Social media risks

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Social media is an ever increasing form of communication for many people in both their personal and professional lives.  It presents people with many benefits in allowing them to communicate a variety of messages to many people with great speed and efficiency.  However, those benefits need to be balanced with the many risks social media presents.

Social media is a very broad term which includes any websites and applications which allow users to interact with other people as well as create or share information (text, photos, videos etc.).

There are endless examples where people appear to have not stopped and thought before they’ve posted on social media.  Poorly considered social media posts can and do affect the personal and professional reputation and image of individuals as well as a businesses; even if the post isn’t directly related to a business.

The following tips will assist individuals and businesses manage their risks when using social media.

Have a business plan for how and why social media is to be used

When deciding whether or not to create a business social media presence, it’s very easy to think ‘if everyone else is doing it, so should I’.  However there needs to be greater thought put into this decision.  The decision to use social media should be well thought out and based on a company’s needs and business plans; the benefits and risks need to be considered.

Business social media should be based on business requirements, not personal views

Business owners and managers need to be sure that when they make a decision on whether to use social media for their business, this decision is based on the needs of the organisation, not the owner’s/manager’s personal views of social media.  For example, a person who chooses to not use Twitter for personal use may still decide it’s a great tool for them professionally.  Business decisions and personal decisions regarding social media use should be separated.

Create clear business guidelines and processes regarding who is able to post on social media and how this is to be done

Due to the risks associated with social media interactions, it’s very important that businesses have a clear process for who is responsible for posting on social media.  The person undertaking this role needs to understand when social media is an appropriate form of communication and what sort of messages are to be shared using social media.  This process should also provide guidance on how often social media is monitored and responded to and how to respond to negative comments.

Consider training for those staff responsible for social media

It’s often assumed that young people are well versed in social media use however this isn’t always the case.  Also, not all users of social media understand appropriate business use and its associated risks.  Therefore it’s worth considering training in social media communications and its risks for the responsible staff members. 

Understand the social media site you’re using

There’s a wide variety of social media sites available to businesses, all providing similar yet different benefits.  When a business is using any of these sites, it’s very important they understand the various functions within that site.  Not fully understanding how a site works is going to increase the risks of using it.

Consider what messages should be shared using social media

All businesses have various ways in which they communicate with their customers and clients.  Social media is generally designed for short sharp messages, yet not all information suits this style of communication.  When businesses are communicating with their customers, they need to carefully consider how that particular message should be shared.

Carefully consider the implications of engaging with clients on social media

Professionals and businesses should consider if social media is an appropriate forum for them to be communicating with clients, both through business or personal accounts.  Engagement through personal accounts can blur professional boundaries.  When using business accounts, some conversations may not suit social media, especially if the conversation appears in a public setting.  It’s important to consider what conversations are best had away from social media and when to take a discussion off line.

Understand that you can no longer separate personal and professional use

Unfortunately many people hold a view that what they write within a personal social media account in their own time will have no bearing or impact on them professionally.  However this is not the case.  Whether fair or not, professionals are always representing their profession and professional self; personal social media posts can be considered to be representing a professional view.  Therefore the professional impact needs to be considered before any personal post is made. 

Don’t believe that any post is ever private

Too often people post information on social media which they intended to remain private and not be seen widely.  However social media can never truly be private.  Many online groups claim to be private and state that members require approval.  However non-approved users don’t need to be particularly savvy to access these groups and then share or copy information being posted.  Professionals need to remember that if they don’t want their colleagues, clients or competitors seeing a social media post, it should never be posted on either personal or business accounts.

Never post in haste, all posts need to be carefully considered

As mentioned earlier, social media is designed for quick short messages to be shared widely.  This means social media can encourage messages to be shared with little thought or planning which on occasions leads to poorly worded messages which are easily misinterpreted.  It’s important to pause and think through a message before it’s shared.

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Guild Insurance

Professional Indemnity Insurance

business

  • Managing complaints in exercise & sports science

    Receiving a complaint is often an unexpected part of running any business, including an exercise & sports science business.  No business is immune from receiving a complaint, regardless of how successful it is or how customer focused staff are.  There can be a tendency to see a complaint as a personal criticism rather than constructive feedback.  However, there can be positive outcomes when the situation is managed appropriately. 

    Why do people complain?

    There are many reasons why clients might complain about your business and the service they’ve received.  Sometimes a complaint will almost be expected following an incident; sometimes it will take you by complete surprise.  Understanding why people may complain can assist with managing a complaint if it occurs and potentially reducing the likelihood of further complaints.  The following are some of the reasons why people may feel the need to complain.

    High expectations consumer expectations are increasingly high when engaging professional services.  Your clients pay for your service and will most likely see you as a highly trained and qualified professional.  This view can influence their expectations about the service and outcomes they anticipate.

    Unrealistic expectations – it’s possible that clients may have unrealistic expectations about what they can reasonably expect from treatment or a session with an exercise professional.  Their high expectations may at times surprise you.  It’s therefore important to remember that most clients will not have the level of knowledge you do and what’s obvious or common sense to you may not be to them.  A professional must assist clients to be clear and fully informed about the treatment or session being provided and the outcomes they can realistically expect.  This requires ongoing discussions with clients and, where possible, written information to assist their understanding.

    To inform and be heard – clients may wish to make a complaint about an incident or poor outcome simply so they are sure you and your staff are aware of what has occurred and how they feel.  They may wish to complain simply to be listened to and acknowledged, especially if they have been adversely impacted.  Not all complaints will lead to a formal demand for compensation. 

    Belief that someone is responsible – when something goes wrong we often try to determine who’s responsible.  Sometimes someone is obviously responsible, sometimes it’s hard to determine who’s responsible and other times there is no one person responsible but it’s just an unfortunate set of circumstances.  However, if a client thought something had gone wrong and this led to them being harmed, it’s quite possible they may complain with the intention of holding someone responsible and possibly liable. 

    The importance of managing complaints

    There may sometimes be a temptation to ignore a complaint and hope it’ll just go away.  Maybe the client won’t follow up.  Maybe the incident won’t occur again.  This is a very short-sighted way to run any business as there are clear benefits to appropriately managing complaints.

    Clients will generally expect to see their complaint dealt with quickly and fairly.  When this doesn’t happen it’s possible that further complaints will follow and the issue or concern could become a much greater one.  Complaints may also escalate to complaints entities in your state or territory.

    Managing complaints should be seen as good ‘customer service’.  You rely on clients to keep your business afloat.  When clients are unhappy with a service they’ve received, they can talk with their feet by not returning to the business.  Keeping clients happy and satisfied is more likely to see them continue to utilise your service and recommend your business to others. 

    Complaints can provide a business with an opportunity to review and improve their service.  Receiving a complaint may highlight an issue which the business had not been aware of.  When investigating and dealing with the complaint, the business may wish to consider a change in a procedure to avoid that issue arising again in the future. 

    How to manage complaints

    It’s advisable that all businesses have a complaints policy.  This means that the business will have an agreed-to process which allows for all complaints to be managed in a fair and consistent manner.  It also means staff know what to do which is important as managing complaints can be challenging. 

    A key aspect in dealing with any complaint is listening to the person.  Where possible, make time to sit down in a quiet space and give them time to express their concerns.  Make the effort to hear what they have to say and take on board what they have told you.  You may not agree with all they are saying, however it helps if you can try to understand the situation from their perspective.  You may wish to ask them to document their concerns so you both have an accurate record of the matter.  Avoid being defensive or taking the complaint personally as this may inflame the situation. 

    With low level complaints you may be able to offer a solution there and then.  However, this won’t always be the case.  With more serious complaints you should provide the person with an assurance that you’ll investigate the matter and get back to them with a response at a later date. 

    Guild Insurance expects those insured with us not to admit liability or name someone else as being at fault, or to offer any compensation without contacting us first.  However, this doesn’t prevent you from apologising or showing sympathy for any pain or inconvenience the person may be experiencing. 

    Contact Guild Insurance on 1800 810 213 as soon as you’ve received a complaint; don’t wait till it escalates to a claim for compensation.  We will provide advice and support to assist you to deal appropriately and professionally with what can be a challenging and possibly upsetting situation.  Utilising this support can be the difference between sorting a problem quickly and it escalating to a serious claim.  

    Download pdf here

  • Understanding employment law

    Employment related disputes are an increasing trend in claims reported to Guild Insurance.  These claims indicate that some employers may not be fully aware of their workplace rights and obligations and the laws governing them as an employer.  This can have serious consequences for businesses; there are a number of legal avenues available to employees if they feel they have been treated unfairly and there can be serious repercussions for the employer.

    Examples of what can go wrong...

    • An employee lodged a complaint with Fair Work Australia claiming she was expected to attend meetings outside of work hours and was not paid for these. Her employer claimed attendance was optional and that’s why she wasn’t paid.
    • An employee resigned and the employer did not pay all of the outstanding wages and leave entitlements. The employer stated this was because of the unprofessional conduct and behaviour of the employee whilst leaving. A complaint was lodged with Fair Work Australia.
    • An employed staff member undertook a course of further study. During this period his salary was dropped to a trainee salary.The employee disputed this and claimed back pay.

    Reducing employment complaints

    • Be sure you understand that as an employer you have legal workplace obligations you must adhere to. There are laws regarding matters such as salaries and awards, leave entitlements and terminating employment. Employers can’t simply do as they please, no matter how their employee behaves. And not knowing the law is no excuse for not following it.
    • Make yourself aware of the employment laws you need to follow. The following two websites contain a great deal of easy to follow information to assist employers, and employees, understand their obligations.

    www.fairwork.gov.au
    www.fwc.gov.au

    • And using the link below you can learn about the National Employment Standards (NES) which are 10 minimum employment entitlements that have to be provided to all employees.

      https://www.fairwork.gov.au/employee-entitlements/national-employment-standards

    • Whilst preventing complaints is the ideal goal, employers need to accept that despite their best efforts, complaints may still occur. This is when a business needs to think about how they’ll manage those complaints. Employment Practices Liability insurance exists to provide support to businesses when they’re faced with an employment related complaint or allegation. For further information about Guild Insurance’s Employment Practices Liability insurance and how this could be of benefit to you, please contact Guild Insurance on 1800 810 213.
    Download PDF here
  • When clients see multiple AEPs

    Guild Insurance regularly analyses claims data to understand factors contributing to claims and complaints.  This analysis has highlighted a trend where claims involve treatment by at least two people within the same profession.  This finding led Guild Insurance to explore why a client seeing more than one AEP may lead to a claim arising and what can be done to prevent this. 

    Why would a client see a second AEP?                    

    Common scenarios where a client would see a second AEP includes: 

    • some clinics operate in a way where seeing a client is shared between various AEPs
    • clients may change clinics over time, such as when they’ve changed work location or moved house
    • a client may require an urgent appointment and can’t get in to see their usual AEP so chooses to see another

    The situations which are most concerning are the occasions when a client is unhappy with the treatment or session they’ve received and therefore chooses to go elsewhere for a second opinion or further treatment/sessions.

    What can go wrong?

    Not all situations where more than one AEP is involved in treatment will lead to issues arising.  However, the following cases highlight how complaints can occur.

    Case example 1

    A client was receiving treatment for chronic shoulder pain by her AEP over a period of a few months.  She then moved interstate so went to see another AEP for the same complaint.  This second AEP disagreed with the course of treatment and proceeded down a different path.  The client then complained to the first AEP, and demanded a refund of fees paid, alleging he provided treatment which exacerbated her condition.

    Case example 2

    A client had been undertaking an exercise program with an AEP.  He didn’t feel that he was experiencing any benefit after a number of sessions so decided to see another AEP.  The second AEP made some minor changes to the exercise program.  As the client’s condition improved, the client formed the view that original program was unsuitable and therefore complained to ESSA alleging professional negligence.

    How can this be avoided?

    • Don’t make comments to a client judging the treatment or session another clinician has provided. It’s possible that the situation you’re seeing is not exactly the same as the first AEP saw. Also, if the client has told you what the diagnosis and treatment was, it’s possible they might be wrong due to their lack of understanding. Making even what you see as a small or insignificant comment to a client regarding the choice and quality of treatment provided by another AEP could be enough to encourage that client to make a complaint or a demand for compensation.
    • If you’re seeing a client for the first time, be careful to not fall into the trap of simply relying on the client telling you what their regular treatment or session entails or just relying on previous client notes. You need to have a thorough understanding of the client’s condition and how it may have changed over time. Only then can you decide what will be most appropriate.     
    • If you’ve taken over the treatment of a client from another AEP whose notes are insufficient, you may need to spend some time doing further assessment before continuing on with their ‘usual’ treatment. It’s advisable to engage the client in a positive conversation on why you’re doing that, so as to manage their expectations.
    • Managing client expectations from the outset is vital. Make clients aware of what to expect from their sessions; they won’t want surprises. The more they understand about their sessions and likely outcomes, the less likely they are to be dissatisfied and go elsewhere.
    • Building relationships with clients is an important element in running a successful business. Get to know your clients and give them a reason to trust you and come back to you.
    • Where appropriate, contact your clients after their treatment/session. If you expect them to be in some pain or discomfort following the session, they may appreciate you making contact to check how they’re feeling. If your clients haven’t returned for a follow up appointment, call them to find out why. This gives you the opportunity to discuss any concerns they may have about their treatment/session.
    • Clients can become frustrated with ongoing costs of sessions, especially if they aren’t seeing the benefit they’d expected. Always be open and upfront about the cost of treatment/sessions. And where possible, let them know how many appointments you anticipate they’ll need as well as what they can do to self-manage their condition.
    • When you’ve been seeing a client over a long period of time, continue to keep your communication with them up to date and professional. Clients generally expect to be given the most current information on their treatment and what outcomes are likely. Never assume they have a complete understanding and continue educating them on positive lifestyle habits.
    • Avoid offering refunds or free sessions in the event of a poor or unexpected outcome. This may be seen by the client as an admission of responsibility or liability and they may expect that discounted or free sessions will continue. Always contact Guild Insurance on 1800 810 213 before offering any form of compensation to a client.
    • Documentation is vital! The key to dealing with a dissatisfied client who’s considering making a claim or complaint against you is your accurate client records. If your work is being questioned by a client, another AEP or ESSA, you’ll need a record of the facts behind your decision making.
    • And finally, maintain a high level of professional and appropriate behaviour at all times, both when treating clients and also anytime you’re communicating and interacting with them. This not only reflects well on you, it can also improve the public perception of exercise and sports professionals.
    Download PDF here
  • Guild's guide to a risk free holiday season

    With the holiday season approaching, it’s time to remind ourselves of the possible threats to our homes and cars during this time. In the lead up to what should be a fun and festive time with loved ones, it’s important to think about what you can do to protect your valuable assets during this period.

    Thefts and burglaries increase at this time as a lot of crime is opportunistic; thieves know that houses and cars might be full of newly purchased gifts. Thieves also know that with people away on holidays, there is an increased opportunity to break into cars and homes.

    However, holiday dangers aren’t just about thefts and burglaries. People also need to think about what they can do to protect their homes and cars from damage or unnecessary costs while on holidays, as well as keeping themselves safe.

    Protecting your home
    Before heading off on holidays:

    • Be mindful of how you dispose of packaging of gifts or newly purchased items. A bin full of boxes for items such as televisions, game consoles or tablets lets people know what valuable items are in the home.

    • Ask a friend or neighbour to collect your mail. A build-up of mail is a sure sign someone isn’t home.

    • Use a timer to have your house lights turn on and off at certain periods of the day, creating a look of someone being in.

    • Consider what appliances can be turned off within your home. While usage is low, many appliances continue to use power even when they aren’t being used. Items to consider turning off include hot water tanks, televisions, microwaves and computers. However, be sure to think about what you’re turning off before you quickly switch off all power; for example, fridges and freezers, unless empty, should be kept on.

    • Clear out your gutters. A build-up of leaves and other debris creates a fire hazard as well as a risk of an overflow of water entering the roof space during a storm.

    Protecting your car

    • If leaving your car at home while on holidays, where possible leave it locked securely in a garage or somewhere else out of sight. Thieves will notice a car sitting in the sam spot every day which hasn’t moved.

    • Don’t keep valuables in sight that could entice those opportunistic
    thieves. This applies to items used all year, such as mobile phones. However, over the holiday season it also applies to shopping bags which are clearly full of new items.

    • When taking your car on holidays, be sure you have some sort of roadside assistance or breakdown coverage to protect you during those
    unexpected moments.

    • If sharing driving duties during a road trip, be sure the insurance policy for the car covers all drivers.

    • Take regular breaks on long drives by either swapping drivers or taking rest breaks. Also, when on long drives, plan your stops to allow for petrol fill ups and food and drink stops.

    • Be particularly careful when driving at dawn and dusk as visibility generally isn’t as clear as during the day.


    Download the printable version

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  • Don't let social media damage your career

    Although social media can open the door to an exciting online community, it has made it harder to separate yourself from your professional life.

    Here’s five tips to help you protect your reputation online.

  • Do you have the right insurance for your fitness business?

    Sally began her career as a personal trainer in 2012. With high hopes and wanting to make sure she did the right thing Sally purchased an exercise professional liabilities policy. Her hard work and focus paid off and a few years later Sally opened the doors to her very own fitness studio. Sally didn’t think to change her individual policy to a fitness centre business insurance policy and continued to renew her insurance annually.

    In February 2016, a personal trainer at Sally’s gym put down a barbell behind another client who wasn’t aware that it is was there, the client tripped over it, hit her head on the floor and was knocked unconscious.

    The personal trainer immediately called 000. After the paramedics arrived, the client was taken to hospital and underwent emergency spinal surgery.

    Two months later, Sally received a letter from the client’s lawyer requesting reimbursement for the ambulance, medical expenses, loss of earnings and pain and suffering. The letter also recommended that Sally should contact her insurer. Taking this advice, Sally informed her insurer and began the claims process.

    After reviewing her cover, Sally found that she held the incorrect policy and unfortunately wasn’t covered for any of the costs arising from the accident. This meant that Sally was held personally responsible for all expenses incurred – the costs nearly ruined Sally’s business. She has since purchased a Guild Fitness business insurance policy to suit her new circumstances, but is still to this day recovering financially from the incident.

    You can learn from Sally’s mistake. Keep in mind if you do change from being an individual fitness provider to a business owner, you need to make sure you’ve got the right cover.

    Not sure if you’re on the right policy for you, call us on 1800 810 213. We’d be happy to help.

    The above case study is based on general claims scenarios and do not reflect any particular claim. Names are fictitious and any resemblance to a real person is purely coincidental.

business

  • Transitioning out of COVID-19 restrictions

    Operating a business during the COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges. Unfortunately, many businesses closed for a period of time while others worked on reduced hours. And for others, staying open meant finding new ways of doing so, such as by providing virtual services. As the world starts to consider how to move out of pandemic restrictions, it’s important for all business owners to carefully consider the approach they’ll take and the associated risks. The fallout of COVID-19 is likely to be with us for some time, so we all need to be careful to not become complacent and make changes too quickly.

    Government requirements

    Firstly, all business owners need to be sure they’re keeping up to date with and adhering to government requirements and regulations. This can at times be challenging as the federal government is making recommendations, yet all state and territory governments are moving at different paces in terms of lifting restrictions. All business owners need to take responsibility for being sure they understand what they can and can’t yet do regarding their operations. Information about this can be found on the following websites:

    Australian Federal Government - www.australia.gov.au 

    ACT - www.covid19.act.gov.au

    New South Wales - www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19

    Northern Territory - www.coronavirus.nt.gov.au

    Queensland - www.covid19.qld.gov.au

    South Australia - www.covid-19.sa.gov.au

    Tasmania - www.coronavirus.tas.gov.au

    Victoria - www.vic.gov.au/coronavirus-covid-19-restrictions-victoria

    Western Australia - www.wa.gov.au/government/covid-19-coronavirus

    Business owners may also wish to seek guidance and clarification from their professional association.

    Gradual changes

    While it’s understandable that business owners want to get back to how things were pre-pandemic, it’s advisable that changes aren’t made too quickly. Rushing could see changes being made which aren’t allowed or aren’t safe if they haven’t been carefully considered. It could also result in staff not understanding the changes and not adhering to them as they should. It’s important to remember we may not continue transitioning out of restrictions. Unfortunately restrictions could at any time be wound back which is another reason why a planned and measured approach is ideal.

    All changes should be communicated to clients. This means they’ll feel reassured and trust that your business is continuing to operate safely. It also helps your clients understand what you expect from them to maintain this safety. This communication can be done in a variety of ways, such as by simply posting notices around the premises or sending email updates.

    What works for you?

    Not all businesses and business owners are the same and therefore how they provide services during the period of restrictions and how they transition out of these will, and should, differ. You should consider the following when planning to transition out of restrictions:

    > Is the current way of working successful? If the changes you’ve made to the business during the restriction period have worked well for you, you may feel less urgency than others to move away from these.t of

    > Does the service you provide require contact with others? The services provided by some professionals requires them to come into close contact with their clients, whereas other services can be offered from more of a distance. When thinking about making changes to your services, you need to carefully consider how close this will require you to be to your clients and if this is something you think you can do safely.

    > Are your clients high risk in relation to COVID-19? If your clients are at an increased risk, possibly due to their age or health condition, this should be seriously considered when assessing how the business provides its services.

    > Are you, or someone you live with, high risk? It’s not just the health of your clients you need to consider when making decisions about how to run your business. You also need to consider your health and that of those you live with. Remember, this is a highly contagious virus which can have devastating consequences; please don’t risk your or another person’s health.

    Insurance cover

    All business owners and professionals need to be sure they have insurance to cover them for what they do. During the period of restrictions, when some professionals changed the way they were working this led to changes in their insurance cover. Therefore, as you come out of restrictions and again change the way you provide services, you need to be sure your insurance covers those services as well as the hours you’ll be operating and the estimated income.

    Trust your instinct

    There are unfortunately cases of clients pleading with business owners to open when they aren’t ready and even when in breach of government restrictions. This puts unfair pressure on business owners to do the wrong thing to keep their clients happy. Of course one of the core functions of running a business is to keep clients happy and satisfied, after all they keep you in business. However this can’t be done when it’s potentially detrimental to the health of you or others. When making changes to come out of restrictions, ensure these are planned, well thought through and explained to your clients. If they do try to convince you otherwise, reiterate your reasons to them and don’t allow yourself to be convinced to do something you know isn’t appropriate.

    In summary…

    As more and more businesses are coming out of their restrictions and returning to their usual services, it can be very tempting to follow suit. However, please be sure no changes are made without careful consideration and planning, as the risks are too great.

    Download here

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  • Property maintenance - could your property cause an injury?

    Guild Insurance sees many insurance claims which have come about due to poor maintenance of a property.  In too many of these cases, the poor state of the building or its grounds is obvious and it’s quite surprising, as well as disappointing, that repairs haven’t been carried out before an incident has occurred.

    What can go wrong?

    There are a range of incidents which can occur due to poor maintenance of a property.  Staff can be injured leading to a worker’s compensation claim as well as staff being absent from work for an extended period.  Visitors to the premises, such as customers, clients or contractors, can also suffer injuries leading to public liability claims.  As well as the insurance claims which need to be managed, there’s the added stress of knowing that someone has been injured while at your premises.  Some of these injuries can be very serious and life changing.  Unfortunately, the hazards which lead to these injuries are often not viewed as seriously as they should be.  Yet with appropriate property maintenance many of these injuries could be avoided.

    Case 1

    A client entered a building and tripped over an edge of carpet which was ripped and curled up.  The client sustained a fractured wrist when they landed.

    Case 2

    An awning out the front of a building was old and worn out.  During heavy winds it broke off from the building and hit a person walking past at the time.

    Case 3

    While walking through the carpark of a premises, a staff member has tripped on a large crack in the asphalt which had caused the surface to be uneven.  They fractured their ankle as they fell.

    Case 4

    Poor maintenance doesn’t just lead to people suffering injuries, it can also lead to further damage to the property.  An old deteriorating roof collapsed when hit by heavy rain as it no longer had the strength to support the weight of this rainfall.  This led to excessive water damage within the building.

    Property maintenance tips

    • Have a documented maintenance program in place.This requires a schedule for regularly checking the property to identify hazards as well as details on what needs to be serviced, repaired or replaced and when.
    • Be aware of the out-of-sight, out-of-mind hazards.Many properties have roofs, guttering and downpipes in poor condition due to a lack of maintenance as no one has thought to get up on the roof and inspect it.Include the less obvious hazards in the maintenance program.
    • Have a maintenance budget.Some maintenance work can be planned, other work will come up unexpectedly when something breaks down.You need to be able to find money to fix hazards when identified.
    • Be sure to use qualified tradespeople to undertaken maintenance work.While it can be tempting to undertake some DIY and save money, the risk of things not being maintained or repaired correctly will not be worth the savings in the long term.
    • If you’re a tenant, be aware of what you’re responsible for maintaining and what’s the responsibility of the landlord.Not all tenancy agreements are the same, so you need to be across the details of your agreement.
    • Don’t wait to undertake maintenance till a more convenient time.There are many cases of injuries occurring due to hazards which had been identified but not yet acted upon, usually due to costs, time or not acknowledging the risk of the hazard.
    • All staff have a responsibility to create and maintain a safe workspace. Some hazards will be identified through regular property inspections, however, you can’t rely solely on these inspections.Therefore, encourage all staff to continually be on the lookout for hazards and to speak up when they see something.
    • Don’t think it won’t happen to you and your property.These incidents are a lot more common that many people realise.

    Property maintenance and injuries

  • Navigating communication and due processes during COVID-19

    At Guild Insurance we thought it was timely to remind you of practices you should adopt to ensure you’re operating your business as safely as you can during the COVID-19 situation. 

    These include: 

    • Staying up to date with regulations 

    • Communicating clearly with customers and staff 

    • Taking actions to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 

    • Keeping records of what steps you put in place 

    Stay up to date with regulations 

    Firstly, please be sure you’re keeping up to date and adhering with Federal and State or Territory government requirements. To fully understand these requirements, it's always best to go directly to the source rather than rely on other media channels. The following links will provide you with the necessary, and regularly updated, requirements.   

    ACT 

    Communicate clearly with customers and staff 

    When operating any business, your communication is always incredibly important.  It keeps your clients informed of what they can reasonably expect from your business.  Communication also assists them to understand how the operations of the business and services provided impact them.  As we all deal with the challenges presented by COVID-19, communication from business owners and operators has taken on an increased importance. 

    We have seen an increase in complaints over trivial or minor issues. Some complaints have gone directly to the regulators and in a recent example, the police were involved. We believe this is likely the result of an emotional response to the stresses and anxieties people are experiencing as a result of COVID-19. While these complaints could be considered "over the top", they all require a response and may involve the stress of an inquiry by the regulator.  

    Given the circumstances we all face with COVID-19, we need to regularly remind ourselves that many people are struggling to deal with the current situation.  We recommend business operators be especially mindful of how they speak to and interact with their clients and staff.  Maybe you need to take a little more time than usual to explain business processes.   It might be ideal to provide written information to assist people in understanding the services you can and can’t offer and how you are helping to manage the risks associated with COVID-19.  Taking a bit more time and care to explain business processes and services, particularly if they’ve changed from the usual, will potentially mean your clients will be more understanding if their expectations aren’t met. 

    Take actions to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 

    As well as focusing on your communication, all business operators also need to be sure they’re doing all they can, and meeting requirements, regarding distancing and cleaning within their business.  Some processes you may consider, or possibly already have, for your business include: 

    • Restricting the number of clients in your premises at the one time.  Depending on the type of business, this can be done in a few ways such as having staff at the entrance managing who comes in and when and removing some chairs from waiting areas.  It can also be done by spreading out the time between appointments and asking clients to wait outside till called in for their appointment. 

    • Placing markings on the floor reminding people where to stand to ensure there’s the required physical distance between them. 

    • Encouraging cashless payments. 

    • Signage both on the outside and inside of the premises making people aware of your processes and what you expect from them when they enter. 

    • Having hand sanitiser available and in sight for all staff and clients. 

    • Regularly cleaning the premises, particularly high touch areas such as doorknobs.  There should also be cleaning in between clients if they come into contact with items such as treatment tables. 

    While all the above is important, just doing it isn’t enough, especially if you want to be sure your clients feel confident and safe using your business.  Again, communication is vital here.  Your clients deserve to know about the safety process within your business, so be sure you make them aware.  This can be done by emailing all clients about the process you’ve put in place.  You could put notices within and around the premises reminding them of your processes.  You and your colleagues should also be talking about the safety measures with clients, such as reminding them to apply hand sanitiser when they enter. 

    Keep records of what steps you put in place 

    Guild also recommends our insureds keep a record of their safety processes.  Like all record keeping, this serves as evidence in the unlikely, yet possible, event the processes are questioned. If a client or any other person accused you and your business of not adhering to safety requirements and restrictions, having this evidence will make it easier to prove otherwise.  Collecting and storing this evidence doesn’t need to be cumbersome.  It can be done by taking photos of items such as signage, floor markings and available hand sanitiser.  Copies of any written communication to clients, such as emails, should be kept.  You should also make a record of any situation where a client has seemed unhappy with your business.  Noting this down when it happens while it’s fresh in your mind will be useful if the client lodges a complaint. 

    Lastly, remember Guild Insurance is here to support you in the event a client makes a complaint.  Whether this complaint is to you directly or to a regulatory body, whether it’s about your processes during COVID-19 or the service you regularly provide, Guild is here to support you during the difficult and stressful period of managing a complaint.    

    Guild Insurance Limited ABN 55 004 538 863, AFS Licence No. 233 791.  This article contains information of a general nature only, and is not intended to constitute the provision of legal advice.  Guild Insurance supports your Association through the payment of referral fees for certain products or services you take out with them.

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  • Things to consider if you're considering Telehealth

    It might be surprising to know that telehealth has been occurring for about 100 years now; there’s evidence of radios being used in the 1920s to provide clinical advice to people in remote locations. The way telehealth is conducted or provided has changed greatly over the years as the technology which supports it has changed and developed.

    What is telehealth

    Telehealth is providing health services remotely with the use of technology. There are many forms of technology which assist this such as phone calls, teleconference calls and sharing of images and videos.

    There are many reasons why telehealth is used, however, they primarily boil down to the patient and practitioner not able to physically be in the same place. This may be because of geographical remoteness. Age or disability can prevent patients from travelling to their practitioner. And now social distancing requirements to reduce the spread of COVID-19 is making face to face appointments difficult and potentially unsafe. Therefore, telehealth is very beneficial, however it isn’t without risk. And these risks need to be considered and managed before this service is offered.

    Is it right for you?

    All business owners want to stay ahead of their competitors and provide the best service possible to their clients. However, this can mean at times business owners leap into something new too quickly without proper consideration and assessment.

    Telehealth isn’t ideal for all health practitioners. Before you start offering telehealth services, do some research that will help you assess if it’s right for your business, your patients and the services you provide. Consider the pros and cons; think about how it’ll benefit your business but also consider the risks and challenges it’ll create.

    You should consider developing an implementation plan to assist you in working through a range of factors to consider, such as:

    • Which services will suit telehealth, which won’t?
    • Who’ll assist with providing and supporting the technology required?
    • How will this new process be communicated with patients?
    • How will patients be assisted if they have difficulty with the technology, or simply
      don’t want to use it?
    • Will the process be phased in gradually?
    • How will it be evaluated?
    Invest to do it well

    The old saying ‘if something’s worth doing it’s worth doing well’ really does apply to implementing telehealth practices. When technology works well, it’s fantastic, when it doesn’t, it can cause a huge amount of frustration and time wasting. It’s therefore important that health practices don’t rush into implementing telehealth practices. It’s worth taking the time to ensure the tools and technology used are suitable for that individual practice. It’s also recommended that time is spent training all staff to be sure they understand how to use the new technology and what’s required of them with this change. Investing both time and money at the beginning will benefit the practice, practitioners and patients in the long term.

    Some things stay the same

    Much of what you already do, and what you’re required to do, as a health practitioner won’t change when using telehealth.

    • Communication – communication is always incredibly important for all health practitioners. However, it needs additional focus when consulting via telehealth. Practitioners may find they need to spend longer having conversations and should consider what questions they’ll ask the patient to be sure information has been understood.
    • Record keeping – you need to keep detailed and accurate records of all consultations and communications with patients, and this includes when using telehealth. It’s not just about actual consultations, even details about phone conversations with patients need to be recorded. If a consultation takes place via telehealth, make a note of this in the clinical record including the type of technology needed.
    • Informed consent – you need to ensure patients give their informed consent prior to treatment. Providing signed informed consent is a bit harder when consultations take place remotely, yet this can still be done in some cases. However verbal consent is sufficient. But remember, informed consent can only be given when the patient has been informed about the treatment, so sending a form to be signed to a patient before there has been any discussion or consultation isn’t appropriate. Also, verbal informed consent must be noted in the clinical record.
    • Privacy – you have a professional obligation to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of your patients. Therefore, when conducting a telehealth consultation, be sure it’s done in a private setting where no one in the background can hear or see what’s happening. Many forms of online communication, such as teleconferences, have a recording function. Consultations shouldn’t be recorded simply because they can. They should only be recorded if there’s a clear and specific reason for it and if the patient has given their consent.
    • Duty of care – health practitioners have a duty of care to all patients they treat. If a patient is being treated using telehealth and has never met the practitioner prior to this, this doesn’t change anything in terms of the practitioner’s duty of care to that patient.
    • Clinical decision making – Incorrect diagnosis is one of the greatest risks with telehealth, yet telehealth is no excuse for mistakes being made. If you don’t have the information needed to make a diagnosis or provide/recommend treatment, you must to find a way to get this additional information. Practitioners may want to consider if their assessment processes alter when using telehealth. Practitioners should also be sure they don’t allow the patient, or the treatment circumstances, convince them to provide treatment or advice that goes against their better judgement.
    • Practice within scope – when consulting using telehealth, the need to keep within your recognised scope of practice, and refer when the situation is outside of this, is no different.
    • Funding schemes – some funding schemes, such as private health insurers and Medicare, provide cover for telehealth, for some forms of treatment. As the treating practitioner, it’s your responsibility to be sure you’re meeting the requirements of the various funding providers and don’t claim for items which aren’t permitted.
    • Regulatory requirements – in addition to the above, any other requirements set by regulatory bodies need to be adhered to. This includes keeping on top of government advice and restrictions relating to COVID-19

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  • Protecting your place of business during a closure

    As we all do our best to minimise the spread of COVID-19, one of the tragic outcomes is that many businesses need to close their doors for a period of time. This is never a decision made lightly as the ramifications are enormous. There are many factors to consider when doing this, such as how staff will be looked after during this time, if services can be provided online and how to communicate the closure with clients.

    Another important consideration should be the protection of the property from which you operate your business. Sadly, vacant buildings can lead to an increase in thefts and burglaries as a lot of crime is opportunistic. Thieves will know that many businesses have closed only temporarily and therefore the buildings may not be empty, there may still be items worth stealing inside.

    The following are some tips to consider if you are temporarily closing the physical premises of your business:

    • While you want to inform your clients about the change to the business, placing a sign on the front of the building may not be the most ideal way, especially if this will be easily visible for those walking past. If you do want to place information on the building about a
      closure, don’t indicate this is potentially long term or indefinite, simply provide details for clients to contact you.
    • Redirect mail to a home or post-office box and place a ‘no junk mail’ sign on the building’s letterbox. A messy overflowing letterbox is a sure sign no one has been frequenting the premises.
    • Use a timer to have the lights turn on and off at certain periods of the day, creating a look of someone being in.
    • Electronic Security Alarms should be kept operational where fitted.
    • Consider which appliances can be turned off as many appliances continue to use power even when they aren’t being used. Items to consider turning off include hot water tanks, televisions, microwaves and computers. However, be sure to think about what you’re turning off before you quickly switch off all power; for example, fridges and freezers, unless empty, should be kept on.
    • It’s important to conduct regular external inspections of your property to check the condition, ensuring that it’s safe and there are no signs of attempted entry or vandalism. Where possible, visit your property fortnightly, however, be sure you’re complying with government COVID-19 restrictions when doing this. Maintain the external appearance by removing any rubbish and mail and keep lawns and gardens trimmed.
    • Clear out your gutters. A build-up of leaves and other debris creates a fire hazard as well as a risk of an overflow of water entering the roof space during a storm.
    • If you have a good relationship with your neighbours, let them know about your closure and be sure they have your contact details. That way if anything goes wrong or they notice anything suspicious, they can let you know.

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  • Managing complaints in exercise & sports science

    Receiving a complaint is often an unexpected part of running any business, including an exercise & sports science business.  No business is immune from receiving a complaint, regardless of how successful it is or how customer focused staff are.  There can be a tendency to see a complaint as a personal criticism rather than constructive feedback.  However, there can be positive outcomes when the situation is managed appropriately. 

    Why do people complain?

    There are many reasons why clients might complain about your business and the service they’ve received.  Sometimes a complaint will almost be expected following an incident; sometimes it will take you by complete surprise.  Understanding why people may complain can assist with managing a complaint if it occurs and potentially reducing the likelihood of further complaints.  The following are some of the reasons why people may feel the need to complain.

    High expectations consumer expectations are increasingly high when engaging professional services.  Your clients pay for your service and will most likely see you as a highly trained and qualified professional.  This view can influence their expectations about the service and outcomes they anticipate.

    Unrealistic expectations – it’s possible that clients may have unrealistic expectations about what they can reasonably expect from treatment or a session with an exercise professional.  Their high expectations may at times surprise you.  It’s therefore important to remember that most clients will not have the level of knowledge you do and what’s obvious or common sense to you may not be to them.  A professional must assist clients to be clear and fully informed about the treatment or session being provided and the outcomes they can realistically expect.  This requires ongoing discussions with clients and, where possible, written information to assist their understanding.

    To inform and be heard – clients may wish to make a complaint about an incident or poor outcome simply so they are sure you and your staff are aware of what has occurred and how they feel.  They may wish to complain simply to be listened to and acknowledged, especially if they have been adversely impacted.  Not all complaints will lead to a formal demand for compensation. 

    Belief that someone is responsible – when something goes wrong we often try to determine who’s responsible.  Sometimes someone is obviously responsible, sometimes it’s hard to determine who’s responsible and other times there is no one person responsible but it’s just an unfortunate set of circumstances.  However, if a client thought something had gone wrong and this led to them being harmed, it’s quite possible they may complain with the intention of holding someone responsible and possibly liable. 

    The importance of managing complaints

    There may sometimes be a temptation to ignore a complaint and hope it’ll just go away.  Maybe the client won’t follow up.  Maybe the incident won’t occur again.  This is a very short-sighted way to run any business as there are clear benefits to appropriately managing complaints.

    Clients will generally expect to see their complaint dealt with quickly and fairly.  When this doesn’t happen it’s possible that further complaints will follow and the issue or concern could become a much greater one.  Complaints may also escalate to complaints entities in your state or territory.

    Managing complaints should be seen as good ‘customer service’.  You rely on clients to keep your business afloat.  When clients are unhappy with a service they’ve received, they can talk with their feet by not returning to the business.  Keeping clients happy and satisfied is more likely to see them continue to utilise your service and recommend your business to others. 

    Complaints can provide a business with an opportunity to review and improve their service.  Receiving a complaint may highlight an issue which the business had not been aware of.  When investigating and dealing with the complaint, the business may wish to consider a change in a procedure to avoid that issue arising again in the future. 

    How to manage complaints

    It’s advisable that all businesses have a complaints policy.  This means that the business will have an agreed-to process which allows for all complaints to be managed in a fair and consistent manner.  It also means staff know what to do which is important as managing complaints can be challenging. 

    A key aspect in dealing with any complaint is listening to the person.  Where possible, make time to sit down in a quiet space and give them time to express their concerns.  Make the effort to hear what they have to say and take on board what they have told you.  You may not agree with all they are saying, however it helps if you can try to understand the situation from their perspective.  You may wish to ask them to document their concerns so you both have an accurate record of the matter.  Avoid being defensive or taking the complaint personally as this may inflame the situation. 

    With low level complaints you may be able to offer a solution there and then.  However, this won’t always be the case.  With more serious complaints you should provide the person with an assurance that you’ll investigate the matter and get back to them with a response at a later date. 

    Guild Insurance expects those insured with us not to admit liability or name someone else as being at fault, or to offer any compensation without contacting us first.  However, this doesn’t prevent you from apologising or showing sympathy for any pain or inconvenience the person may be experiencing. 

    Contact Guild Insurance on 1800 810 213 as soon as you’ve received a complaint; don’t wait till it escalates to a claim for compensation.  We will provide advice and support to assist you to deal appropriately and professionally with what can be a challenging and possibly upsetting situation.  Utilising this support can be the difference between sorting a problem quickly and it escalating to a serious claim.  

    Download pdf here

  • Why every business needs an asset register

    When considering an insurance policy, it’s easy for many of us to think “it’ll never happen to me”.  However, the vast experience of Guild Insurance tells us ‘it’, being events that require insurance claims, unfortunately can happen to people like you. 

    Guild Insurance is dedicated to providing risk management information to those insured with us to help reduce the likelihood of events occurring which will have a detrimental impact on their business and lead to an insurance claim.  However, we also know that not everything can be prevented.  Which is why business owners also need to consider what they can do to reduce the severity or impact on their business should an event occur.  And this is where asset registers become so important.

    What is an asset register?

    An asset register is simply a list of assets held by a business.  These can be created and stored in various ways, such as paper format or electronically, yet should always be stored safely and be easily accessible.

    Why are they needed?

    All businesses should hold an asset register as they serve a number of important purposes.

    It’s estimated that well over half of Australian businesses are underinsured.  A detailed asset register will help a business understand the value of what they own and therefore the level of insurance required to be adequately protected.

    An asset register also assists businesses when there is a need to lodge an insurance claim due to property loss or damage.  When there is an up to date asset register, this necessary information can be provided quickly to an insurance company which is likely to speed up the settlement process.  Making an insurance claim for property damage or loss can be quite a stressful process for any business.  An asset register can reduce some of this stress by making the process more straightforward.

    When a business has multiple sites, keeping track of all assets is quite a challenge.  An asset register provides the business with a way to manage all assets, even when the assets aren’t physically in sight of those responsible.

    What information should be included?

    For an asset register to be of any benefit to a business, it’s important that the information is up to date and correct.  Businesses should have a process for how and when the register will be updated and by who.  This process should require adding a new asset as soon as it is purchased.  However, it would also be beneficial doing regular checks of the asset register to be sure nothing has been accidentally left off.

    The asset register should include a list of all items which could be lost or damaged if there was an incident at the premises.  Don’t just focus on the costly items; damage to a lot of items which are of lesser value can still add up and you will want a record of these items.  The types of assets to be recorded may include:

    • Furniture, both indoor and outdoor
    • Computer and other office equipment
    • Electrical items such as fridges and air conditioners

    The information to record about each of these items may include:

    • Description of the item
    • Brand, make or model
    • Serial number
    • Purchase value
    • Purchase date
    • Location of the item
    • Warranty information
    • Invoices

    Creating an asset register

    As previously mentioned, asset registers are really just a list of items so the creation of them doesn’t need to be overly complex.  There are a number of template examples which can be found through internet searches. 

    However, the challenging aspect of creating an asset register is being sure the information you have on there is detailed and correct.  It’s therefore recommended that businesses use their accountant to assist with this task.

    Download pdf here

  • Social media risks

    Social media is an ever increasing form of communication for many people in both their personal and professional lives.  It presents people with many benefits in allowing them to communicate a variety of messages to many people with great speed and efficiency.  However, those benefits need to be balanced with the many risks social media presents.

    Social media is a very broad term which includes any websites and applications which allow users to interact with other people as well as create or share information (text, photos, videos etc.).

    There are endless examples where people appear to have not stopped and thought before they’ve posted on social media.  Poorly considered social media posts can and do affect the personal and professional reputation and image of individuals as well as a businesses; even if the post isn’t directly related to a business.

    The following tips will assist individuals and businesses manage their risks when using social media.

    Have a business plan for how and why social media is to be used

    When deciding whether or not to create a business social media presence, it’s very easy to think ‘if everyone else is doing it, so should I’.  However there needs to be greater thought put into this decision.  The decision to use social media should be well thought out and based on a company’s needs and business plans; the benefits and risks need to be considered.

    Business social media should be based on business requirements, not personal views

    Business owners and managers need to be sure that when they make a decision on whether to use social media for their business, this decision is based on the needs of the organisation, not the owner’s/manager’s personal views of social media.  For example, a person who chooses to not use Twitter for personal use may still decide it’s a great tool for them professionally.  Business decisions and personal decisions regarding social media use should be separated.

    Create clear business guidelines and processes regarding who is able to post on social media and how this is to be done

    Due to the risks associated with social media interactions, it’s very important that businesses have a clear process for who is responsible for posting on social media.  The person undertaking this role needs to understand when social media is an appropriate form of communication and what sort of messages are to be shared using social media.  This process should also provide guidance on how often social media is monitored and responded to and how to respond to negative comments.

    Consider training for those staff responsible for social media

    It’s often assumed that young people are well versed in social media use however this isn’t always the case.  Also, not all users of social media understand appropriate business use and its associated risks.  Therefore it’s worth considering training in social media communications and its risks for the responsible staff members. 

    Understand the social media site you’re using

    There’s a wide variety of social media sites available to businesses, all providing similar yet different benefits.  When a business is using any of these sites, it’s very important they understand the various functions within that site.  Not fully understanding how a site works is going to increase the risks of using it.

    Consider what messages should be shared using social media

    All businesses have various ways in which they communicate with their customers and clients.  Social media is generally designed for short sharp messages, yet not all information suits this style of communication.  When businesses are communicating with their customers, they need to carefully consider how that particular message should be shared.

    Carefully consider the implications of engaging with clients on social media

    Professionals and businesses should consider if social media is an appropriate forum for them to be communicating with clients, both through business or personal accounts.  Engagement through personal accounts can blur professional boundaries.  When using business accounts, some conversations may not suit social media, especially if the conversation appears in a public setting.  It’s important to consider what conversations are best had away from social media and when to take a discussion off line.

    Understand that you can no longer separate personal and professional use

    Unfortunately many people hold a view that what they write within a personal social media account in their own time will have no bearing or impact on them professionally.  However this is not the case.  Whether fair or not, professionals are always representing their profession and professional self; personal social media posts can be considered to be representing a professional view.  Therefore the professional impact needs to be considered before any personal post is made. 

    Don’t believe that any post is ever private

    Too often people post information on social media which they intended to remain private and not be seen widely.  However social media can never truly be private.  Many online groups claim to be private and state that members require approval.  However non-approved users don’t need to be particularly savvy to access these groups and then share or copy information being posted.  Professionals need to remember that if they don’t want their colleagues, clients or competitors seeing a social media post, it should never be posted on either personal or business accounts.

    Never post in haste, all posts need to be carefully considered

    As mentioned earlier, social media is designed for quick short messages to be shared widely.  This means social media can encourage messages to be shared with little thought or planning which on occasions leads to poorly worded messages which are easily misinterpreted.  It’s important to pause and think through a message before it’s shared.

    Download pdf here

  • When a break-in occurs

    A break-in or burglary at work can have far reaching effects.   

    While it’s always better to prevent incidents from happening in the first place, everyone should know what to do if the unexpected does occur. 

    STEP 1:   STAY SAFE AND PRESERVE THE SCENE

    • DO dial 000 to report the incident to Police.
    • DON’T enter the premises if there are signs a break-in may have occurred – e.g. open or damaged windows or doors etc. An intruder may still be inside.  In the event you enter the premise before you realise a break-in has occurred, leave immediately if damage to buildings, equipment or infrastructure makes the area unsafe –e.g. broken glass, water damage, upturned equipment etc.
    • DO promptly contact your manager or business owner to report the incident.
    • DO preserve the ‘evidence’ until Police arrive. Take care not to disturb the crime scene. Make a note of anything you’ve touched and inform the Police when they arrive. This will also assist a Guild Claim Assessor, should one be appointed.
    • DO seek advice from Police before re-opening the premises for usual trading.
    • DO provide support for any staff, contractors or visitors who may be impacted or distressed by the incident.

    STEP 2:   DOCUMENT AND REPORT

    • DO make note of what items, if any, have been stolen or damaged. Again, be careful not to disturb the crime scene.
    • DO ensure you have the identifying details of any stolen equipment readily available e.g. serial number, engraved markings, photos, receipts etc.
    • DO contact Guild Insurance on 1800 810 213 to report the incident over the phone – there are no claim forms to complete.Have your insurance policy details handy. Guild can also arrange any glass repairs for you.
    • DO take photographs of the scene and any damage before beginning the clean-up, or making any temporary repairs.

    STEP 3:   REVIEW WHAT HAPPENED AND APPLY LEARNINGS

    • DO review the effectiveness of your security measures and promptly address any weaknesses. How did the intruder enter the premises? How easy was it to access items of value?
    • DO take this opportunity to review your response to this break-in. Did the staff involved know what to do and did they do it?
    • DO review your policies and procedures so that they reflect these actions and include them in your staff training. Everyone needs to be supported in knowing how to respond.
    • DO take this opportunity to check that your equipment register is accurate and up to date.

    Download PDF here

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