Last year made us realize how grateful we should be to all those who confront danger every day. From doctors and firefighters to police officers and social workers, those are our modern heroes. If you are not in such a role, it’s difficult to imagine the mental and physical preparation involved. Thankfully, people like  Vince Donovan help individuals prepare for challenging environments in the workplace.

In a recent episode of The Front Desk, Vince Donovan, a specialist trainer, and keynote speaker at Safety Solutions Training, joined us to discuss what it is like to be a safety trainer. He also discusses professional challenges he faced during the pandemic and how he helps organizations adapt to a new work environment – post-COVID.

Being in Risky Situations in the Post-Pandemic World

Vince shares what it was like to adapt to a situation such as the pandemic, primarily when you work in the field of safety. As he explains, many of his clients work for local authorities, such as social services, and when you are in such a position, you have to be ready for many unpleasant scenarios.

The exciting thing was that many of his clients continued to recruit new people and realized it was challenging to train them because everybody was working from home. It was clear they needed assistance from a professional trainer such as Vince.

“I’ve been able to work with those during the last 12 months to assist them in giving them various skills and coping and different management skills to try to deal with those challenges. That’s over the phone. When you look at that stuff then, many of them are maintenance staff who are still undertaking gas, gas checks, or attending people’s homes because of electricity shortages or break down, whatever it might be.

Some staff is going where there are significant safeguarding issues, child protection, domestic violence problems, a staff member is generally accompanied by another person for those risks and reasons, and then knocking on the door. In this situation, wearing  a mask and being very mindful and frightened and fearful certainly in those very early months of COVID.”

Don’t Neglect the Importance of an Alarm System

Keeping the staff safe should be every employer’s number one priority. The experience has shown that many employees don’t have confidence in their company’s alarm system. Therefore, Vince’s first questions when he talks to a new client are about the alarm system they are utilizing. “When an organization asks me to deliver training for the staff, I always ask, ‘Please, can you send me the details of the actual alarm system your staff are currently using and operating.’ It could be a communication tracker-based alarm or any alarm system within their working office environments. Once I’ve known that I research that to add some value and quality to the training experience.”

If they want a safe environment for their staff, organizations must provide proper training. Even though most of Vince’s clients organize sporadic safety practices, those are not enough. “Because of fire safety requirements, you practice and demonstrate a fire alarm situation and fire wardens amongst your staff. Then we ask everybody to leave the building and then use a register to make sure everybody’s outside and remove themselves safely.”

Vince has a slightly different approach. “Do you plan for a situation where a member of staff working at reception or a member of staff out working as a lone worker experiences quite a challenging, threatening, or dangerous situation? Do we plan for that? Do we rehearse that? Have the staff got that muscle memory, and they know what to do?”

Organizations Have Had to Think Outside the Box to Protect Their Staff

Our interlocutors agree that COVID-19 has changed the way employers think about their staff. People are working from their homes, and balancing personal and private life while taking care of the health wasn’t easy for anyone. ”I think organizations do recognize this, and I’ve heard some great examples. I’ve known situations where we have what we call two-person visits. I’ve experienced that for many years. I train staff how to do that most effectively. When organizations manage, coordinate, and engage with their tenants and clients, they start to think of a potential two-person telephone conversation.

The phone systems where two staff members can listen, provide guidance and come in at various times to train how best to do that. And this is seen as a way than protecting their staff from allegations, and also you’ve got two people discussing that same situation simultaneously.”

What To Expect When We Return to Offices?

Many changes will occur once we get back to our offices. As Vince explains, people are now used to working from home and using technology to deliver their work. He thinks that organizations know how powerful technology is, and they will probably continue using it.

We have learned many lessons in the past fifteen months. It is up to us to make the most out of them. “I think our organizations have realized they’ve had to cope; it’s being forced on them. Certain things have gone very well, and yet some things may be incredibly difficult. And I think many organizations will now reflect over the last 12 months, and hopefully, we are getting to that stage now.

Many organizations have reflected in terms of the frequency — can things be done virtually, can a phone call, a Skype call, a Zoom call meet the needs of some of our client’s expectations? I was working with a client yesterday in another housing association, and they see the value and now promote virtual input.”

Even though working from home can be difficult, it has many benefits. Organizations must invest in more technology to manage the modern work environment, but it is a long-term investment with several benefits.

Keeping valuable employees is another thing organizations have to consider. If your staff is not feeling safe within their working environment, they will leave. “We certainly don’t want to lose our most experienced staff because they’re the ones who passed on their experiences to those new members of staff.”

This article captures highlights from an interview with Vince Donovan on the Front Desk. The Front Desk is a podcast for professionals passionate about the security and safety of their colleagues and employees. In each episode, a host from Little Green Button interviews those at the forefront of employee well-being. Topics can include an analysis of incidents, de-escalation procedures, and overall employee wellness. Ultimately, the Front Desk helps professionals understand how to ensure the security and safety of their employees in today’s world.