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  3. 10. General
  4. 10.11 Staff safety and well-being
  5. Key steps
  6. 1. Implement strategies to promote staff safety and well-being

1. Implement strategies to promote staff safety and well-being

The delivery of child protection services presents a range of challenges to the safety and well-being of staff. On one hand the community has an expectation that timely intervention will occur. On the other hand, the degree of risk associated with cases varies greatly according to individual circumstances. Children, young people and families subject to intervention by the department, may view the intervention as intrusive whether they had experienced, or had been responsible for harm or abuse. A first response may be to direct aggression towards staff. 

Personal risk assessment and safety planning for staff

The department is committed to upholding the safety and well-being of staff through the provision of high quality training programs and safety practices that aim to increase the skill of staff to make informed decisions in relation to undertaking work activities that involve risk.

It is critical that staff are mindful of their own personal safety at all times. An important factor in increasing personal safety is the continual use of risk assessment and planning practices and processes, particularly when staff interact directly with clients.

This requires staff and their supervisors to:

  • make personal safety risk assessment and personal safety planning an integral part of their child protection practice
  • continually assess safety risk and plans at each stage of client contact.

Completion of the Personal safety risk assessment tool and the Personal safety planning tool will assist staff to identify possible issues when undertaking safety planning.

This in turn will increase the personal safety of the children, young people and families who are subject to departmental intervention.

Zero tolerance of aggression

Workplace aggression, particularly client-initiated aggression, is not limited to the physical workplace or to working hours. A multi-dimensional approach, which takes into account individual, organisational and situational variables is required in managing the risk of client-initiated aggression towards staff.

In managing aggression towards staff, it is important that both proactive pre-incident management and responsive post-incident strategies are implemented.

The key principles for the management and control of workplace aggression are:

  • inappropriate behaviour towards staff and clients in the workplace will not be tolerated and the department will make every reasonable effort to prevent it occurring
  • inappropriate behaviour must not be accepted, excused or tolerated - all inappropriate behaviour must be addressed
  • information (via pamphlets or posters) should be available to clients advising that inappropriate behaviour will not be tolerated, and that action will be taken against such behaviour
  • staff will be supported by the department in ensuring their own personal safety as first priority over the needs of organisational demands.

While it is acknowledged duties performed by staff may bring about adverse responses from clients, it is not acceptable to tolerate any level of aggression by clients.

The level of aggressive behaviour demonstrated by a client provides an indication of the level of action required, in response to the aggression. In some cases, however, it may be necessary to respond to 'Level 2' behaviour, with 'Level 3' actions (see below tables). In all cases, assess the individual circumstances and decide the most appropriate actions for addressing aggression by a client.

Levels of aggression table
LevelBehaviours (examples)
1
  • Raised voices
  • swearing
  • consistent, inappropriate, heightened tone
  • unwillingness to accept reasonable directions.
2
  • Body language implying potential for aggressive behaviour
  • off-handed comments relating to anger or aggression towards staff, implying inappropriate consequences
  • gneral statements made about actions to inappropriately vent anger/aggression.
3
  • Actions taken to degrade, for example, spitting, derogatory name calling or explicit or sexually offensive remarks
  • direct threat against departmental staff, family or friends of staff
  • intimidation or attempted coercion of staff, where personal knowledge is disclosed, for example, knowledge of a staff member's family, home or friends
  • physical assault
  • stalking
  • action, or knowledge of action taken with the intent to cause harm to a staff member
  • use of, or threatened use of, a weapon or object with the intention to harm.
Levels of action table
LevelAction
1

Ensure personal safety immediately by taking appropriate actions. For example:

  • Ask the aggressor to refrain from inappropriate actions
  • explain the consequences if the behaviour continues
  • press the duress alarm button
  • leave the room
  • ask the aggressor to leave the office
  • provide the aggressor with time to 'calm',  and then
  • re-engage.

*Important* - Document the incident in an electronic case note. Where appropriate, advise a senior workgroup staff member of the incident and the action taken.

2

Take action as above and:

  • Consult with line management about the incident and future contact with the aggressor.
  • complete a WIRF investigation form
  • enter the appropriate alert on the person's electronic file
  • advise other workgroup members if appropriate.

In consultation with a team leader and legal services (if required), provide the aggressor with a Letter to aggressive client outlining the inappropriate behaviour/s, expected behaviour and the commitment of the department to take action against continued inappropriate behaviour.

3

Take action as per response levels 1 and 2 and:

  • Adjust contact arrangements with aggressor accordingly and advise the regional director, where necessary
  • complete a Critical incident report form, where applicable
  • seek QPS advice or involvement, where necessary.

Note: The above actions are suggestions only - workgroups may develop local arrangements for responding to incidents of aggression, and situations may require more than one action to be taken. Where unsure about actions required to diffuse aggression in the workplace, consult with a line manager or a Senior Workplace Health and Safety Advisor.

For information about when to complete a 'Critical incident report form', refer to the policy on Critical incident reporting.