Lone workers come in many shapes and sizes, so when thinking about a ‘lone worker’ perhaps you think about a Social Worker or Housing Officer? You might not be picturing lawyers and solicitors, but those working in the legal profession face far more risk than people might expect.
Shows like Suits and Law and Order have glamourised the profession but in reality criminal defence and family solicitors face very real risk of verbal and physical assault every day.
In research carried out by the Law Society of Scotland in 2018, it was found that a third of solicitors in the jurisdiction have experienced threatening conduct. Shockingly nearly 50% of the research participants reported more than four incidents over a five-year period, nearly an incident annually.
Legal professionals tend to meet and work with people on the worst days of their lives. The nature of the legal matter is likely to be highly distressing and situations can and do escalate.
One of the most shocking examples of threat to legal professionals was the well-publicised incident from September 2020 when a man wielding a large knife threatened to kill an immigration solicitor in a London based firm. Whilst the employee was injured the assailant was stopped.
Yet, despite the clear risk to legal professionals, particularly in the areas of criminal defence and family solicitors, legal firms themselves are not adhering to their own duty of care, or doing enough to protect their staff and comply with Health and Safety legislation.
What can and should legal services firms be doing to protect their employees?
All organisations have a duty of care to protect their staff. Legal firms, like all other organisations, must carry out a risk assessment and then put the appropriate control measures in place to mitigate these risks.
Where employees face the potential of violence or aggression, whether they are working alone or with others, they should be provided with the means to summon assistance when required.
Lone worker solutions offer SOS alarms that enable discreet activation enabling an operator to listen in and assess the situation, from which point they can summon an emergency response to employee’s location.
Where employees are working with high-risk individuals or are travelling alone, proactive safety measures such as regular welfare checks should be put in place.
Lone worker protection solutions can be used to ensure the welfare of staff in a discreet manner, automatically raising an alert should an employee fail to confirm their safety when scheduled.
Together with ensuring employees are provided with solutions to help keep themselves safe, it is important to ensure training is also provided to help employees recognise when a situation could escalate and how and when to de-escalate the issue at hand, and how to safely remove themselves from the situation.