In the United Kingdom and in anywhere else in the world, the social worker comes in contact with people who are experiencing crises in their lives or have been excluded socially. They provide support to encourage users to help themselves. Social workers maintain professional relationships with their service users by being critical friends, advocates, or acting as guides. Social workers may even encounter safety and health risks in their line of work.
The social worker works in various settings within a framework of relevant procedures and legislation, groups and families within the community, and supporting individuals. Settings could be the clients’ schools or homes, premises of voluntary and public sector organizations, and hospitals.
Professional social workers work with young people and families and these social workers may work with school non-attenders, people with mental health issues, young offenders, people with physical and learning disabilities, alcohol and drug users, the elderly, and the homeless. Some of them deal with those who are aggressive. Thus, it is essential for the social worker and the employer to keep the worker safe from harm.
The employer must ensure that the workplace is safe for staff – both emotionally and physically. There are health and safety legislations that the employer must implement. For the working environment, the employer must ensure that the workplace be fit for matters and purpose like ventilation, lighting, temperature, space, and rest areas. These areas must comply with the minimum stipulations under the Workplace Regulations 1992. Problems and issues could affect social workers’ mental and physical health and morale.
Many social workers often do fieldwork and the employer is still responsible for the worker’s activity in the field. However, there are things that a social worker must be mindful of when he or she is out on the field. When in doubt, the social worker must never go out alone. The social worker must also check whether the employer has a lone working policy. If a social worker always works alone, the employer must provide the employee a mobile phone. The employer must also consider the risks for his employee. These include weather, road and distance conditions, and rural or remote areas.
Stress can be driving factor for a social worker to not function properly at work. It is defined by the Health and Safety Executive as “an adverse reaction to excessive demands or pressure.” Regarding stress, employers should assess the risk of stress related to work and to take action in controlling these risks.
A stress at work policy must be in place and the social worker must be familiar with it and call the employer’s attention if the policy is non-existent or inadequate. If social workers have been absent from work as a result of work stress, the employer must have the employee complete a risk assessment before the employee returns to work. Individually, workers have the responsibility to lessen the risk of self-harm and their workmates and to bring self-harm issues to the attention of the employer.
Once the social workers and their employers have knowledge to the safety guidelines and have implemented them, the duty of the social worker to the community becomes much easier.