updates” on delays in appointment waiting times?
Are ‘Behaviour Rules and Expectations’ prominently posted?
Are the ‘Behaviour Rules and Expectations’ written in simple to understand terms?
Do the ‘Behaviour Rules and Expectations’ notices make it clear they apply to staff (including management, contractors and agency staff) as well as service users and other visitors?
Is the way to make a complaint prominently displayed? (This helps front line staff avoid having to answer complaints about issues beyond their immediate control e.g. staffing levels, organisational procedures, etc.)
Do the ‘Behaviour Rules and Expectations’ state what action staff will take in the event of undesirable, anti-social, violent, aggressive or abusive behaviour?
Do the ‘Behaviour Rules and Expectations’ notices explain what action the organisation will take against people who break the rules?
Are reception staff shielded protected from potentially aggressive clients by high enough and deep enough counters? (Take care to ensure counters are not too high for wheelchair bound visitors.)
Is there anything in the area that could be thrown or used as a weapon e.g. Fire Extinguishers, Bins, Water butts, Umbrella Stands, Trolleys, Tables, Chairs, Books, Cans of cold drink, Cups of Hot drinks, etc. (Fixed items are less easy to use as weapons.)
Do all staff know when and how to summon assistance to a deteriorating situation – and when to dis-engage i.e. leave?
Is there easy access to a panic alarm which can be activated by staff without arousing the suspicion of an aggressor?
Who would come in response to a call for assistance (e.g. a panic alarm) and how long would they take to arrive?
Would they always be able to contain the danger? (i.e. Sufficient numbers to deal with foreseeable circumstances.)
Are staff clear about how and when to call for the police?
Is the Reception Desk telephone set with a ‘one button’ dial up for 999 emergencies?
How long would it take (at worst) for Police assistance to arrive?
Is there an escape route or safe place staff that can retreat to meanwhile?