By Leon Harris CPP
Published in INsite, August-September 2003
Health service fined $180,000 in landmark assault ruling.
The following is an extract from the June 2002 news report from the Australian Institute of Criminology (A.I.C) under the title “Crime and Violence Prevention”.
“The recent case of WorkCover Authority of NSW v Central Sydney Area Health Service (18 March 2002) clearly showed that the inappropriate design of premises, and the fittings within it, could give rise to a successful prosecution under OHS legislation. ‘Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design’ (CPTED) constructs (also known as ‘Situational crime prevention’) are important violence prevention tools. CPTED constructs are well-known in criminology, but have only recently begun to be considered within Occupational Health and Safety (OHS).”.
In relation to this matter, the WorkCover Authority issued a Media Release (10 April 2002). An important paragraph reinforces the A.I.C’s statement.
“In passing sentence, Justice Schmidt said the risk to safety by the presence of breakable glass in the hospital was foreseeable, and the absence of a designated controlled entry point for staff responding to a critical incident had placed one of the nurses at grave risk.”
The above statement indicates that WorkCover now acknowledges that there can be a link between the design of premises and violence. WorkCover is now likely to prosecute where this link can be proven.
There is sufficient anecdotal evidence that staff in aged care facilities have been victims of violence either within the facility or its grounds from criminals thereby associating the above case with aged care facilities. This has, at times resulted, in WorkCover requesting a comprehensive security review of the site(s) be undertaken by a specialist security consultant and to include anything that may have contributed to the crime.
Architectural design is very much part of the process. It may be unreasonable to expect operators to redesign areas of an existing facility that may place staff or visitors at risk However, with specialist advice, there are often ways to satisfactorily treat the risk. (Hence a good reason for getting it right first time).
Lawyers on both sides of litigation often obtain the services of security specialists to provide expert witness reports. Reports usually include assessment of architecture, landscaping and lighting design, as well as security policies and procedures.
In previous articles I have advised of Guidelines which are now in place in NSW relating to design and the application of crime prevention principles to be considered in development applications. Although this currently applies just to NSW, it is only a matter of time before other states and territories implement it.
Applying appropriate crime prevention principles (security design) does not turn a facility into a fortress, it creates an inviting and open environment to all legitimate users, whilst deterring those intent on committing anti-social or criminal acts as they become aware there is a greater chance of them being observed and apprehended.
Security design is more than installing barriers or retro fitting technology, e.g. surveillance systems. Security design is an environmental crime prevention strategy, applying aspects of architecture, engineering and technology to a development beginning at concept or masterplanning stages.
Ideally, security design consultants should be invited as panel members to the concept or masterplanning table. If architecture, landscaping, lighting and relevant aspects of engineering can coalesce early enough with security design, then realisation of form function and market edge reputation is more likely. Importantly, by taking this direction, it can be shown that security design has been considered with the input of security design consultants.
Leon Harris CPP, is the principal consultant for Harris Crime Prevention Services.
Harris Crime Prevention Services provides on an occasional basis articles by other Industry experts, such as: How Airports apply designing out crime principles