No excuse for abuse

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This week is European Week for Safety and Health at Work. As part of this week, we’re raising awareness of the issue of violence and aggression at work, which is a risk many of our staff face on a daily basis. Read on to find out more.

We all go to our work expecting to be in safe and secure working environment; however this isn’t always the case. There have been many reported incidences in the news recently regarding the increase of workplace violence, especially amongst those who work in the health care, emergency services and public transport professions. UNISON Scotland’s annual survey* of assaults to public sector workers shows that there were 41,143 assaults in 2016, an increase of 2,684 compared to 2015.

At SEPA, we expect those accessing our services and premises to treat other customers and our staff with the courtesy and respect that they would expect to receive themselves. However, this is not always the case. Being a public facing organisation, and undertaking duties that may not always be popular with our customers, some of our staff have found themselves subjected to episodes of aggressive and violent behaviours by a minority of people. During 2016-2017 we had three reported incidents of violence and aggression, and so far this year, there has been five reported incidents.

The majority of these incidents occur amongst our field operatives, particularly in an enforcing capacity. Verbal abuse and threats are the most common types of incident, however some members of our staff have been subjected to physical attacks, however thankfully, these occurrences are comparatively rare.

We have recently launched a new zero tolerance statement, which states that we have a zero tolerance approach to any and all acts of violence and aggression towards our staff. If staff feel threatened, we will take appropriate action, which may include reporting incidents to the police.

As a regulator, we understand that on occasion, our work and the decisions we make may not always be popular and may cause upset to the people directly affected by our action (or perceived in-action). However, we would ask anyone that has any dealings with us now or in the future to consider the consequences of their actions, not only upon themselves, but also upon the member of staff they are dealing with, either face-to face or over the telephone.

* Violence at work – A survey of Unison employers in Scotland 2016

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