Resource Library

Off-site Employee Safety and Security Considerations

Date: April 2020

Safety and security can be a concern for employees who work off site. Given the variety of locations, clients and tasks involved in their activities and the differing resources available to the organization, the following are considerations that could be implemented as appropriate. Not all considerations will be appropriate for every situation.

Setting

Ideas to Consider

General1

  • Implement a system for reporting and recording any concerns or incidents of safety and security.
  • Create a clearly defined violence prevention policy:
    • Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry workplace violence prevention website contains policy sample and definitions (DLI.mn.gov)
    • Review, update and train upon the policy periodically.
  •  Conduct thorough accident investigations that gather specific data.
  • Maintain an active safety committee that reviews incidents and makes recommendations about safety and security.
  • Encourage employees to use the Employee Assistance Program. More information about the program can be found at MCIT.org/employee-assistance-program/.
  • Remind staff that incidents can stem from individuals of any age, gender, race or income level and may not necessarily be intentional.

Before leaving office1

  • Initiate a plan for off-site employees to contact supervisors to check in and a plan of action if a check-in is missed.
  • Know proper directions to a client’s home or location.
  • Schedule meetings or appointments to avoid hazards such as the presence of hostile persons.
  • Determine a method for staff to communicate with the office:
    • Decide if employees will be using their own phone and devices.
    • Consider providing cell phones or other devices to employees either individually or through a floater phone or device system.
    • Train staff on how to operate the phone or device.
    • Consider enabling GPS applications on mobile phones or devices and maintaining functionality during visits so that the phone or device can be tracked in case of an emergency.
  • Create an agreed upon set of code words to indicate trouble.
  • Know who is expected to be at the home/off-site location.
  • Review the client’s history for anything that may increase the safety risk:
    • Substance abuse
    • Treated or untreated personality or mental disorder
    • History of disturbances: specific triggers and reactions to past triggers
  • Consider additional safety precautions, such as law enforcement escort, for high-risk activities, such as:
    • Removing a child from the premises.
    • Helping someone leave an abusive situation.
    • Notification in reduction of benefits.
  • Within office records, maintain a copy of make, model, license plate number and color of the vehicle the employee uses.
  • Encourage employees to maintain vehicles properly and have adequate fuel.
  • Be aware that some employee attire may create a potential risk. Examples include large hoop earrings or jewelry, nonclip on ties, any items that may be targets for robbery.
  • Take only what is necessary.
  • Carry a minimal amount of money.

Before leaving vehicle1

  • Check for mobile phone reception, and if no reception exists, find a location where calls could be made.
  • Communicate any changes to the plan or the environment to the supervisor.
  • Check the client home or location for entrance or exit routes.
  • Park in a well-lit area that would be easy to access from the home/location in case of an emergency.
  • Wait for the escort before leaving the car if escort is provided.
  • Check for evidence if there are other people present at the home or location, such as additional vehicles.
  • Observe if there is evidence of pets, particularly dogs.

At client home or location1

  • Maintain situational awareness while at a client home or other location.
  • Evaluate signs of any disturbances in the home/location before entering, such as loud arguing or fighting.
  • Keep a mental note of where exits are and if they are easily accessible.
  • Use the mobile phone discreetly or not at all; focus on the individual.
  • Check for signs of increased risk in the client or guests:2
    • Intoxication
    • Under the influence of drugs either legal or illegal
  • Watch for signs of escalation among client or those present:3
    • Loud noises or shouting
    • Insults
    • Threats of violence
    • Slamming or throwing things down
    • Breaking things
    • Threatening gestures
    • Avoid fighting unless as a last resort, and fight only as much as needed to escape.
  • Practice de-escalation when possible:4
    • Be patient.
    • Allow the person to finish a tirade, unless employee feels physically threatened.
    • Listen carefully and calmly gather additional information to understand the concerns of the individual fully.
    • Offer a solution if possible or a plan to address the problem.
    • Follow through on the solution or plan.
    • Leave if safety is threatened.
  • Notify police if the employee feels him- or herself or others to be in danger.
  • Avoid fighting unless as a last resort, and fight only as much as needed to escape.

Office or facility1

  • Maintain clear access to the exits and inform staff of all exit locations.
  • Develop mechanisms to alert both law enforcement and other employees of potential security issues.
  • Undertake routine testing and inspection of security systems for proper operation.
  • Develop a mechanism to restrict access to staff-only and secure areas.
  • Require staff to accompany nonemployee visitors in staff-only or secure areas.
  • Monitor entrances and other secure areas.
  • Consider barriers, such as glass, deep counters or other protections, to provide separation from visitors in reception areas.5
  • Be aware of warning signs in other people and bring to a supervisor’s attention:6
    • Increasing hostility
    • Specific threats
    • Hypersensitivity to criticism
    • Recent acquisition/fascination with weapons
    • Obsession with a grievance
    • Obsessive interest in violent themes
    • Interest in recently publicized violent events
    • Outbursts of anger
    • Extreme disorganization
    • Noticeable changes in behavior
    • Homicidal/suicidal comments or threats

Beryl Domingo, Samuel Hickman, Shari Munch, Christina Newhill, Bekki Ow-Ärhus, Eva Skolnik-Acker, Earl Stuck, Charles Dee Wilson, Tracy Whitaker and Kamilah Omari. National Association of Social Workers. “Guidelines for Social Worker Safety in the Workplace.” 2013.

2 Johanna Foucher, Lisa Kenney, Mireya Springer. Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. “Safety and Health for the Home Healthcare Industry: A Manual for Ergonomics and Safety Prevention Strategies for Home Based Care Services.”

3 The Occupational Health & Safety Agency for Healthcare in BC. “Home and Community Care Risk Assessment Tool Resource Guide.” Last modified April 2008.

4 Advanced Concept Research. “Dealing with Difficult Citizens.” DVD, 2007.

5 Occupational Safety and Health Administration. “Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers.” 2015.

6 Eugene A. Rugala and Arnold R. Isaacs. Federal Bureau of Investigation. “Workplace Violence: Issues in Response.” Last modified June 14, 2002.