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Hearing Safety

NAHO’s board charged the Hearing Safety Committee with gathering information on what needs and resources exist in members’ hearing programs regarding safety and security issues. As a result, below are the NAHO guidelines as approved by the Board. The Safety Committee was dissolved in May 2002.

NAHO Statement of Policy

Administrative hearing officials and participants at hearings are at increasing risk for harm. Government agencies should address the serious issues surrounding workplace violence and threats to individuals and property in administrative hearings. Agency adoption of written policies and implementation of training to reduce vulnerability of participants and property at hearings will accomplish the following objectives:

·  Identify safety and security issues at administrative hearings.
·  Establish safety and security goals for the agency.
·  Prevent incidents of workplace violence from occurring.
·  Provide authority and procedures for dealing with an incident when it occurs.
·  Reduce the potential for agency liability.
·  Contribute to the safety and integrity of the fair hearing process.

Findings Regarding Hearing Safety and Security

Safety and security issues involving government employees are an increasing concern nationally. There is a trend reflecting increased measures by government agencies for preventing and responding to workplace violence and security breaches in adjudicative proceedings. Developments in this area substantially increased after September 11, 2001.

Administrative hearing officials, as adjudicators in contested public proceedings often involving persons who represent themselves, are vulnerable to violence and threats to the safety and security of individuals and property at hearings they perform.

Government policies and provisions for the safety and security of individuals at administrative hearings vary widely. Based on NAHO’s surveys of participants at its annual conferences:

  1. Nearly 80 % of survey respondents expressed a serious safety or security incident they were aware of or personally experienced.
  2. Most hearing officials either don’t have or are unaware of agency training, policies, and guidance for dealing with workplace violence.
  3. Most hearing officials do not have a designated room for the majority of their hearings, and many routinely travel to different cities and towns to conduct hearings in borrowed facilities.
  4. Provisions for hearing rooms, equipment and available security personnel vary widely. Less than half of those surveyed have access to security personnel who may be contacted regarding a hearing, and one third of those surveyed do not have a phone in the hearing room. Many hearing officials convene hearings in rooms with one door.

Hearing officials as a group work for a large variety of federal, state, and local agencies with corresponding wide differences in adjudicatory subject matter, and with much disparity in resources committed to administering the hearing process.

NAHO Guidelines for Safety and Security at Administrative Hearings

The following guidelines are adopted by NAHO for agency consideration in the administration of the fair hearing process. These broad guidelines are suggestions, acknowledging that fiscal constraints are a unique factor for each agency, and intending to provide the equivalent of baseline criteria for the wide variety of circumstances in which agencies employ hearing officials.

Identification of Safety and Security Concerns – Agencies employing administrative hearing officials should identify violent incidents occurring at hearings as well as real and potential threats to the safety and security of participants and property at hearings. Consideration should be given to safety and security needs and concerns as applicable regarding:

  • screening for weapons or devices of violence;
  • ingress and egress to hearing official working areas;
  • hearing official access to security personnel;
  • hearing official access to telecommunications while in a hearing;
  • ability to lock secure areas;
  • creating secure areas or limiting public access to certain areas;
  • adequacy of lighting both within and outside of the hearing room; and
  • safety of parking areas for participants.

Written Policy – Agencies employing administrative hearing officials should have a written policy addressing safety and security issues related to hearings. It is recommended that the policy be tailored to meet the needs of the particular agency, but with an objective to maximize coordination with other agencies and policies as appropriate. The policy should include:

  • all safety and security procedures adopted by the agency;
  • provisions for the reporting of safety and security incidents;
  • a plan for hearing officials to follow in the event of a safety or security emergency in connection with the administrative hearing process; and
  • acknowledgement of and coordination as appropriate with all government homeland security mechanisms and related emergency services.

Policies should be reviewed and updated periodically, and communicated to hearing officials and staff. NAHO will maintain a form bank for access by its members containing examples of policies and documents adopted by agencies relating to hearing safety and security issues.

Training – Upon being hired, all hearing officials and their staff should undergo training in safety and security matters related to their hearing circumstances, to identify potential problems and to familiarize the individuals with agency policy and procedures in these matters. Training should be updated and periodically repeated as necessary for experienced hearing officials and staff.

Design of Hearing Facilities and Equipment – Agencies should consider safety and security needs and concerns when constructing and remodeling hearing facilities or when modifying, even temporarily, borrowed hearing facilities.

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PO Box 330865
Fort Worth, TX 76163-0865

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