Zoe Napier of Zoe Napier Group, covering Essex, has been in the property industry for 37 years and remembers well the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of estate agent Susie Lamplugh on a viewing back in 1986.
Here she discusses the issue of worker safety and the methods firms can use to protect their staff.
Zoe has always been conscious for her team’s safety, especially as many properties which the firm sells are in remote locations, where mobile signals can be poor.
Safety does not just involve the viewers, but employers should also take responsibility for their loan workers conducting appointments in so far as their general safety at a property is concerned.
For instance, Zoe was personally attacked by an Alsation back in 2007. She arrived in a timely manner at a property to carry out the requested market appraisal and the dogs were let out as she was halfway from her car to the front door. One of the dogs, immediately went for her jugular and bit and broke the skin. Zoe said that she was glad back in the day she took karate training, never thinking the defensive lessons were to be used on a dog!
Other circumstances can range from Adder bites in grass to falling down a well. Literally, anything can happen on unfamiliar territory.
With regard to viewings, this is a key area for the estate agent’s safety.
Zoe Napier Group have taken on three of the ‘next generation’ estate agents in the past year, all three having had previous estate agency experience. None had received lone worker training, albeit one was at the time, office based.
This concern was supported further by recently talking to a young (female) RICS graduate. She had a position with a well-known national country house agent and this young lady had not received lone worker training from this large company.
She had even accommodated viewings after hours with no traceability or check-in to her team and reported that one individual male viewer, the last viewing of the evening, was ‘quite strange’ and that she had felt uncomfortable. She had been placed in a potentially dangerous situation.
At Zoe Napier Group, we have a team app system, coupled by a ‘buddy system’ so one individual is responsible in hearing back from the ‘field worker’ and as to the expected time.
This is supported by various systems, including methods on how to conduct a viewing. Its quite simple to send the viewer in front of you so that the agent always has the ‘escape’ and viewer’s actions in sight.
This is good practise in any event as the viewer is looking at a property (not the back of an estate agent).
We park our cars by reversing into a drive and in a position where the car cannot be blocked – for ease of getting away quickly if needed.
We also have ‘code’ words which the office is regularly reminded of. One is a ‘non-existent’ name in the office, so that we can react if we hear the out-worker requesting this person (the mayday call) and a second, less severe code for ‘I feel uncomfortable’ (stay in touch).
Each person carries a personal alarm and a personal alarm is also attached (a simple clip on) to the property key.
If a female team member is carrying out the viewing, where there might be several viewings, we ensure that their last appointment is not a male viewer on his own.
Lastly, every member of the team (whatever their gender) is fully briefed that if for any reason, the viewing and/or situation does not ‘feel’ right, then they should abort the viewing without the fear of any disciplinary repercussion.
Zoe Napier Group have a tried and tested system and are happy to share this with any agent who requests it through PIE.
However, agents should look at their own risk assessments to loan worker training which includes professional group training by Susie Lamplugh Trust (amongst others) and considerations as to what their own environmental challenges might be.
We are in a very busy market with some staff still remote working so please all DO STAY SAFE OUT THERE.