Safeguarding Vulnerable People and Occupational Health

All companies operating within the rail industry have a responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of their staff.  Safeguarding is a term given to the protection of vulnerable people at risk of harm due to abuse or neglect (including sexual, psychological, physical or financial abuse), coercion, modern slavery or people trafficking plus  drug gang activity.  These all sit outside common HR policies and procedures as these do not usually relate directly to the employee’s work.

Rail companies are not under any sector-specific statutory duties around safeguarding.  So how can a situation where an employee’s disclosure has revealed that someone may be at risk of harm be managed?  The answer is that the duty to receive, assess and manage safeguarding risks for vulnerable children, young people and adults lies with local authorities, and it is the local authority that can hear concerns or take formal safeguarding reports.  Information on how to act should be easily found from the local authority/council website which may include a 24-hour reporting number, email address and possibly a designated name/contact of the safeguarding lead.  



There are professional concerns and challenges that may arise when considering safeguarding reporting such as consent of the employee, confidentiality and professional and contractual boundaries. Ideally in all of these situations it is recommended to seek advice from a senior colleague.  The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and the General Medical Council (GMC) and other professional bodies provide clear guidance on these matters and advice on raising concerns in general, but reporting is a decision for the occupation health (OH) clinician to take. Ultimately, the purpose of reporting is to avoid harm and offer protection in an occupation health setting which can feel satisfying for both the practitioner and the employee if handled sensitively and diligently.  

 
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Paul D'Arcy
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