Abuse and attacks on personnel are rare, but do happen. There have been some high-profile cases that have raised the issue of personal safety, and how it applies to personnel working for a faith organisation.
To start off with, you need to decide if you have a problem and work out where the main risks come from. As with many other areas of Health and Safety, Risk Assessment is a good starting point. Talk to personnel who could be affected and ask them what they think the biggest problems are and if they feel threatened at any time.
It is important to realise that certain times of the day might cause a specific problem. This could be every day, such as wen schools close, or seasonal, such as in the winter when the evenings are dark. The activities in your Place of Worship might also add to the risk, such as when the last person leaves at night (possibly carrying cash).
From the Risk Assessment, you need to decide what you should do to limit the likelihood of an attack. There are a number of precautions that you can take to protect personnel. Many of these are basic security or safety measures that you are already likely to have in place. Your Risk Assessment will give you a good starting point when you decide exactly what you need to do.
One area of concern is Lone Working and this should be discouraged. Not only are there personnel safety issues, but also if they have an accident it could be some time before they get help. People should make sure that they can see someone else and, if this is not possible, they should have a personal alarm. Alarms increase the likelihood of the attacker being caught if they are used during an attack.
Visible security measures are a good idea – which includes CCTV and alarm systems. Using signs that show that this equipment is in use is a good deterrent. If the motive for the attack is removed, this is also a good way to limit the risk.
Quite often, money is the motivation for an attack. Keep as little money in your Place of Worship as possible. If people regularly take a trip to the bank, use a different route from time to time and vary when the trip is made. Don't carry large amounts of money at a time.
Whenever possible, only use one main entrance, reserving all other exits as emergency exits, preferably with an alarm that goes off when the door is opened. Some internal doors could be fitted with locks or access control, such as a swipe system.
As with property security, the numbers of keys should be restricted to stop them getting into the wrong hands. It is also a good idea to change code numbers on digital door locks from time to time.
Personnel should be told of the precautions you have for their safety, and they need to be taught how to use any equipment like alarms and access control systems. It can be useful for personnel to be taught how to handle threatening or difficult situations and a large number of courses are available for this.
You need to keep a record of attacks towards personnel and you should inform the police immediately. With some incidents, you might need to report the event as if it were an accident – please contact your local Environmental Health department for more information. Use the information in your record book next time you review your Risk Assessments and the precautions that you have to protect against attacks towards personnel.
You should also have a procedure should you receive a bomb threat or another security alert if you have found this in your Risk Assessment. It is also a good idea to add the precautions for personnel safety into your Health and Safety Policy.
You need to review the Risk Assessments from time to time to make sure that you are doing enough to protect people. You should use information about incidents to help you protect the safety or personnel.
Please see also see the Security in Places of Worship page.