“Do you have any idea where your daughter might be, Mrs Lamplugh? I don’t want to worry you, Mrs Lamplugh, but Susannah left to show a house to a client just before lunch and she has not returned. We just wanted to check anywhere we could.”
On 28th July 1986, Suzy Lamplugh went missing while she was at work. Suzy was working as an estate agent in London, and routinely took clients to view houses. At the firm where she worked, it was not common practice to leave details about appointments. Suzy’s colleagues had very little information about who she was meeting or when she should be expected back, and Suzy left only the name ‘Mr Kipper’ in her diary. Although Suzy left the office just before 1pm, hours passed before the alarm was raised, and police were not informed that she was missing until 6.45pm.
Sadly, Suzy was never found, and she was legally declared deceased in 1993. While it goes without saying that everyone has the right to be and feel safe at work, Suzy’s tragic story also emphasises why it is so important for organisations to have personal safety procedures in place. Without lone worker and safety policies, employees may be left at greater risk of violence and aggression.
Improving Personal Safety
In sectors where employees commonly work alone, such as property, it is important to have a robust lone worker policy. This policy should outline what personal safety challenges staff could face; what precautions should be put in place to protect lone workers; and what employers and employees are expected to do during and after dangerous situations.
Every workplace is different, and as a result, every personal safety policy should be different too. Using expertise and experience, organisations must recognise and assess the risks that staff members are most likely to face, and put measures in place to reduce these risks that are best for their work. For example, you may find that ‘buddying up’ with a colleague so that they can trace your whereabouts is more effective than employing lone worker devices. As long as procedures are consulted on with employees to ensure they are useful, there is no single correct way to improve lone worker safety.
Of course, personal safety procedures are ineffective if staff do not feel comfortable and confident using them. Offering personal safety training can help combat these issues. Training can give staff the tools and information they need to improve their understanding of and reaction to risks. Through training and communicating clearly with your staff, you can improve staff confidence in managing conflict situations and make personal safety a key part of workplace culture.
If you want to improve safety, but are unsure where to start, our ‘Suzy’s Code for Personal Safety’ could be a good place to start. The code, which is aimed at estate and letting agents but applicable to all sectors, asks firms to sign up to some straight-forward guidelines to improve personal safety and empower staff.
Suzy’s Code sets out clear, practical steps that can be taken to make safety common practice in the workplace. The code suggests that organisations should employ seven simple personal safety points:
- Implement a buddy system, so colleagues always know each other’s whereabouts and contact details. This should include checking in and out when arriving at and leaving the property, including out of normal office hours.
- Have a system in place for colleagues to raise the alarm back at the office in case of an emergency while working alone.
- Have a clear procedure to follow if someone does not return or check in when they are expected.
- Where possible arrange for viewers to visit the office before meeting them at the property so that colleagues have also seen them.
- Offer all staff a personal safety alarm and have discreet lone worker devices available.
- Before conducting a viewing, find out who else will be present in the property (current tenant, contractors etc.) when you visit.
- Finally, make sure all staff are aware of and have access to the personal safety measures available.
Your organisation can sign up to Suzy’s Code, and demonstrate that you are committed to personal safety for your staff. The code can be the first step to ensuring that employees – both those who work alone and those who monitor lone workers’ safety – are assured when managing personal safety.
To find out more about signing up for Suzy’s Code, improving your lone worker policies, or to book personal safety training, contact Suzy Lamplugh Trust on 020 7091 0014 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.