Intent of These Guidelines
These general guidelines address your health and safety of Department as you provide services to families. Your safety is of utmost importance in the day to day delivery of services. Risks to health and safety are to be continually evaluated during service delivery. This evaluation begins with the first contact with the client or reporting party. This initial information, in addition to client/family history is to be assessed taking into consideration any factors which might indicate a threat to the employee’s health and safety.
Note: Program divisions will provide written instructions to staff related to their specific responsibilities/tasks of service delivery.
Risk A chance of encountered threat to health and/or safety Law enforcement local police, sheriff’s department, Oklahoma Narcotics Bureau, Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Threat of violence A declaration of an intention to inflict injury or pain Indirect threat Threats made in general but not aimed directly at an individual Veiled threat Indirect threats masked with humor or sarcasm; comments or agreement toward acts of violence made by others
An employee shall:
- protect oneself by minimizing unnecessary risk taking;
- assess behaviors and the environment for risks to health and safety;
- avoid unnecessary risks to health and safety;
- follow safety policies and program safety guidelines;
- seek consultation and direction from one’s supervisor regarding potential risks to health and safety in service provision;
- inform providers with whom the Department contracts of known risks to the health and safety of the provider’s staff of each direct threat of violence, indirect threat and veiled threat directed at such provider’s staff.
A supervisor shall:
- ensure that staff assessment;
- assist the employee in implementing the appropriate course of action
- seek the assistance of law enforcement as necessary to minimize risks to staff health and safety and
- promptly notify the local office administrative leadership of each threat of violence, indirect threat or veiled threat.
Each DHS location must have a written evacuation plan which is practiced at least annually for fire, weather and other emergency circumstances, including acts of violence. Each year training will be provided on these procedures. The procedures should include but are not limited to identification of an emergency situation and identifying the person responsible for communicating the emergency to appropriate public safety agencies. The Risk and Safety Management Unit shall maintain a current copy of the written safety plan for each DHS location.
Risk Categories and Staff Responses
There is a direct threat of violence with or without known history of violence; allegation or observation of drug manufacturing or distribution in the home; illegal activities are observed in the home; a weapon is within reach of a person with a known history of violence.
Staff Response: Take prompt self protecting precautions, contact the supervisor, law enforcement agency and other appropriate entities. Moderate Risk: There is an indirect threat of violence with or without known history of violence; allegations of drug use and/or distribution; inappropriate display of weapons combined with a history of weapon misuse; observed aggressive or bizarre behavior where a threat is perceived; environmental hazards are present that are commonly perceived to result in illness or injury.
Staff Response: Contact the supervisor for consultation and direction. Risks will be evaluated to determine further actions that may be necessary. Low Risk: There have been allegation of history of violence or drug use but no direct or indirect threat to health or safety has been made.
Staff Response: Consult with the supervisor, conduct the visit and remain alert to changes in behavior and in the environment.
APS Safety Tips
(Courtesy of Los Angeles County Adult Protective Services)
Before you leave home/office: General Precautions
- Use sound judgment, caution and common sense. Pay attention to your intuitive feelings.
- Try to anticipate potential problems, and be alert to your circumstances.
- Photocopy or keep a list of all credit cards that you carry in your purse/wallet and keep in a safe place for future reference.
- Consider carrying only a limited number of valuables in the purse/wallet that you carry in the field. Don’t carry more than you can afford to lose.
- Dress practically and sensibly, wearing low heeled shoes rather than high heels.
- Maintain a low profile and blend in with the surroundings rather than look overdressed or flashy.
- Wear limited jewelry. Avoid wearing expensive watches, gold chains and rings. Excessive expensive looking and flashy jewelry call attention to you and make you a target for robbers. Consider carrying a shoulder bag rather than a purse.
- Learn to use everyday objects such as ball point pens, key rings, or combs to protect yourself if it becomes necessary.
- Whenever you use valet parking, consider handing over only your ignition key. An attendant or accomplice could look up your address in your car and enter your home while you are gone if you give him your house key along with your car key.
- If you believe that hostile clients may want to find out your home address from your license plate, go to the DMV with your employee identification and ask DMV to computer block your identifying information from parties who may inquire.
- Maintain an ample supply of gasoline.
- Keep your car in good running order with regular tune ups and oil changes.
Before you leave the office
- Request law enforcement assistance if the referral indicates potential violence such as threatened use of weapons or gang activity.
- Consider/discuss possible use of team response with supervisor.
- If necessary, plot out your course using street map.
- Plan early home calls to dangerous areas, before the activity on the streets has started.
- Obtain as much information as possible about potential danger before leaving the office.
While walking to/from your car
- You may want to lock your purse/wallet in the trunk of your car before leaving the parking lot/space.
- Carry your keys in your hand so you can lock/unlock your car without delay (keys also make good weapons if you have to defend yourself).
- Keep a spare car door key separate from your other keys.
- Choose a safe path to your car.
- Check the interior of your car before you get in.
- If you carry a shoulder type bag, carry it between your arm and your body.
- Walk with purpose and confidence, aware and erect. Be alert to people around you. Be cautious of strangers who approach and speak to you.
- Try not to respond to comments from strangers. If you must respond (for example if someone asks you for directions) keep your response short and maintain a safe distance. Keep walking DO NOT STOP!
- Walk with your hands free; don’t carry unnecessary parcels or bags.
- Try to walk in the middle of the sidewalk, facing oncoming traffic. Avoid doorways, bushes and alley ways where someone could easily be hiding.
- If walking at night stay in well lighted areas whenever possible.
While in your car
- If you carry your purse/wallet inside your car, make certain it is not visible to someone who looks into the car, such as under the seat or under your legs. When cars are stopped at traffic signals, gangs have smashed car windows and grabbed purses that are visible while the drivers are still dazed from the explosion of glass.
- Keep a road atlas in your car at all times.
- Carry a working flashlight at all times.
- Always lock your car doors and close your windows while driving or leaving the car. Robbers sometimes reach in open car windows at signals to grab watches or other jewelry.
- Never roll down your window to talk to strangers. Open it just enough – 2 to 3 inches – to talk.
- If you think you are being followed, drive to the nearest police or fire station or any busy public place. Robbers don’t want witnesses.
While entering/leaving the neighborhood of your client
- Try to have a plan of action once you view the surroundings.
- Park as near the client’s residence as you can in order to limit the distance you have to walk in the community. At night, park in a visible area that is well lit, if possible.
- Look around before getting out of your car. Don’t get out if the situation looks too dangerous. Come back with the police.
- If you are using an elevator, observe the inside of the elevator before entering. Wait for the next elevator if someone inside looks suspicious.
- While in the elevator stand next to the control panel. If accosted, you can press the alarm button. Exit the elevator if a suspicious person enters.
- If you are using a stair well, look up to see if people are loitering. Exit the stairs if you are suspicious of any conditions.
- Before entering a fenced yard, make noise so that any animal in the yard will come into sight. You may wish to carry something that can be thrown at an attacking dog, such as a rolled newspaper or a raw hide chew.
- Never show fear to the dog. A dog feels more powerful if it knows you’re afraid.
- A barking dog is not necessarily dangerous or vicious. A dog that growls while baring its teeth, however, usually is. Do not make eye contact with an apparently dangerous dog. Making eye contact only enrages the dog.
While approaching/entering the home of the client
- If you have called for police backup, wait until they arrive before approaching the client’s residence.
- Look and listen as you approach the client’s residence. When you knock, avoid excessive knocking as it can sometimes upset people./li>
- Stand to the side of the door when knocking, so that you will not be directly in front of any disturbed person answering the door.
- If invited in, ask someone on the inside to open the door for you. If the person cannot open the door for you, push the door open and scan the room/home for any potential dangers such as weapons. Enter only if you feel safe to do so.
- As you enter, immediately assess the situation by scanning the entire room. Try to make eye contact with whoever is in the room.
- If the client denies access, is threatening and angrily demands that you leave, leave immediately.
- If someone other than the client denies access, or is threatening and angrily demands that you leave, and you feel the client is endangered, you will want to consider asking for law enforcement assistance.
- Sit near an exit door. You do not want to be blocked from exiting.
- If you don’t feel comfortable with using the front room for the interview you may wish to suggest another location, such as the front porch.
- If you anticipate that someone may get angry during the visit, the kitchen would not be a safe place to interview due to the presence of sharp instruments such as knives.
- If the client or someone else looks threatening, locks or bolts the door behind you and/or places him/herself between you and the door, you should consider leaving immediately.
- You can make an excuse that you forgot something out in the car in order to flee the property.
Attitude toward client
- Be aware of your own personal reactions.
- Always display courtesy and politeness. If you are in the client’s home, treat the client as the host, and you will more likely be treated as a guest.
- Remain impartial. You must believe and communicate verbally and non verbally that you are a neutral third party who is present to be helpful.
- In your approach, it is best to be open minded and problem solving rather than accusatory and judgmental.
- You must try to accept the individual as a person, even if you cannot accept his/her behavior.
- If you are aware that you are unable to be a neutral third party (for example you are angry with or feel hostility towards the alleged perpetrator) it would be fairer to the alleged perpetrator and safer for yourself to have him/her interviewed by another worker.
- Explain who you are and the purpose of your visit.
- Be alert and aware of what’s going on such as verbal and non verbal communication, level of tension, etc. Keep in touch with your intuition and “gut level” feeling.
- Remember that most communication is non verbal rather than verbal.
- Try to establish a friendly working relationship with the client and avoid springing surprises.
- Keep a flow of conversation going making sure each person has an opportunity to speak.
- Maintain an adult to adult level with those with whom you’re speaking. Sit down with them; do not stand over them in an authoritarian manner.
- Advise the client of what you expect of him/her, and what the consequences of inappropriate behavior will be.
- Never make any promises you cannot keep.
- Upon conclusion of the home call, you may wish to ask the client to walk you to your car.
If client becomes agitated
- Lower your voice, remain calm. Speak slowly and reassuringly.
- Remain still, do not move towards or away from an angry person.
- Remember that the client is not in control so you need to be.
- If two social workers are present and two people are hostile toward one another, separate them. Have one social worker interview one party while the other social worker interviews the other party.
- If it becomes necessary to separate parties, avoid using the kitchen or bedroom for this purpose since weapons may be available in those locations.
- Do not let the separation time go on too long since one or the other may become overly suspicious. Make sure to bring everyone back together again after they have cooled down.
- Acknowledge a person’s anger. If you pretend anger does not exist, the angry person may feel obligated to escalate his/her anger so that you finally get the message.
- If the client asks you to leave, or if you feel unsafe remaining any longer, leave immediately! The more you confront a hostile client the more resistant he/she will become.
- If a client is agitated due to apparent mental illness or drug use, do not attempt to reason with him/her. Leave and return later with assistance, such as law enforcement, mental health staff, or another social worker.
- If your car breaks down on the freeway, stay inside with the doors locked and the windows rolled up.
- If someone stops to help you, roll the window down just low enough to talk to him/her and ask the person to call the police or a tow truck. Do not accept help from strangers!
- Consider not raising your hood. The Automobile Club has advised some people to keep their hoods down for their own safety. A car with the hood up alerts everyone that the car is disabled and that the occupants are unable to leave the area.
- Do not stop to help others! If you see someone along the road call the local police for assistance.
- If you carry a purse and someone grabs it, its generally better to let it go rather than get hurt by clinging to it.
- If you are robbed, remain composed and try not to show fear. Never beg for mercy! Showing fear or begging for mercy makes the robber feel more powerful and in control.
- Most authorities recommend that you cooperate while being robbed.
- Others recommend you try to disable the robber and run away. You will have to assess the situation and decide what’s best for you.