Paul Barton (Head of Corporate Safety) presented the corporate health and safety mid-year report and highlighted the following key points:
· Corporate H&S policy was revised following disaggregation from shared services
· After the disaggregation there had been a re-alignment of the service to provide a more general service across the authority - but some specialisms had been retained, around schools for example.
· In the period covered by the report, no enforcement action had been taken against the Council and all audits were on target.
Councillor Iain Cassidy asked why there had been such a significant increase in violent incidents in libraries and archives. Paul Barton said it could have been that the reporting culture was improving. The audits in the first half of 2020 would provide more detailed analysis.
He added that more staff were aware of the reporting mechanisms and knew they should be reporting all threatening incidents.
Councillor PJ Murphy asked if changes in reporting culture were also behind the increase in incidents in Housing and Regeneration. Paul Barton said Housing was a higher risk area and so the figures were perhaps a better reflection than the libraries and archives figures. Paul Barton said officers wouldn't know if the reporting culture has plateaued until the next financial year.
Councillor PJ Murphy asked if there was any informal feedback from the Housing department. Paul Barton said it was fair to say there had been an increase in threatening behaviour towards officers - that was picked up by our audits and the trade unions. The service was looking at measures, including conflict and resolution training.
Councillor Alex Karmel asked if the Council was taking adequate steps to ensure its staff were protected. Paul Barton explained that they held monthly reviews of operational risk registers - which meant officers had a much better idea of what needed to be done quickly in specific areas.
Councillor Karmel asked Paul Barton if he was happy that the Council was taking the right steps. Paul Barton said the Council was taking the right steps.
Councillor Rebecca Harvey, referring to page 58, asked if the 15 violence and intimidation incidents in Housing and Regeneration were due to one person causing a number of incidents or a number of people causing single incidents. She said it would be helpful in future reports to give context. Paul Barton said there was a register of violent people used to keep staff informed.
The Chair said, based on his experiences, the Council was not particularly effective at preventing people on the violence register from attending public events. Given the relocation to new buildings, were the receptions - often not council staff - briefed on the register? Paul Barton said he would follow up after the meeting.
ACTION: Paul Barton
Kim Smith (Chief Executive) reassured members that no one could get on to the floors occupied by the Council without a security pass. In the Clockwork Building people needed a security fob to activate the lift and get on to the floors. Officers also encouraged a culture of checking credentials for additional assurance.
Councillor Jonathan Caleb-Landy, referring to page 59, noted that it seemed as though a lot of cases, both in Library and Archives and Housing, were currently open. He asked what the process to investigate and resolve those cases was and how long they normally took to resolve.
Paul Barton said once an investigation was opened it was the line manager's responsibility to undertake an investigation and close it on the system. If it was not resolved in 30 days then it was referred up. Investigations could take quite a long time.
Councillors asked how long harassment cases took to resolve. Paul Barton said if it involved putting the perpetrator on the register it took around 2 weeks. Referring the victim to the Council's wellness centre would take a few weeks. There were no specific targets for turnaround - cases could last a few days or a few months. Councillor Caleb-Landy said this felt like something the Committee should keep track of - including any other metrics that gave an insight of how the Council was performing in this area.
ACTION: Paul Barton
Councillor PJ Murphy, in reference to the violence and intimidation incidents on page 61, asked if any of the incidents had been reported to the police or resulted in prosecutions. Paul Barton said all of the listed incidents had been reported to the police. He didn't know if any had resulted in prosecutions but said he would check.
ACTION: Paul Barton
Councillor Rebecca Harvey noted that the table on page 61 included 32 incidents categorised as 'other / not known' and warned this might skew the figures. Paul Barton noted that officers were in the process of upgrading the Council's accident and reporting system. There would be a much more comprehensive list soon and the team were aiming to reclassify these incidents.
The Chair asked if the team looked at accidents when staff were travelling to and from work. Paul Barton said officers did look at that for risk registers. The Chair made the point that road safety was the biggest risk for the average office worker - and asked officers what more the Council could do to address the issue. Paul Barton assured members that officers do look at these issues when carrying out risk assessment reviews.
Councillor PJ Murphy asked if the Council had a policy on handsfree devices for phones in cars. Officers said they supported that but weren't sure if it was in the current fleet policy. Officers to follow up after the meeting.
ACTION: Paul Barton
The Chair asked, how good was the Council's working relationship with its new building managers. Paul Barton said there was a very good dialogue. Kim Smith added that the previous buildings had numerous serious issues and, in contrast, the general response to the new premises was a 'universal thumbs-up'. Overall there had been a much more positive conversation from staff about the support on offer - both personally and in teams.