By Leon Harris
Published in ACQ-Wire, April, 2006
It would be hard to believe that any person working in aged care would not support regular emergency evacuation and fire training for all staff, even putting aside the compliance requirement. However, security awareness training for staff, which is another area of Critical Incident Management, does not have the same universal support. Unless staff receive and benefit from appropriate training in crime prevention awareness and the facility’s security procedures, then residents, staff and the facility will be more vulnerable from acts of violence from intruders. Furthermore, security awareness training and comprehensive procedures to mitigate and manage the spectrum of possible security risks is a key component of management’s duty of care compliance. It should also be consistently scrutinised as part of each facility’s Business Continuity Planning.
The days of relying on inadequate documentation as the main means of training in this area of life-safety and asset protection are well and truly over. Many insurance companies and the courts have established higher standards in this area. The absence of crime (security incidents) is not an excuse for a lack of clear focus and appropriate resource allocation in ensuring that security standards, which include staff training, are at the aged care industry’s best practice in Security Risk Management. Similar crime at other aged care facilities and similar crime in the local vicinity may be enough to prove to the court that a criminal incident which resulted in personal harm was reasonably foreseeable.
Reviews undertaken of facilities by our consultants identified that security related documentation is often glossed over by staff. Sometimes this reflects the quality of the documentation and sometimes it reflects the level of interest by staff; a situation not unusual with agency staff who are not ‘connected’to the facility. When asked specific security questions on security procedures, they are frequently unable to answer in a manner that reassures us of their understanding, let alone their capacity to deal with a security incident in an effective and risk-controlled action. This concern is heightened should they be the most senior person on duty.
Although in most cases staff receive some security related information during their induction, too often the educative process stops there. It is not unusual for staff not to receive any refresher training.
Training should be based on realistic security-risk scenarios. It should include information about the capability and use of security technology employed in the facility and the associated security response arrangements that are in place. The training (supported by appropriate policy and procedure documentation) should reflect the contemporary nature of the facility (rather than generic for multiple sites or historical) i.e. information must be absolutely relevant with practical procedures and guidelines. Should the facility have contractors on site such as catering, cleaning and security, they should also be incorporated in the security awareness program (and the associated emergency management plans and training).
Staff, especially those working evening and on weekends, should be given every opportunity to contribute to a safe work environment. Their security concerns should be sought and respectfully considered. They should receive prompt responses from senior management and kept informed about the treatment of their issues. Entrenched good communication practices are essential in Security Risk Management and workplace learning agendas.
There are several important aspects to good training practice; one is ‘consistency of the message’that is across all shifts, across all departments and across all physical localities. Another is that information has to be in a format and language style that the recipients can understand and within the time pressures of their shifts. Training development and delivery needs to be sensitive to the diverse nature of the workplace. For the desired training outcomes to be achieved, it is important that trainers have specialised and comprehensive knowledge not only in security, but security in the aged care facility context and adult education.
Consistent rewarding feedback from clients for whom we have completed Security Awareness Workshops is that staff become more motivated in contributing to the overall safety of their workplace. We believe that one of the reasons for this is that when staff are involved in Security Awareness Workshops, they feel valued by management.
For further information on the benefits of Security Awareness Workshops or arranging for workshops to be undertaken at your facility (consider inviting other local operators to participate) contact Leon Harris of Harris Crime Prevention Services, or Deborah Gwynne of Australian Institute for Care Development (AICD).
Leon Harris CPP, is the principal consultant for Harris Crime Prevention Services.
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