As part of my councillor responsibilities I am the Health & Safety champion for the council. H&S is responsibility of everyone and ultimate responsibility lies with the Managing Director. My role as H&S Champion is to keep an eye on the culture within the organisation and to make sure sufficient resources are being deployed. Health and Safety is often the forgotten subject or seem as a waste of money. My time at Worcester Bosch as a senior manager taught me that investment in H&S can massively boost morale, reduce sick days, staff loss and increase productivity. I decided to spend one day each year with people doing the most demanding jobs. Last year it was with the “bin men”. This year I spent a day with the traffic wardens and civil officers that enforce against people littering and allowing their dogs to foul public areas.
Our officers walk around 15 miles each day and they carry quite a bit of kit. Their kit consists of in some cases a stab vest, ticket issuing machine, their phone and two different devices for recording infringements. They also carry personal items like a drink, sun cream in the summer and hand sanitiser. So a fairly demanding physical job.
However despite the physical demands of probably far higher concern is the stress caused by the verbal abuse our officers often receive. It’s common place for our staff to be sworn and shouted at. Our officers generally carry out their work as lone workers. Most of the officers are women – one of the officers I was with had had a problem where a man was stalking her and not taking no for an answer when propositioned We can all experience verbal abuse in our daily lives but most of us do not have to put up with this several times a day and everyday of the week. The cumulative effect of this is hard to know but mental stress is just as important for us to minimise as it would be to minimise physical risks in a factory. I don’t know how we reduce this problem but awareness of this issue has to be a first step.
There are lots of safeguards in place. I don’t want to go in to too much detail here as some of the safeguards are best not widely published but they include a body camera, panic button and a walkie talkie radio. From my day in the field I got a good feeling that the relationship and support between front line officers and the supervisors and management seemed very good – in my mind all I saw was management care for our staff and professionalism.
If there is one message coming out of this blog: be kind and when ever the opportunity arises support our front line traffic wardens and enforcement officers.
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