Watchdog: Civil servants not well-protected against violence

Firefighters' gear (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Muffet). (Firefighters' gear (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Muffet))

The government does not adequately protect its staff against aggression and violence, despite repeated warnings and fines, the Inspectorate for Social Affairs and Employments concludes in its report Government Services 2011-2015, Trouw reports.

The Inspectorate found issues at, among others, municipalities, the Tax Authorities and the Councils for Child Protection. There is not enough training and information provision. And incidents involving aggression against officials are not sufficiently dealt with - the police and judiciary do not press enough charges. In addition to relatively many aggressive and violent incidents, civil servants also deal with many serious accidents and fall ill more often than other workers.

Accidents mostly occur due to dangerous work done by firefighters and police officers. For example, there were several fatal accidents during diving work, which is often unsafe. According to the Inspectorate, preparations and instructions are inadequate which leads divers to face many risks in the water.

Absenteeism due to illness is particularly high at the police, largely due to stress. Last year an average of 7 percent of police personnel were home sick, compared to the national average of less than 4 percent.

The working hours at the police, but also in prisons, are often far above average. Over the past years the police received repeated fines for violating the law on working hours. Extra attention from the inspectorate improved this somewhat.

The Inspectorate also noticed improvements in the fire department. For example, after reports that firefighters are exposed to carcinogenics due to staying in dirty uniforms for too long, the industry started tests in which firefighters already remove contaminated clothing at the scene of the fire so that soot does not get into the firetrucks and barracks.